Monday, May 26, 2008

Me and the Modern Language Association

A nebula and protostars -- Easier to understand than APA.


Me and the MLA are buds. Well, it's more of a one-sided relationship. I take shelter from APA style writing by dropping MLA's name as often as possible when I'm out of my element in a science classroom. Despite my heroic (for me) math journey in astronomy class last year, at the end of which I was able to calculate apparent brightness and magnitude with the best of them, I still took home a B. Turns out my own apparent brightness was dimmed by my inability to conform to APA on the final paper. The same goes for my natural science requirements -- big fat Bs in both. I am "too argumentative." But I won't get into that today.

Instead I wanted to post a link to an interesting column on the MLA site, by the president of the MLA, Gerald Graff. The article is about how first year composition is being compromised. In universities freshmen comp. (or just "comp" as most call it) is almost always taught by assistants or grad students, depending on the size of the school. There is a "two-track" system as Mr. Graff calls it, by which literature and the other humanities have been isolated from the courses that actually teach students how to complete their work in these disciplines.

Here it is: Bringing Writing In from the Cold

A few weeks ago I went to see my honors program advisor about grad school - I had no idea where to start and needed help. I noticed "comp" was on his schedule (the profs all post their schedules on the office doors). At first I offered my condolences that he had to teach "that" class, but by the end of our conversation I had a new respect for him and a different outlook. He is the head of the English department, and he teaches freshman comp. As did my creative writing teacher last semester, who is also a veteran. Granted, my school is very small (less than 2000 students) but it seems like they are doing something right. At least Gerald Graff would think so.

Anyhow, I hadn't been to the MLA site in a while and I was pleased to find excellent writing and interesting topics, and no strict adherence to a sixth grade writing level (the standard for the web). I copy write for the web at work, and I have to use every last Flesch-Kincaid tool to get my articles down to tenth grade level . . . I can't seem to get past the brick wall of tenth grade! Graff throws caution to the wind - he uses "solipsistic" and "obfuscation" like "bread" and "butter." My little trip into language land was refreshing. Now I think I might finally sign up for that MLA student membership I've been talking about since my freshman year.

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