“Anyone can Teach Writing”
The essay “Anyone can Teach Writing” by Seth Khan speaks about the titular bad idea that anyone can teach writing, the ‘anyone’ in particular referring to the adjunct professors that make up the majority of teachers in a college. Despite their degrees on the subject, however, they not only have less job security, but also have less resources. It’s so bad that they actually don’t get the syllabus for their class to look over and try to come up with a good plan for how the year will go until the week before a semester starts.
These are just some of the problems these professors have to deal with as a result of this idea, but the group who will feel this worst of all is the students taught by those professors, them not being able to get the attention and learn the information they need efficiently due to their “teachers on wheels” (Street et al., 2) travelling from class to class right after the other every day.
A better idea would be that “Any well-trained and supported writing professor can teach writing”.
Effects on Adjunct Professors
One of the reasons I feel this is a better writing idea is that the colleges will be less callous about their treatment of adjunct professors under this field.
The bad idea has been around since the 1800s according to Seth Khan’s “Anyone can Learn Writing” essay, when English Composition was first beginning and was taught by groups considerably varying in skill level, from professors that specialized in it to students that recently graduated under the field (365). Only recently have they started to put in specialized training for writing teachers, though the idea still has its effect on the thought processes of colleges when it comes to paying and their treatment of the adjuncts.
They still have the idea that it doesn’t matter who they hire to teach it or when they do it. They think someone who was hired the day before can handle the ‘simple’ amount of stuff to teach to an entire classroom as someone who has been at the college for years and is somewhat known by the children there. They aren’t even called to participate in college meetings sometimes either.
Therefore, the professors struggle to get their materials together in time for classes to start, and on top of that, they may have multiple classes to travel between on the same day, so students who need some help can most likely be out of luck.
With the mindset the better idea presents us with, colleges may not be as careless and think of an adjunct English professor’s time to be as valuable as a professor with another major. They may send them the syllabi and let them know that they’re accepted to teach at the college at a more convenient time to give them some well-deserved breathing room. They may also give them more access to resources for a better learning experience. A shame that we need to think up a better idea just for those professors to have the resources that they need, but I digress. The teachers are not the only ones that have it hard thanks to this archaic bad idea, however.
Effects on Students
Another reason I feel this is a better writing idea is because it will ultimately better prepare the students and give them the skills they need to succeed in college as well as beyond.
This is a very important reason, that the students will be able to receive all the help and knowledge they need to prepare them. Laura McKenna’s article “The Cost of an Adjunct” discusses this, having other non-tenured professors like Judy Olsen to discuss their situations, her saying that “her financial concerns may detract away from her lesson planning” as well as quoting other teachers that “are unable to maintain independent research that could otherwise enrich classroom discussions”.
Through improving the teachers’ conditions and keeping them informed on their hiring status, the colleges can promote an overall excellent learning experience for the students there, both the ones that struggle with this subject and those who already somewhat enjoy it.
I think overall the idea that anyone can teach writing is a terrible idea that does not only undersell the skill and effort needed to deal with the true unpredictability of writing, but also hurts those who teach it as well as learn it.
English professors have to deal with terrible conditions such as cramped office spaces and no personal offices to discuss private school issues with their students who need it. The better idea that any well-trained and supported writing professional can teach writing is more likely to remind colleges that professors with English degrees had to go through the same amount of hard work as one with a Mathematics degree or a degree in the Arts, and must be treated as such with better pay, less cramped office spaces, and given more time to look over their information for the year.
This in turn will help the students that need it most, giving them a more consistent place to meet up with their teacher and discuss any issues they might have to have a much smarter group of students.
Of course, it is also up to the students, according to Olson and Maria Maisto from to look into their colleges and how the adjunct teachers are treated. If the college representatives respond in a way that only someone with the mindset that “anyone can teach writing” has, then try to bring to them the better idea that anyone with the support and training of a professional can really achieve that.
Who Is Professor “Staff” and How Can This Person Teach So Many Classes? vol. 2, New Faculty Majority, 2012, pp. 1–22, Who Is Professor “Staff” and How Can This Person Teach So Many Classes?
McKenna, Laura. “The Cost of an Adjunct.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 26 May 2015, www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/05/the-cost-of-an-adjunct/394091/.
Khan, Seth. “Anyone can Teach Writing.” Bad Ideas About Writing, edited by Cheryl E. Ball and Drew M. Loewe. West Virginia University Digital Publishing Institute, 2017. pp. 363-368