Basic Writing e-Journal

Volume 1    Number 2    Winter 1999      Published November 19, 1999

Co-editors: Linda Adler-Kassner and Gregory R. Glau

Basic Writing e-Journal

Table of contents

Editors' Page

William B. Lalicker

Sallyanne Fitzgerald

Peter Goggin: Introduction
Sharon Crowley: Comments
John Ramage: Response
Kohl M. Glau: Questions & Answers

Book Review Section

Review of Time to Know Them by Marilyn Sternglass
Reviewed by Patricia Licklider

Review of Defending Access: A Critique of Standards in Higher Education by Tom Fox
Reviewed by Terry Collins

Review of Gypsy Academics and Mother-Teachers: Gender, Contingent Labor, and Writing Instruction by Eileen E. Schell
Reviewed by Susan Loudermilk

Review of Representing the "Other": Basic Writers and the Teaching of Writing by Bruce Horner and Min-Zhan Lu
Reviewed by SusanMarie Harrington

Review of Living Language: Reading, Thinking, and Writing by Alleen Pace Nilsen
Reviewed by Alice L. Trupe

Basic Writing e-Journal

Editors' Page

        It is with great pleasure that we present our second issue of BWe: Basic Writing e-Journal, and we hope you find what follows to be especially interesting and useful.
        Anyone who needs to design or modify a basic writing program will find Bill Lalicker's survey and advice particularly useful.  Lalicker's ways of categorizing various BW approaches is especially helpful, as he makes it easy to compare/contrast the different models as well as the strengths and weaknesses of each.
        Sallyanne Fitzgerald's focus is tighter and equally useful, and we all can learn much from her college's experiences.  It's increasingly obvious that all of us have to answer more and more to various interested constituencies, including school administrators, in terms of what our students actually "get" from our courses, and Chabot's  "Throughline" is a useful model.  Linking classroom pedagogy to outcomes such as the ones Sallyanne describes connects nicely to what others are doing, centered on the Council of Writing Program Administrators "Outcomes Statement."  You can get more information on the WPA page, and see, for example Arizona State University's model portfolio assignment.
        A regional conference that's been growing by leaps and bounds is the Western States Conference, held in alternate years at the University of Utah and at Arizona State University.  In October of 1999, ASU professors Sharon Crowley and John Ramage "squared off" to debate the first-year composition requirement.  As Peter Goggin's introduction explains, there " was no clear `winner' in the traditional political debate sense and no clear delineation of partisanship," and we think you will learn from the discussion.
        Our Book Review Section offers you five reviews of recent and, we think, important texts.
        Finally, please respond to what you read hear, and we'll print your comments and ideas in future issues of BWe.  And as always, thank you for your interest and support.

Linda Adler-Kassner
Greg Glau
Co-editors, BWe: Basic Writing e-Journal

Basic Writing e-Journal

William B. Lalicker
West Chester University


         In January 1999, I conducted a brief survey of writing program administrators to determine the alternative structures for basic writing programs.  My query on the Writing Program Administrators listserv asked respondents to identify their basic writing program structures according to five models I'd identified from a general search of scholarship on the subject.  Respondents not only described their basic writing programs as variants of the five models; they provided useful insights concerning the advantages and disadvantages of each model in their specific institutional contexts. (Examples of basic writing programs herein, when not otherwise cited, are taken from that listserv survey.)  The following is a summary, a kind of primer, about those models and their features.
        Although the appropriateness of each model relies strongly on a combination of site-specific conditions such as the institution's mission, its demographics, and its resources, no pattern emerged linked to the generic type of college or university in question.  Institutions of every type have developmental writing programs.  One might expect research universities, comprehensive state universities, liberal arts colleges and community colleges to favor particular models according to institutional type, but such seemed not to be the case.  Individual institutional needs-and, possibly, the theoretical or epistemological assumptions driving the writing program--seemed to be a stronger determinant.
         Basic writing program directors, then, should be able to borrow from a range of structural alternatives in designing the best possible program for their students.  The introduction below will begin by describing a baseline approach-the "prerequisite" model. (Since critiques of this model, especially of its placement and grading systems, are prolific in basic writing journals, I will refrain from extensive analysis and will simply describe this system in order to provide a starting point for comparing the alternatives.)  I will use a parallel descriptive structure to sketch the key features of alternative approaches.


