Re: More snapshots stuff-reply

Marcy Bauman (marcyb@UMD.UMICH.EDU)
Sun, 21 Jan 1996 14:17:15 -0500

I'm sorry; I haven't been following this thread as closely as I ought to
have, so what I want to say may have already been said. But Ken's
remarks here really struck me:

> I don't like the role of diagnostician, and I certainly don't
> like to define students as "terminal." But for the students' sakes, I
> must quickly diagnose just what they need--grammar, awareness of
> audience, etc.--to succeed in writing in college even when I know the
> best way of teaching writing may differ from what I do at certain
> teaching-moments.

I feel compelled to point out that perhaps, just perhaps, the
_only_ way of teaching writing may differ from what we've all done in
those "teaching-moments". Maybe those aren't "teaching-moments" at all;
maybe they're better called "pontificating-moments." I'm increasingly
coming to understand that teaching moments are initiated by students --
and not because they know "just what they need", but because they want a
particular bit of advice or information as they enact very specific
rhetorical choices in a very specific, nonrepeatable rhetorical
situation. In my experience, those moments tend to be very short. All
the rest of the time, I'm wasting my breath to a greater or lesser

And I don't think it is possible, ever, to know just what
somebody needs. Writing is not a matter of
take-two-metaphors-and-call-me-in-the-morning. To identify someone's
weaknesses (or skills, for that matter), in terms of a couple of
variables misses the way that those variables interact with each other,
the fact that "good grammar", say, is not a discrete separable "skill" or

> I of course don't use the medical metaphor when talking to a
> student,

I'm leery of using metaphors that I won't use in front of
students because I suspect that if I won't share them, it's because
they're belittling. The medical one, I think, is particularly insulting to
students, but even more, I think it grossly misrepresents what we're
trying to do in the writing classroom. I think it's at best useless (and at
worst dangerous) to represent -- even to ourselves -- writing
instruction with a metaphor that so distorts reality (even if there are
a few similarities), because we might come to believe the metaphor and
shape our teaching to it, rather than to the real, live, perfectly
healthy people in front of us.


Marcy Bauman
Writing Program
University of Michigan-Dearborn
4901 Evergreen Rd.
Dearborn, MI 48128