Teaching writing

College classes are starting around the country, but writing assignments haven’t been submitted yet. Time to brace yourself – Stanley Fish blogs about what college writing courses are teaching:

A few years ago, when I was grading papers for a graduate literature course, I became alarmed at the inability of my students to write a clean English sentence. They could manage for about six words and then, almost invariably, the syntax (and everything else) fell apart. I became even more alarmed when I remembered that these same students were instructors in the colleges composition program. What, I wondered, could possibly be going on in their courses?

I teach several “writing across the curriculum” -type courses. The horror stories are a little overblown – I’d say at least a fourth of my students start out able to write a thesis statement. Hey, that’s something!