Why and What College?

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Luis Menand on the idea of college. Via Mark Bernstein. Menand writes

When he is not taking on trends in modern thought, Professor X is shrewd about the reasons it’s hard to teach underprepared students how to write. “I have come to think,” he says, “that the two most crucial ingredients in the mysterious mix that makes a good writer may be (1) having read enough throughout a lifetime to have internalized the rhythms of the written word, and (2) refining the ability to mimic those rhythms.” This makes sense. If you read a lot of sentences, then you start to think in sentences, and if you think in sentences, then you can write sentences, because you know what a sentence sounds like. Someone who has reached the age of eighteen or twenty and has never been a reader is not going to become a writer in fifteen weeks. On the other hand, it’s not a bad thing for such a person to see what caring about “things that probably aren’t that exciting to most people” looks like. A lot of teaching is modelling.


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