Tuesday, August 01, 2006

More myths and confusion

Over at Language Log, Mark Liberman, commenting on my FANBOYS posting, writes,
Brett Reynolds' post on FANBOYS observes that lists and hierarchies of this kind are "myths" that "[give] the faithful a comfortingly simple handhold in a confusing world". I'm sure that this is true -- but such myths can be confusing and even disturbing, not comforting, for those who think about them too seriously.
Indeed, I found myself very confused when I first started college teaching, and it's not just lists and hierarchies. Many staples of the curriculum simply made no sense to me: "extended paragraphs", mandatory topic sentences, concluding sentences for every paragraph, a grading system that deducted points for every error (as if you could count them), etc. It took me over two years, a lot of conversations, and good deal of reading to feel confident enough to assert that the curriculum is the problem, rather than my understanding of English, writing, and students' needs.

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