“Devoid of Content”

Stanley Fish, dean emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago

Stanley Fish has contributed an opinion editorial in today’s New York Times titled “Devoid of Content.” As a professor who teaches Greek and hermeneutics to undergraduate students and who has graded many papers, I have observed the same thing that that Fish has. Too many students are “utterly unable to write a clear and coherent English sentence . . . Students can’t write clean English sentences because they are not being taught what sentences are.” Though I am in substantial disagreement with Fish over hermeneutical theory (he is a reader-response critic), his analysis of the literacy crisis and the remedy in his pedagogy are brilliant. For the few language buffs and teachers who read this blog, I recommend that you read “Devoid of Content.”

Source: Stanley Fish, “Devoid of Content,” The New York Times, May 31, 2005.

4 Responses to “Devoid of Content”

  1. RosieBoo May 31, 2005 at 11:45 am #

    Truly the downfall of the complete sentence can find its roots in chat rooms, instant message windows, and cell phone text messaging. Although I may partake in 2 out of 3 of those communication tools, I try to never let it tear down what I learned in school. The problem is the youth of America were most likely text messaging before they knew what diagramming a sentence is all about.

  2. Jim Hamilton May 31, 2005 at 7:30 pm #

    We could all be saved the tedium of trying to form a fake language by having the useful task of learning Latin or Greek imposed upon us!

    Great article!

  3. Peter Sewell June 8, 2005 at 2:09 pm #

    Yes, it is a great shame how we have lost our grasp on the fundamentals.

    What is more, this problem is not limited to English grammar. The situation is equally as sad in the field of mathematics (can anyone do math without a calculator?).

    I have even heard of some top-level scholars and educators who, because they were not in a mathematical discipline, didn’t even take the math section of the GRE!

    We, as a culture, are in deep trouble if our educators (to say nothing of our pupils) demonstrate such a negligence of the fundamentals of general education, the basics for functioning in a human society.

  4. Denny Burk June 9, 2005 at 2:28 pm #

    Ha! That’s what I did on the GRE!


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