Re: elite/elitism (fwd)

Steve Krause (krause@MIND.NET)
Sun, 13 Oct 1996 09:09:25 -0700

Carolyn Dean wrote:

>I do not see fycomp as somehow separate from the rest of higher education,
>nor did I say a word about grammar, behavior, rules, or the five-paragraph
>essay. And I find it amazing that you and your colleagues rejected the
>concept of the effective use of language. Is there no such thing in the
>postmodern world as using the best word in the most effective way?
> But I do see part of my job as preparing students for participation in
>the rest of the University world (or just the rest of the World) -- that
>is, teaching them to think, and teaching them to present those ideas

-- I think I _sort_ of understand what you're getting at here, Carolyn, but
it seems a bit contradictory to me. In the first sentence, you say you're
not talking about various "rules" of writing, but then you go on to state
(in the form of a rhetorical question, I assume) that there are ways to
teach students how to use _the_ best word in _the_ most effective way. My
own answer to this question is "no," there is no such thing as the "best
word" in a transcendent sense. And I don't think there is a transcendent
"effective" use of language, so no, I don't teach that either. I teach
more about tailoring messages to particular audiences and purposes, about
different perspectives in re-reading and re-presenting information in our
reading and writing in the various contexts in which we live. Part of that
is talking about "what's effective" in college writing and part of that is
recognizing that different disciplines have different definitions of

And then you go on to talk about what I would call the traditional role of
composition: get 'em to think and present things right so they can be,
well, "presentable" in their other classes. That's always been kind a
bothersome perception about comp for me. I mean, think about it: all
other introductory courses within the university are seen as just that--
introductions for students to various subjects and topics. But how many
introductory courses have the same burden as fy comp? How many "math 101"
or "intro to lit" or "western civ" classes are seen as a key preparing
course for the rest of the college/world experience? How many of these
other courses are expected to train students in how to think?

Maybe that is the goal of fy comp, maybe it should be (mo, pomo, or
othermo). But it seems to me that this is such an impossible burden to
meet with one or two classes (which is one of many reasons why I've always
been a WAC fan), and it seems such an isolating experience-- us comp folks,
saddled with this prepatory burden, are seperated from the rest of the
university, and are frequently treated as a pre-college, service
station-like place, a series of classes where students come to get "gassed
up" and have their intellectual tires kicked, their writing engines finely
tuned, and then off they go to the _real_ part of education, the rest of
the college. I have no interest in being a "service" to the rest of the
university in this sense.

Steve Krause * Department of English * Southern Oregon State College
1250 Siskiyou Blvd. * Ashland, OR 97520 * Office Phone: 541-552-6630
School e-mail: * Personal e-mail: