Re: Re[2]: Reassessing our practices

Greg Ritter (gritter@FELIX.VCU.EDU)
Tue, 13 Feb 1996 13:17:11 EST

Mike said:

> Indeed, why not expect them to write as theorists write?

(1) Because you can't teach someone that level of writing in two
semesters & with the limited models you can provide. That really
is something that has to be grown into over a long period of time
(I'm *still* growing into it after 3 English degrees), which is a
good reason why composition should be across the curriculum or a
sequence that stretches over the students acadmic career.

> I'll bet
> the History and Psych Profs would be shocked to get a
response which
> demonstrated even a little original thought.

Hopefully, yes, but I think the sad fact is that there are still
many professors out there working on the banking concept, profs
who want to see that the student comprehends the material they've
been told to in the way they've been told to. I've talked to many
undergrads who felt like they got docked for "theorizing" or for
exploring an issue in a direction not precisely "on topic."

> After all they are
> always complaining that "we (in English) don't teach
students to
> write", they seem not at all sure what we do "over here."

Yup. It's a double standard, no doubt. They want us to teach them
to write but only if "teaching them to write" means (a) making
sure their grammar is exquisite and (b) making sure they know how
to spit back the information in three to five pages so the prof
doesn't have to "waste" time evaluating a student's ideas and
theories and can instead just check to make sure the student spit
back the proper info.

> It ceratinly not the students' fault that our expectations
are not
> rigorous enough. I find, quite often, that they are quite
up to the
> challenge, once you get them to understand why what you
are expecting
> is so different than the rest of their expereince in

I've had a lot of success with Bartholomae's freshman anthology,
_Ways of Reading_, which has essays in it that I honestly never
read until graduate school. I was a little sketchy about using it
at first, and decided only to use it at the small, private
university I teach at because it has generally more capable
students than the large, public university I teach at. This
semester, though, I'm using it successfully at the public
university as well. I find that when I challenge the students
they usually rise to the challenge, and from the responses I got
last semester, the students felt a lot more confident about their
abilities because they felt like they'd been dealing with "real"
academic essays (and they were!). I'm really pleased that they do
really good jobs reading authors like Fish and Freire and Pratt
and bell hooks and others. They're pleased, too.

Greg Ritter