By the end of this post you will see fairly apparently that I really, really, really enjoyed the Fish article. Firstly, Fish makes a number of apt criticisms on the assumptions people make with regards to the way people are taught to write. My favorite was his subtle mockery of the notion that somehow reading the “classics” over and over again would somehow teach people how to write sufficiently well as if by means of osmosis or absorption. I find this to be especially true because I have always considered writing my personal strong suit, but somehow simultaneously always managed to fall asleep in 7th grade Lit classes.
However, I found the strongest point made to be the one regarding whether or not it is “correct” to teach grammar in a universal fashion. Fish acknowledges that while the notion of a fundamentally more correct way of speaking/writing is inherently discriminatory, it does not follow that we should abandon any hope of a universal standard of teaching grammar. He argues that this truth actually makes a strong case for adopting such standards, not a weaker one.
Fish writes: “You’re not going to be able to change the world if you are not equipped with the tools that speak to its present condition. You don’t strike a blow against a power structure by making yourself vulnerable to its prejudices.” Basically, if you want to defeat your enemy, you have to be able to at least communicate in their terms, and principled abstention from the already existing processes won’t do any good for anyone who hopes to reform it.
What do you think? Is the idea of a universal standard of teaching so inherently discriminatory that we should abstain from even propagating it, or do “the ends justify the means” in this sense?