And yet in typically Puritan fashion, American schools also teach abstinence-only writing. Writing, teachers and textbooks insist, is solely for the purpose of impregnating the reader with information. To dabble in the meandering self-pleasure of wordplay; to tempt our reader with theoretical tangents; to tickle, twist, and tease meanings – this, we learn, is deviancy.
They shame us with red marks over the paper.
Virtue, they tell us, is keeping our sacred audience in mind during the whole process. Grace, treating words with economy rather than promiscuity. Clarity! Directness! No seed spilled on the ground!
In this context, it is little wonder that so many adults leave school writing and reading like bashful nuns, inexperienced in the art of prose-making. Fumbling for words with the lights out. Proud of their large vocabularies, no idea how to use them.