National Writing Project

Moffett, Freshman Comp, and the Teaching of Writing

By: Richard Murphy
Publication: The Quarterly, Vol. 3, No. 1
Date: November 1980

Summary: Murphy rebuts the "implication" of Moffett's essay "Confessions of an Ex-College Freshman" that good essays can be written without skills in vocabulary, organization, and logic and that to teach these skills is "regressive."

 

Excerpt

James Moffett's "Confessions of an Ex-College Freshman" (NWP Newsletter, May 1980) invites misreading. It does so, I think, because it is incomplete, in places cavalier. It does not say that essay writing needs only authenticity. It does not claim that good essays can be written without skills in vocabulary, organization, and logic. But it makes possible the impression that teaching such writing skills is a waste of our time and of our students' time. Perhaps even more than that—that we are "regressive," fraudulent, and hypocritical if we teach our students such things. Moffett argues correctly that writing needs more than technical skill, that it needs to be informed by a genuine self. But his essay lends his considerable authority to a bias—toward the personal and away from the skillful—which is widespread among teachers of English and subversive to the teaching of writing.

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