We don’t discuss current events. We don’t exchange views on hot-button issues. We don’t tell each other what we think about anything except about how prepositions or participles or relative pronouns function'”. Yes, Fish’s course was entirely about grammar, with a dash of usage “howlers” like the confusion between “disinterested” and “uninterested.” He insists, “All composition courses should teach grammar and rhetoric, and nothing else. Ideas should be Links London introduced not for their own sake, but for the sake of the syntactical and rhetorical points they help illustrate”. But he doesn’t even explain what he includes and excludes under the rubric of “rhetorical points”a large escape clause. What did students write in these class apparently just exercises in grammatical sentences, not even papers?
Now, I happen to agree that all students should be required to study grammar, even Standard English grammarpreferably back in “grammar school” and high school, maybe college Basic Writing, and that grammar, style, and usage should be corollary components in every writing and literature course. But why call a grammar class a writing class For someone who insists that professors be authorities in their own academic discipline, Fish shows no glimmer of familiarity with a half-century of research on the relation between the teaching of grammar and of writing, or on the relation between form and content in writing. (E.D. Hirsch, who wrote a blurb for Fish’s dust jacket, must have swallowed a strong suspension of disbelief to get through this chapter.) The chapter sent me back to Fish’s 1992 interview with Gary Olson in JAC (reprinted in Fish There’s No) to see what he said about research in composition pedagogy, which turns out to be precious little; however, his general view of politics and English studies there, including critical pedagogy and critique of political rhetoric, was far less constricted than it is here. Surely Fish, in writing for a non-academic audience here, must have known he was throwing red meat to all those who upon meeting an English professor burst out with mock chagrin, “Oh, oh, I’d better watch my grammar,” as well as to right-wing culture warriors who constantly admonish us to teach grammar instead ofwhatever else it is that we do.
Moreover, Fish falls into the pernicious practice common to a wide diversity of scholars in rhetcomp of reducing the whole field to The Course Formerly Known as Freshman Links Of London Bracelets Englishaka First-Year Writing. What about more advanced levels of writing courses as an introduction to academic discourse and incorporation of information assigned for writing in other courses, in the mode of Writing across the Curriculum What about argumentative writing courses, which I would put at the center of the humanistic curriculum Fish only says snidely, “Students who take so-called courses in writing where such topics [hot-button issues] are the staples of discussion may believe, as their instructors surely do, that they are learning how to marshal arguments in ways that will improve their compositional skills.
In fact they will be learning nothing they couldn’t have learned better by sitting around in a dorm room or a coffee shop”. Does Fish therefore believe that advanced courses centrally devoted to argumentative writing cannot improve either students’ argumentative or writing skills None of his crankish pronouncements in this chapter, of course, are supported by a shred of the kind of empirical verification that he insists is central to responsible scholarship.