Before turning to dictionary work with the G. & C. Merriam Company, Philip Gove spent fifteen years directing freshman English at New York University. In the mid-1950s, he was at work with Merriam, editing Webster’s Third. The Dartmouth News Service wrote to offer Gove (a Dartmouth graduate) samples of student writing to illustrate current usage. He declined and explained why in a letter:
There’s an almost invariable rule that writing prepared under assignment and therefore artificially under pressure has certain forced awkwardnesses that make it quite different from genuine human utterances. Most of these writers, you will remember, didn’t want to write the theme in the first place, didn’t have anything they wanted to say in the second, and cared only about satisfying some artificial and quite likely false standards set up by their instructor. I know because I have read thousands of them.How to challenge the “almost invariable rule”? One way is to ask students to write critically about “college”: what it’s for, what’s wrong with it, how it can be improved. It’s exciting to see students become critical observers of their own experience.
Quoted in Herbert C. Morton’s The Story of Webster’s Third: Philip Gove’s Controversial Dictionary and Its Critics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994).
Paul McHenry Roberts, “How to Say Nothing in 500 Words”