ALTERNATIVE 1: THE STRETCH MODEL ALTERNATIVE 2: THE STUDIO MODEL ALTERNATIVE 3: THE DIRECTED SELF-PLACEMENT MODEL ALTERNATIVE 4: THE INTENSIVE MODEL ALTERNATIVE 5: THE MAINSTREAMING MODEL         Which model should you adopt?  Should you copy the key features of a typical system as described here, or design a variant by playing mix-and-match?  A greater understanding of the alternatives will help you determine the answer most suited to your program's theories and goals, most achievable with your institution's mission and resources, and most successful for meeting the literacy challenges of your basic writing students.

Works Cited

Adams, Peter Dow.  "Basic Writing Reconsidered." Journal of Basic Writing 12:1
        (Spring 1993):22-36.
Grego, Rhonda, and Nancy Thompson. "Repositioning Remediation: Renegotiating
        Composition's Work in the Academy." CCC 47:1 (Feb. 1996):62-84.
Harrington, Susanmarie.  "New Visions of Authority in Placement Test Rating."  WPA:
         Writing Program Administration 22:1/2 (Fall/Winter 1998):53-84.
Haswell, Richard, and Susan Wyche-Smith.  "A Two-Tiered Rating Procedure for
        Placement Essays." Assessment in Practice: Putting Principles to Work on
        College Campuses.  Ed. Trudy Banta.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1995.  204-7.
Huot, Brian.  "A Survey of College and University Writing Placement Practices."  WPA:
        Writing Program Administration 17:3 (Spring 1994):49-65.
Murphy, Sandra, et al.  Report to the CCCC Executive Committee: Survey of
        Postsecondary Writing Assessment Practices. 1993.
Royer, Daniel J., and Roger Gilles.  "Directed Self-Placement: An Attitude of
        Orientation."  CCC 50:1 (Sept. 1998):58-70.
Segall, Mary T. "Embracing a Porcupine: Redesigning a Writing Program." Journal of
         Basic Writing 14:2 (Fall 1995):38-47.
Smith, William. "Assessing the Reliability and Adequacy of Using Holistic Scoring of
        Essays as a College Composition Placement Technique."  Validating Holistic
        Scoring for Writing Assessment: Theoretical and Empirical Foundations.  Ed.
        Michael M. Williamson and Brian Huot. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton, 1993.  142-205.
Soliday, Mary, and Barbara Gleason. "From Remediation to Enrichment: Evaluating a
        Mainstreaming Project." Journal of Basic Writing 16:1 (Spring 1997):64-78.
White, Edward M.  "An Apologia for the Timed Impromptu Essay." CCC 46:1 (Feb.

Basic Writing e-Journal

Sallyanne Fitzgerald
Chabot College, CA


        Discussions about basic writing sometimes degenerate into whether we should call ourselves "developmental" writing teachers or "remedial" ones.  Developmental is supposedly more positive since it connotes moving forward rather than moving backward or correcting past performance.  Remedial is also sometimes associated with a medical model of teaching where we perceive the learner as having a deficit or reflecting an unhealthy background in learning.  The argument seems to me to miss the point:  basic writing is more productively labeled neither remedial nor developmental but instead should be perceived as providing students with the opportunity to acquire the skills that result in successful college writing.  However, because basic writers are unique to each context, different sites need to decide what curriculum they will develop to meet the goal of college-level writing. Following this rationale, our community college basic writing program is integrated into the general English curriculum and takes its guidance from the total program philosophy which we have articulated in a document we call the "Throughline."

Throughline for Chabot College English Subdivision

English courses at all levels will:

1. Integrate reading, writing, critical thinking, speaking, and listening.

2. Address directly students' reading practices. Reading is absolutely critical to academic success, and we strive to include more reading, in terms of both range and depth, in our program.

3. Approach the teaching of writing by inviting students to write prose pieces of varying length and complexity. Writing is not taught in a progression from the sentence to the paragraph to the essay.

4. Emphasize critical thinking. Critical thinking is the creation of meaning. Critical thinking is not limited to concepts of formal logic but includes grouping items/seeing patterns, drawing inferences, evaluating for purpose, synthesizing and arguing, differentiating fact from opinion, asking questions, evaluating for standards of fairness and accuracy, and making judgments. Critical thinking is broad-based, including sensing, feeling and imagining.

5. Create settings which include speaking, listening and responding and that foster the building of community and forge links to critical reading and writing. Teaching those skills sometimes needs to be explicit and directed. Activities may include student presentations (solo and group/panel); small- and large-group discussions in which students speak to each other and not only to the instructor; student/teacher conferences; interviews in the class or community. We also encourage listening skills that involve note-taking and feedback/response.

