At 03:03 PM 5/1/98 -0400, Rob Irish wrote:
>>From what I have seen, and tried to resist, most technical writing
>instructors separate "Substance" from "style" and focus on the latter.
>As soon as that happens, the assignment is less "real". This separation
>was borne out by Summer Smith's (admittedly flawed) research on advice
>to students. She asked Engineering professors and Tech Writing teachers
>(all TAs) to agree or disagree with this statement:
>The most important thing to do when writing technical documents is to be
>1= strongly disagree, 5=strongly agree
>(You should note that within the survey several things could be called
>"most important"--I'd argue that was a flaw)
>Whereas the average for 31 Engineers was 3.8, the average for the 25 TAs
>was 2.8. The TAs actually disagreed! So the writing loses its real
>focus by becoming an exercise in style, even if it is drawn from
Now you're straining.
And I think you're missing the point here. Data can be "accurate" but not
presented in a responsible or effective manner. It's common knowledge that
statistics can be twisted to represent almost anything. (As the present
discussion so aptly illustrates.) "Accuracy" then is only a part of the
picture. The attitude that accuracy is *most* important may be part of that
dream (becoming nightmare) of language as a transparent techne.
>> I teach technical writing to classes of 24 and have hours of personal
>> contact with them. They *also* have access to writing centre specialists in
>> technical writing.
>This merely confirms my point that the Writing centre is the best way to
>teach writing. Why else would the classroom teacher imitate it?
Well, it's *not* imitation in a context where rhetoric and composition is
typically taught this way. Next thing I know you'll be arguing that writing
centre's preceded Socratic dialogue ;).
>> Wouldn't it mean more jobs for English graduates?
>Yeah, it might. But I think my ideal is a little different. I have an
>ideal where people in any department value communication and make use of
>writing to learn strategies, where they are not intimidated by marking
>because they think it involves grammar. From what I have seen, the
>English Departments in Canada are more likely to encourage such
>malevolent marking mystification (couldn't resist the alliteration) than
>to help their colleagues in other disciplines. The weird thing at UofT
>is that while that is true on one hand, the department also seems to be
>trying to prevent other departments from developing their own discipline
>specific writing courses, or even writing-intensive courses.
Apparently, we're speaking from two very different perspectives.
>Personally, I'd love it if English would be more open because then I
>could do both the stuff I'm doing now and teach literature as well.
>That would be my ideal job.