It seems like every English class I take, the class after everyone turns in their first piece of writing is devoted to telling us all that we clearly do not know what we are doing. This speech was definitely more effective my freshman year, but as a senior, a Writing Minor, and a taker of 300 level English classes, I am rather sick of it.
I swear, this is not just me complaining that I got a bad grade on a piece of writing (Which I did, two weeks in a row, no less). The fact is, every time I take a class centered on writing, someone complains about the state of undergraduate writing skills, proceeds to tell us that they will not teach us how to write since this is not a writing course, and wastes an hour telling us all things like “it’s means ‘it is’ and its means ownership” because seriously someone still doesn’t know that. This feels rather like passing the buck. Obviously since English professors do not take each others’ classes, none of them know that I have heard this same speech probably five or six times. But if they are all so troubled by the state of undergraduate writing, why do they keep saying “this is not a writing class, and I am not going to teach you how to write”? Clearly, someone needs to just sit down and teach us!
However, I believe that we are not such bad writers. Actually, I maintain that I am a fairly decent writer because after hearing this speech, and getting one bad grade on the first paper of the semester, I have gone on to receive As on almost all subsequent papers. Either English professors are all in collusion to scare everyone into writing better every semester, or they all just have different standards on what constitutes good writing. If it is the former, I tip my hat to them, because apparently this works. If it is the latter, I object, because if we all learn to write to the specifications of a different professor every semester, we are not learning to write, we are learning to please a very specific person.
This is all to say, Professor L, I am on to you…