6. Include full-length works, defined as any work that sustains themes, including a book of short essays by a single author. We suggest that the work(s) be integrated into the course thematically. On the pre-1A level, we recommend that non-fiction be used; that if fiction or autobiographical works are assigned, they be analyzed for issues and themes connected to other readings in the course rather than for literary aspects; that a combination of book-length works and short essays be used to provide a variety of models; and that students be asked for both personal and analytical responses.

7. Increase students' familiarity with and knowledge of the academic culture, themselves as learners, and the relationship of the two. Some ideas include: collaborative teaching and learning, using materials reflecting successful college experiences, acknowledging and validating the students' experiences while introducing them to academic culture and values, modeling academic values, and demystifying the institution.

        Applying to all of our courses-basic writing as well as transfer courses such as freshman composition-this philosophical statement was developed over a two-year period by the full and part time faculty.  Because we have a coherent philosophy, the basic writing courses flow smoothly into the other courses and are not separate entities.  The coherence of our curriculum means that neither the argument of remedial vs developmental nor the current discussion about mainsteaming basic writers into freshman composition is relevant to our particular community college.
        Several incentives led faculty to create this new approach which has now been in place since fall 1993.  First, in the late 1980's a number of newly trained faculty were hired who were familiar with current research in composition, especially reading and writing theories.  Other faculty returned to graduate study at the same time, gaining new insights.  Those trained in earlier theories decided to retire.  And about the same time, a college research project revealed that the separate reading and writing classes meeting in either the reading or writing lab were ineffective in terms of student success. At this point, we received a Title III grant which provided funding for faculty to begin a Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum Center, replacing the separate writing and reading labs and classes associated with them and adding computer instruction to the basic writing classes.
        In an effort to decide how to both create a new center and add computers to classes, the faculty decided to discuss their philosophy rather than simply add  instructional components.   Finally, the college decided to move from quarters to semesters, so all curriculum had to be revised anyway to make courses fit the new scheduling pattern.  Because courses were revised, the entire transfer package had to be re-articulated with both the University of California and the California State University systems.  These two systems required changes in the transfer courses that would make them more rigorous courses, and faculty believed that the rigor of the courses for which the students were preparing meant a concomitant rigor needed to be added to the basic writing courses.  In fact, faculty saw the basic writing classes as being preparatory courses reflecting the transfer courses.  The curriculum was intended to prepare students to be successful in later courses by offering them opportunities to learn the skills needed especially analysis and critical thinking.  For example, basic writing classes added full length works of non-fiction,  3 to 6 argumentative essay assignments with a total of 4000-6000 words,  and an emphasis on analysis and textual references.
        So who are the students for whom we created a curriculum to fit our particular context?  Our community college is a medium sized, California community college located in the San Francisco Bay area.  Like all such institutions, we admit anyone who is eighteen or older whether or not they have received a high school diploma or a GED.  We enroll about 13,000 students of whom about 32% are white.  The largest groups of students of color are African American, Asian American, and Hispanic/Latino, but we have immigrants from most countries in the world.  Because our students-about fifty-six percent are women-come from predominantly blue collar backgrounds, they must work either full or part time in order to attend college.  When they transfer, it is usually to the local California State University campus, the University of California campuses of Berkeley, Davis, or Santa Cruz, or one of the local, private, four-year schools such as Mills College.  Some of them pursue an associate degree or a vocational certificate rather than transfer to a university.  Those students can earn a degree or a certificate in some programs without taking a transferable English class or the basic writing sequence since we have a class that is used for the AA degree and has no required pre-requisite.
        Students who enter our college take a multiple choice placement exam which really evaluates the student's ability to understand and respond to passages and to recognize surface level errors.  They do not have to generate any writing of their own or read extended passages.  On the basis of this rough cut, students can place into freshman composition or the basic writing courses.  They can take the standard two semester sequence or a one-semester, accelerated basic writing class.  If they disagree with their placement, they can challenge the placement with examples of graded essays or writing for the workplace.   Or they can opt out of the regular program by taking an Associate degree-applicable, English class: over the fall semesters from 1995, 96 and 97 only about 130 students chose this course.   Students who identify themselves as ESL learners may enroll in ESL classes which precede our basic writing courses, or they may attempt the regular basic writing classes depending on the scores they get on the placement exam.  In other words, we have ESL students in our basic writing sequence-some of whom have taken the ESL classes and others who have not.
        Because anyone can enter the first basic writing course, the attrition is high.  Even so, for the three fall semesters from 1995 through 1997, between 53 and 60% of the students in the first class successfully passed the class.  During those same semesters, the pass rate for students in the second basic writing class ranged from 59 to 67%.  Those who took the accelerated class during the fall of 1997 when it was first offered were even more successful:  71% passed the class. In addition, the research has shown that those who pass the accelerated class do as well in freshman composition as those who take two semesters.  The success rate for students in freshman composition who took one of the basic writing classes was almost the same as that for students who tested into freshman composition, indicating that our basic writing classes successfully help students develop the skills they lacked when they entered the basic writing classes.  While faculty are still not particularly satisfied with the number of students who fail the basic writing sequence or who somehow get into freshman composition without sufficient skills, for the most part, teachers report that those who finish freshman composition are well prepared for the final, required English course.
        Our program is our answer to those who advocate mainstreaming for any program.  What we have created is an approach that fits our context.  We want to prepare our students to transfer to a campus of the University of California or the California State University, so we want them to be successful in our transfer English courses which have been accepted by those institutions.  Therefore, we have created basic writing classes to prepare them for those courses.  We want our students to learn to read, write, speak, listen, and think like mature college students, so we help them gain those skills.  Finally, we believe that our students benefit from writing and reading challenging arguments, so we ask them to do both.  We do all these things in the supportive environment of a four unit class that meets five hours a week where the teacher has time to meet with them individually.  Our success in the transfer classes suggests that our approach to basic writing works well for our students, and the developmental vs remedial discussion seems superfluous to us as we reflect upon our program.

