Date: Wed, 25 Mar 1998 23:51:41 -0600
From: Dennis Baron debaron[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]UIUC.EDU
Subject: banned words and comp

Bethany wonders if teaching writing in college is a sign that high schools
are not doing their job. I don't see it that way. Not that I think high
schools are doing their job--they definitely are not, if my two daughters'
experience, sixteen years apart, is any indication. Rather, I think that
even if high schools taught writing in a creative, interesting, exciting
way (and I know some teachers do that), students would still have some
learnin to do when they got to the demands of college writing. It's just a
whole lot different.

I say this (and my comments on banned words) after 11 years directing a
first-year writing program at a fairly selective state school.

The first thing college instructors say to their students seems to be, "you
may have gotten away with this kind of thing in high school, but you're in
college now." The first thing seminar profs say to their grad students is,
"you can't write like you're still in college." And if you've got your
degree and submitted your first article, your editor is likely to say,
"Hey, this isn't grad school--you've got to write like a professional now.
. ." You can't win? Sure you can, but each time you change
"levels"--sometimes each time you face a blank screen--you have to learn to
write all over again. That's the message I tried to convey. Remember,
Bethany, that first law school paper--Toto, we're not in grad school
anymore, methinks.

As for faculty teaching writing, well we all should and do, no matter what
course we're teaching, in that we should frame writing assignments so
students have some idea of what we expect, and we should provide feedback
that gives students a sense that someone read their work.


Dennis Baron, Acting Head debaron[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]
Department of English phone: 217-333-2390
University of Illinois fax: 217-333-4321
608 South Wright Street
Urbana, Illinois 61801