Date: Thursday, March 6th 2011
Title of Post: “Views on the subject of -Writing & Teaching Writing-”
In revisiting this archived article by Fish today:
NYTimes Opinion piece: <http://fish.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/24/what-should-colleges-teach/>]
… it is difficult not to recognize the fundamental difference of opinion about -what is writing?- between Fish and, for example, the discourse theorist James Moffett [in his (1968) “Teaching the Universe of Discourse”].
How can we agree about how to teach writing if two such divergent views are prevalent?
View one, Fish: “… mathematics, the natural sciences, foreign languages and composition are disciplines with a specific content and a repertoire of essential skills. Courses that center on another content and fail to provide concentrated training in those skills are really courses in another subject.”
View two, Moffett: “But English, French, and foreign languages are not about anything in the same sense that history, biology, physics, and other primarily empirical subjects are about something. English, French, and mathematics are symbol systems … Symbols systems are not primarily about themselves; they are about other subjects. When a student “learns” one of these systems, he learns how to operate it. The main point is to think and talk about other things by means of this system” (Teaching the Universe of Discourse, p. 6).
A pragmatist might conclude that simply recognizing whereby both conceptualizations are possible, this is the most important thing to understand. At the very least then, we can understand how fully our views of the subject might diverge.