Basic Writing e-Journal

The Universal Requirement in First-Year Composition
Western States Conference at Arizona State University
October 1999

Introduction by Peter Goggin

The Western States Composition Conference 1999:
Debate on the First-year Undergraduate Writing Requirement

        The 3rd annual Western States Composition Conference, Writing and Politics: Histories, Evolutions, and Revolutions, was held at Arizona State University, October 21-23, 1999. As a special conference event, Arizona State University professors of rhetoric, John Ramage and Sharon Crowley debated the politics of the institutional course that for many professionals in the field of undergraduate writing instruction defines their work, and field of composition studies itself -- the first-year writing requirement.
        The speakers faced each other on the afternoon of October 21 for two hours. Each speaker had ten minutes to state his/her position and make opening arguments. Then each speaker had ten minutes for rebuttal. The remaining time was devoted to audience participation, discussion, and questions. Mark Lussier, ASU professor of English, served as moderator.

John Ramage has developed and directed writing centers and directed writing programs at both Montana State University and at Arizona State University. He also served as Executive Director of Arizona State University's Division of Undergraduate Academic Services. He has published a number of essays in a variety of journals as well as three writing textbooks: Form and Surprise, Writing Arguments, and The Allyn and Bacon Guide to Writing. He is currently completing a book-length project with the working title Rhetorics of Success in Twentieth Century America. While Dr. Ramage is far from being a proponent of a status quo approach to the politics of the first year writing requirement, he also argues that doing away wholesale with the requirement is neither practical nor necessarily desirable.

Sharon Crowley specializes in the history and theory of rhetoric and the history of composition. She co-directs the PhD in Rhetoric and Linguistics at ASU. Her recent books are Composition in the University (1998),which won MLA's Mina Shaugnessy prize for the year's best book on teaching, and the second edition of Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students (1998), with Debra Hawhee. She also co-edited Rhetorical Bodies (1999), with Jack Selzer. As one of the principle drafters of the Wyoming Resolution, Dr. Crowley's arguments for the abolition of university sanctioned first-year writing requirements are well established

        The following transcript records the debate and discussion that took place. Although the outcome will likely be interpreted in various ways, there was no clear "winner" in the traditional political debate sense and no clear delineation of partisanship. This illustrates, perhaps, the general ambivalence that the field of composition studies has for the universally required first year writing course. While both Ramage and Crowley clearly defined their positions on the politics of the first-year writing requirement, and complex issues, questions and concerns were addressed by the speakers and audience members, it was evident that as a field, composition studies is far from resolving the pedagogical and political conflicts that mark the requirement. What the Ramage/Crowley debate highlights is that the old concerns still exist, and that as a field, we still don't really know what to do about them. Even if we do, we are far from agreement on how to take action beyond specific invididual institutional bases. However, as the debate itself suggests, such concerns are not just going to go away, and forums such as these are necessary and vital to the field of composition studies in keeping the conversations going.

