Re: The Main Problem

Steve Krause (
Sun, 22 Oct 1995 22:37:00 -0500

Whoa, I musta missed something here-- what started this one, Fred?
Various mid-term duties? ;)

Generally speaking, I agree with you, and as someone who writes a lot--
both school stuff and "creative" stuff and www stuff (that's writing,
right?-- oh, but let's get to that in a second...)-- I am frequently
annoyed by the number of folks I know who teach writing who either
haven't written anything since they finished school or got tenure
(whichever is most appropriate). And as long as we're venting here, I am
also annoyed-- maybe even more annoyed-- by folks who teach writing who
are bad writers themselves and/or only teach writing because it's the
necessary janitorial work that comes with teaching something else. I
guess part of this last beef goes back to the instiutional problems
Connie just mentioned (I think): it's too expensive for many
universities and colleges to hire full-time writing specialists, I suppose.

And then I was going to comment on this post that John Priestly made,
when he said in part:

> I beg to differ on this point, Fred. I think you're right generally that
> there's something hypocritical in the way I've seen myself and others teach
> practices we do not ourselves engage in. But writing must to some extent
> be rule-governed, or it fails to communicate. Absolute prescriptivity is,
> as you note, ridiculous; but the opposite extreme -- a sort of
> I'm-ok-you're-ok approach to writing -- makes for as many mutually
> indiscernible languages as there are people. Babel.
.. but then I saw that Eric more or less beat me to it. I think writing
is about "rules" in a very abstract and ever-changing kind of way (ie, it
ain't about rules of grammar), but like Eric said, these rules are
generative. And I would add that they also should be taught with the
realization that they are frequently broken.

But Fred et al, before I too can yell "I'm mad as hell and am not going to
take it anymore" out of my window, I want to know what exactly this
thing/idea/concept called "writing" is. Teaching, done well, seems to me
to be a form of writing-- it certainly is in some sense the act of
creating a"text" between writers and audiences with discussions, lessons,
exchanges, tests, lectures, etc. To figure out whether or not people who
teach writing actually write, what can we count as evidence of writing?
Short stories, poems, essays, etc.-- they are certainly obvious examples,
but what about things like this, e-mail listservs? Or participation in
conferneces? Are techno-babble and boring-to-read reports-- the sort of
thing a lot of wpas have to do to satisfy some dean's office someplace--
actually "writing," or does writing have to be less than automatic and
formulaic? Isn't most academic writing-- the "currency" we exchange in
order to get tenure and the like-- pretty much non-writing, almost like an
advanced example of the sort of writing that Jasper Neel talks about in
that frequently quoted student essay "Three Problems with 'X'"? I could
go on, but you get the idea. Like I said, I agree with you Fred and
sympathize with you, but it seems to me that part ofthe frustration is
trying to figure out just what it is we're agreeing to.

Steve Krause * Department of English * Bowling Green State University *
Bowling Green, OH * 43401 * (419) 353-5104 *
* Now also available on WWW at *