April 1st, 2008 laurelchinn
I read for this class with an open mind every week. Sometimes I am annoyed, sometimes enthralled. This week I read Clueless in Academe, and I have to shake my head. I have looked at the dates on many of our readings, and I see many dated in the ’80s. This book is dated 2003. So here we sit in a progressively modeled class, blogging of all things, and we read a book by someone who supports the simplification of English instruction in our universities. But it has been more than 20 years since this movement started, and we are still reading about it as if it is new and needed. I see that it is applied in this class, but I have to wonder how many others employ these new techniques. I wonder how long it will take for these techniques to trickle down through the ranks. I wonder how long it will take for those who are being taught by these methods now to become the leadership that will grow the movement until it becomes commonplace. And isn’t ths sort of education ancient? How is it rejected by the very people who study the ancient?
If we look at any technical manual, any software documentation, we see the same problem with difficult language there. I think that all professions maintain a sort of corporate culture that requires certain verbiage and subtleties. I think that English in academe is no different, but the fact is that the very nature of English instruction is to teach clarity. It is a language, and to teach it in such a manner as to promote obscurity is ridiculous. In fact, every time I read for this class, even those authors who are promoting a more simple approach, I have to pause and rethink at times. It is fascinating and amusing. It is ironic, I think.
In general, the message has been driven home, to teach and promote clarity. What makes me smile at times is that those espousing such clarity fail to achieve it. Many of these pieces could have been written in plain language or more simply than they have been. But somehow, the deciphering does exercise the brain and make it a bit more fun to read. I wonder though, if these authors could have written to amuse and pass along their thoughts without pretension, how many more interested students would have perused their writings, settled in for a good read, and perhaps adopted their theories in classrooms of their own. If the reading is burdensome, who will tackle it except those members of the authors’ own club? I guess if the audience is comprised of the offenders, and they read the new ideas and make changes, great. But how many potential converts are missed because the writing caters to only a few.
In reading the blogs today, I see that one student left American University in part because of issues caused by the standard academic writing, and good for her. Another mentions spending time planning a curriculum and having it 86′d by her county. It seems that the ideas are out there, they have been proven to work and that they do not preclude academic writing, but the establishment in collegiate English departments is just as unyielding as the establishment in so many industries to include government and medicine. What baffles me is that the people who are resistant are the people who stand for education, who see these methods work, and fail to implement them.
Entry Filed under: Week 11