Comments by Sharon Crowley

        Ten years ago I wrote an essay in which I suggested that universities and colleges stop requiring their entering students to take an introductory course in composition.  I wrote that essay because I had been participating since 1986 in what was proving to be a frustratingly unsuccessful professional effort to better the working conditions of the people who teach the required first-year course.  Tonight as we sit on the doorstep of the year 2000, I find myself still making an argument that has mostly fallen on barren ground.
        In the ten minutes allotted to me for my opening statement this evening I plan to list my reasons for suggesting that universities drop the universal requirement in first-year composition, discuss the advantages that would accrue if the proposal were adopted, and outline two confusions that appeared regarding the proposal.  Here, then, are the arguments I advance against the universal requirement:

        1.  The universal requirement exploits teachers of writing, particularly part-time teachers and graduate students.  Currently, 90% of first-year composition courses are taught by marginally employed teachers.  These teachers are paid less than other faculty because they are paid by the course-as little as $1200 per section at some schools.  Many have no access to benefits or job security, have little or no advance warning about what and when they will teach, and have inadequate offices and little or no access to phones, copiers, and computers.  Equally important, they do not enjoy academic freedom, which is historically tied to job security.  If you can be fired for saying what you think, you haven't got academic freedom.  Academic freedom is also denied to teachers of the universally-required first-year composition course when they are not allowed to design their own syllabi, write their own assignments, or select their own textbooks.
        Because of its carceral nature, the requirement negatively effects classroom climate.  The required course feels like high school, and so students employ high-school resistance tactics on its teachers.  While their use of this strategy may not present serious problems to experienced professors, it can be devastating for inexperienced teachers.  The small size and the performance orientation of the introductory composition course bring teachers and students into closer contact than is the case in other college courses, and so it is impossible for teachers to ignore students who act out their resentment over their temporary incarceration in terms given them by the society in which they live, particularly if their teachers are women or are marked by them as members of minority groups.

        2.The universal requirement defrauds students.  Students invest time, money and energy in the required introductory courses, which often create a good deal of stress for them since the classes are small and are performance-oriented.  All students must deal with the requirement in some way, no matter what their major or their career plans:  they must either take the course or find some way to escape.  Students' investment in a required course should be backed with some assurance that their efforts are useful or necessary.  And yet no evidence exists that the required introductory composition course permanently or consistently improves student writing.  Please note that I am not claiming that the required composition course has no effects on students;  I am only pointing to a curious silence within our profession about the measurable effects of the universally-required course.  Freshman English has no exit exams.  It is as though students lack something upon entrance that they need not prove they have acquired upon exit.

        3.  The requirement has negative curricular effects.  I think that the required nature of the introductory course affects the quality of its curriculum.  It is difficult to design a course for a large amorphous audience when, moreover, the course fits into no discernible disciplinary or scholarly sequence.  In curricular terms, the introductory composition requirement comes from nowhere and goes nowhere.  And while it is true that innovative and exciting curricula have been written for the required course, they are difficult to implement and sustain because of the size and impermanence of composition faculties.  In large universities, sections of the course are offered nearly around the clock and are scattered across the campus, so that WPAs and/or their staff are hard put to visit sections even once.  Part-time teachers hurry from one campus to the next, pick up their mail once a week (if they have a mailbox), and are not invited or are unable to attend curriculum planning sessions.  And while graduate students have shown themselves to be capable designers of curricula for the required introductory course, most did not come to graduate school primarily because it offered them a chance to teach the required composition course.  And this teaching staff, no matter how capable, is also temporary.

        4.  The requirement has negative professional and disciplinary effects.   Like it or not, university faculty, parents, and taxpayers still assume that the required introductory course teaches grammar, spelling, punctuation, and organization.  Because of this they view composition faculty as literacy gatekeepers rather than as intellectuals and teachers.  Despite its radical and ground-breaking discoveries about pedagogy, then, composition studies nevertheless remains almost invisible within academic hierarchies because of its association with the traditional required course. Furthermore, the effort required to maintain the required course has kept those of us who profess composition studies from thinking of our discipline in more expansive curricular terms.  Without the administrative burden imposed by the requirement, composition specialists could begin to work toward installing writing instruction throughout the curriculum, toward strengthening and expanding writing centers, toward establishing departments of writing in institutions where that is appropriate, and toward offering writing courses outside of the academy where that is appropriate.

