I feel like grammar is this endless and sometimes inexplicable thing that I sometimes understand and sometimes don’t. For example, I usually sprinkle a fair amount of useless and unnecessary commas into anything I’ve written. But those other times when I actually do know what I’m doing in terms of grammar, I feel so confident in my writing.
I feel that in some of the writing and composition courses I’ve had, grammar was taught as the one thing that you couldn’t write without. But I think, referencing back to the article by Peter Elbow about writing in your “mother tongue”, that you can have and express well thought out ideas without extensive knowledge of grammar. Grammar is just a vehicle for universal understanding but it isn’t meant to develop the concepts themselves.
I think that grammar definitely should take a backseat to the development and growth of ideas and concepts until those ideas and concepts are fully realized. Then, after that would be the time when grammar would come into play, with revision and editing for the final draft.
The type of class you take definitely influences the type of writing that is taught. I think that higher level classes focus less on the mechanics and grammar because those are things that professors expect the students to have prior knowledge in. The lower level courses tend to focus more on the grammar and basic writing knowledge that is needed for the higher level classes.