Stanley Fish gets to the issues on teaching the craft of writing in "What Should Colleges Teach?"
I was blessed to have good English teachers throughout my Evanston public-school education. I also had good and literate parents. Collectively, they somehow taught me skills I use pretty much every day: write, type, and edit (though I must have been sick on the day spelling was taught).
I think I'm pretty good at getting my ideas across in writing. I wouldn't say I like writing (does anybody?). It's work. But I think I'm pretty good at it.
So I never know what to do with students' basic bad writing. I'm not an English teacher. Yet I often feel like I'm playing one in my classroom. Doesn't anybody teach grammar and syntax? This does not seem to be an appropriate subject matter for my "Seminar in Police Problems." Yet teach basic grammar I must. Why do I ever have to remind college seniors--as I do every semester--that sentences need a subject, verb, object, and then a period. Why is subject/verb agreement so difficult? Why do my students, class after class, insist on capitalizing the words "police officer" and many other nouns (is there some Germanic underground I don't know about)?
To argue that grammar and basic writing (not thought-provoking composition) should be taught in elementary and high-school is besides the point. College is a great place for teaching. And what's more important than teaching how to write?
Read Stanley Fish's piece in the New York Times.