Reading Lu this week, I can’t help to wonder how someone writing about style could write in such an annoying style. What is it with all the “quotation marks?” And for a writing instructor, shouldn’t Lu know better than to start sentences with “and”, “so”, and to be specific when referring to the “Chinese” language? It is not that I am so old school that I say you can’t start sentences with “And”, “but”, or “so” (although, I would probably argue against the “so”), the problem comes in starting so many sentences in this way, especially when talking about style– is this Lu’s way of challenging the hegemonic discourse?

The other problem I have in Lu’s “style” is that I find it condescending to tell student’s that their mistakes (and I am sorry, but those are errors (oh no! call the P.C. police) are due to the student’s culture. Lu even points out, “The need to write for professors who grade with red pens circling all “errors” [again with the quotation marks] is also real for a majority of our students…” and later Lu says about her pedagogy, “It acknowledges the writer’s right and ability to experiment with innovative ways of deploying the codes taught in the classroom” (316), but doesn’t the latter sentence contradict the former? Students will not have the ability to experiment in their psychology classes or science classes or history classes– they will need to write coherent, grammatically “correct” sentences. So rather point out a mistake and say it is a multicultural “style” choice that can be improved, why not be honest and just say it is a mistake?

This is the problem with the P.C. postmodern world. Slavoj Zizek points this out with a lucid example that I will personally relate. When I lived in California, I would visit Miami every summer, and every summer, I had to go visit my 90 year old great aunt. This visit was awful. My parents told me, though, that I HAD to go. There was no negotiation about it; my parents told me “I don’t care if you like it or not, you are going to go see Tia Maria.” That was the end of it.

In today’s postmodernism, the progressive parents tell their children: “You know your Tia Maria loves you very much, and she does not get many visitors anymore. You also know that it would mean a lot to her if you went to go see her. It will only take a little piece of your day, and it would mean the world to her, but I will leave it up to you to decide if you want to give her this nice, little satisfaction.” The second choice is dishonest, and it seems to me this is the order that Lu is promoting.

Zizek’s video is here:

This takes me back to something else Lu mentions: “Why is it that in spite of our developing ability to acknowledge the political need and right of “real” writers to experiment with “style,” we must continue to cling to the belief that such a need and right does not belong to “student writers”? [First, don’t all the quotation marks undermine Lu’s point? Are we not really talking about real writers but rather “real” writers? Are they not experimenting with “style” or just apparent style? Are we not teaching “student writers” or… I dunno…]. I would answer Lu with what she says next: first the rules must be learned and mastered, and then you are allowed to bend, break, and experiment with them (or for style’s sake, maybe I should just say “experiment”, no?). I say this because when the student goes out to the world, he or she will NOT be allowed to experiment with their writing, and when the student writes a resume, fills out a job application, and writes a cover letter, experimentation will not be appreciated, so they better actually learn all the rules of grammar and academic style, and show me they know these rules, before they start to experiment with them.

In all this writing about writing, why does no one put any emphasis on reading?

I am an ESL student ( or at least I was throughout grammar school), and I learned English through Sesame Street and Curious George and Dr Suess books. I learned English, how to speak it, write it, use it, through reading it. Just like when I was an undergrad, I learned the “academic” discourse when I started reading academic essays and books. Does anyone talk about that in rhetoric and composition?