Beware Fools Bearing Advice

When I’m angry or uncertain, the first place I turn in my writing is to style.

To wit, the original opening line of this post was:

Friends, colleagues, countrymen: we come to bury the permission slip, not to praise it.

Right. Because what’s set me off today isn’t anger, really, though it may have a shade of frustration. It’s passivity.

Specifically, what I read as passiveness in this essay, On Writing in Grad School; the gist of which is: in general, we don’t teach graduate students how to write.

On the one hand: true.

On the other: tough shit.

To be clear, I bear no ire towards Kevin Gotkin, the author of this piece. Indeed, his grievances, the absences he’s noted in his own graduate education, truly seem to trouble him greatly, and I admire his ability to transform that sense of injustice into a cogent piece for The Chronicle of Higher Ed. There’s a conversation to be had there, and he’s kicked it off clean. Well done, sir.

Rather, what troubles me is the way in which Gotkin’s essay repeats with difference (as Jenny Edbauer might say) similar complaints I have heard of late within the rhetorical ecology of higher education in the humanities.

(Heh. How’s that for wonky style?)

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Tuning In To An Act of Faith

One of my gigs this summer is working in our university’s Writing Center. It’s a place where anyone can bring a piece of writing they’re working on and talk through it with one of one of the Center’s coaches—a stranger! often someone the writer’s never met. They trust us, our clients, to help them to make their writing stronger.

It’s weirdly intimate, what we do, and it hinges on an act of faith.

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