Re: Reassessing our practices

Bob King (kingbx@HAMLET.UNCG.EDU)
Mon, 12 Feb 1996 21:26:04 -0500

On Mon, 12 Feb 1996, Greg Ritter wrote:

> Depends on what *kind* of essay you're talking about.
> I can assure you
> that the academic forms students use and are taught as
> undergraduates have little application in the real world of
> writing.

I think this is important to this particular thread of the discussion.
Part of my complaint about the academic essay is that it seems to lack
any purpose outside of itself. In this way it is very much akin to
school itself in being a kind of thing that is done primarily in order
to get done -- which can be a pretty unsatisfying main purpose, for
students and teachers alike.

Along these lines, I can see some purpose in students writing
conversationally -- the purpose being to develop skills of negotiating
difference, skills of intersubjective awareness and so on which seem
important to me on the level of civic/democratic and spiritual life. I
just have a harder time figuring the purpose of solitary academic essay
writing. In my more cynical moments it seems to me that the main
purpose is to keep people isolated from one another, and in perpetual
doubt as to their self worth (via discouraging the social interaction
which is crucial to social creatures), similar to the purpose of

> I don't have the solution. I hate teaching students to write for
> the academy, but I know that I have to prepare them for the kind
> of writing situations they'll meet in the next 3 1/2 years and
> hope that in that time the classes in their discipline teach them
> the kind of writing that their careers will require of them.

I don't have the solution, either. I think it's a shame though that more
educators are not involved in institutional politics -- particularly in
fields like Rhetoric/Comp, and Education itself, that seem to genuinely
care about issues of teaching practice -- but beyond that I tend to just
think schools are best called "conservatories" and left at that.

Bob King
(aka "someone" -- the guy who wrote that bit which keeps turning up
about student essayists finding their reward for learning the rigors of
solitary essay writing being that of finding themselves at the bottom of
the chain of greater monologists, greater uncoverers of truth and
advancers of truth than they).