I particularly like the pithiness of Marc's last paragraph!
Susan Drain, PhD
Department of English
Mount Saint Vincent University
Halifax, NS Canada B3M 2J6
902 457 6220
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>>> Marc Christensen <[log in to unmask]> 4/2/2008 3:42 PM >>>
Dear Susan (and the rest of the list if you'd care to forward this
through to them) --
I'm the UVic person who responded to UA about Marche's piece so
quickly, as well as a CASLL list lurker. I know how tight pub
deadlines can be at mags like UA, and my quick response to them
wasn't meant in any way to steal the CASLL's thunder. I felt that a
fast response would have the advantage of keeping the topic alive,
and I had a specific topic to address, as outlined below.
I would reply to you through the listserv, but my postings have
historically been refused by the server, and after about three tries,
I gave up. So feel free to forward this in to the group, as a note of
The central thing I tried to do in my brief letter to UA, which
differs from the direction your collective CASLL / CATTW response
later took, is that I sought to upend the widely held belief that
grammar instruction will produce better student writing.
(I might concede that some university grammar instruction is useful
if one is to become a technical writer or professional editor, but
this is beside the point.)
My narrow focus on this topic likely made Peggy B. of UA think that
I'd "missed Marche's point" relative to WAC/WID curricula. Marche's
own discussion of the implications of WAC/WID struck me as glancing,
and I responded, by tackling grammar, in a way that I thought
appropriate for the general UA readership, rather than those who
might have particular WAC/WID concerns.
When I began to teach English in Canada -- with six years' classroom
experience, an MA in literature and a few US grad courses in
composition behind me -- I noticed with some horror that my new
colleagues were either completely unacquainted with or immediately
disagreeable to what I saw as the core principles of composition, as
I had learned it and practised it in the states. It felt as if the
groundbreaking 1974 CCC declaration "Student's Right to Their Own
Language," and the thirty years of progress in writing instruction
that followed from it, had simply never occurred in Canada.
That's why I responded to Marche's paper separately. I hope no one on
the list will take offense, especially as I praised Inkshed as a ray
of light in this regard, and complained that those with the most
insight and investment into the mechanics of writing instruction --
Inkshedders, etc -- had so often been given very limited
institutional power to address the difficulty of the problem in its
I don't think US composition is a perfect model, but I'd gladly
import it, if I thought it would supplant the active animosity I've
observed in some of my Canadian colleagues regarding the intelligence
of their students or their ability to write, with their own speech,
in their own words, idioms, and methods. I didn't mention this
frustrating professional behaviour in my UA letter, but I've
certainly witnessed it, and I don't doubt many of you have as well.
Professionally, I think teaching grammar as a blanket prescription
for undergraduate writing perpetuates a cycle of demoralization and
cynicism between student and teacher alike. That part, I did mention.
Cheers and regards to all the Inkshedders,
Marc Christensen | Publications Officer
UVic Communications Services
University of Victoria, PO Box 1700 STN CSC Victoria, BC, Canada V8W
Phone 250-721-6022 | Fax 250-721-8599
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