        Okay.  Those are my arguments against the requirement.  Lifting it would alleviate the negative features of the present situation.  Moreover, there is a distinct advantage to be gained by offering an elective first-year course in composition;  it is control over enrollment and staffing.  As things currently stand, staffing in first-year comp is driven by enrollments.  The uncertainty entailed in tying numbers of sections to enrollments implicates English departments in low-rent hiring practices, makes us complicit in the direct assault on tenure that is a feature of the increasing use of part-time teachers in untenurable budget lines, interferes with quality training and supervision of teachers, and makes planning for controlled enrollment growth or shrinkage nearly impossible.
        If the introductory first-year composition course were made elective, enrollments would be controlled by to the people who support, administer, and teach its sections.  Departments that offer an elective first-year course can limit that offering to the number of sections that can be responsibly staffed and supported.  And, since such departments will know how many sections of the introductory course they plan to staff, far in advance of any given semester or quarter, they can redesign their hiring practices to meet professional standards as well as the needs of teachers of writing who reside nearby.  They will be able to staff sections of the elective course with trained and enthusiastic teachers;  they can pay teachers in accordance with their skill and experience;  they can hire them well in advance of their scheduled teaching assignments.  I hope it is not utopian to imagine that in some schools, these practices might lead to others:  promoting teachers of writing based on the work that they do, and offering them security of employment in accordance with the standards that are used for all faculty at that institution.
        If there is no first-year requirement, English departments are freer to determine the number of graduate assistantships they can responsibly award and support.  Departments that need fewer TA's can pay each of them more, if its administrators can convince their superiors that current levels of TA funding will be more efficiently deployed in an elective program.  Maintenance of a good writing center, along with a series of good elective writing courses, would allow graduate students some flexibility in their teaching assignments.  Freed from the enrollment demands placed on them by the required course, departments that wished to do so could more easily assign graduate assistants to help faculty in pursuing research projects or in teaching other courses, within and outside of the department.  In addition, graduate assistants would have more flexibility in planning and scheduling their teaching assignments from term to term, so they can better balance the demands of graduate study with their teaching responsibilities, and so that their resumes reflect a larger variety of teaching experiences.
        I mentioned earlier that my proposal has not met with an enthusiastic reception.  I can think of two reasons why it has failed to gain an audience.  The first is that people often seem to confuse the requirement with the course.  That is, they take it that those of us who want to lift the requirement are arguing for the abolition of first-year composition.  This confusion, which I assure you is rampant, suggests to me that for many people the importance of the first-year course lies precisely in the fact of its requirement.  That is to say, the curriculum and goals of the course are sort of beside the point;  rather, the point is to force students to sit through an introductory requirement.  If I am right about this, then the universally required freshman course is an exercise in power, a demonstration of the university's desire and ability to impose its will on the student body.  Now I could put this more tactfully, drawing on the language that is more often used:  the point of the first-year requirement is to introduce students to the university community, to prepare them for the work that will follow, and so on.  If this is what is wanted, it hardly seems necessary to conduct this orientation to the university in the context of a writing course, which everyone agrees is labor-intensive.  Indeed, the proliferation of required freshman seminars in universities across the country suggests both that this is what is wanted and that such an orientation can easily be conducted in other intellectual contexts.
        The second reason that the proposal has met with a lukewarm reception is that it does not, on its face, seem to benefit part-time and other marginally employed teachers of composition.  If we drop the requirement, the prima facie argument goes, universities and colleges will offer fewer sections of the first-year course and some teaching positions will disappear.  This is true enough.  I ask you to temper this realization with two considerations. Consider first that students will continue to enroll in a good elective course in first-year composition. In the few times and spaces where the requirement has been abandoned, between 65 and 90 per cent of eligible students have continued to enroll in first-year composition courses.  Consider second that composition programs can afford to lose some positions--I speak of those very temporary positions that WPAs and department chairs scramble to fill every fall as an extra 100 or 1000 freshmen show up on the university's doorstep, expecting to be accommodated in a section of the universally-required course.  Many of these latecomer freshmen disappear by spring semester, and so do their teachers' jobs.  As matters now stand, then, those last-hired first-fired positions offer little in the way of compensation or status, and nothing at all in the way of benefits.  Furthermore, phasing out the requirement will not happen overnight, given that electivity will have to be grandmothered into general education programs.  Good planning and ordinary rates of attrition should insure that few teachers who are on-site will lose their jobs when the course becomes elective.

Response by John Ramage

I  -- Abolition Debate
        Let me begin by first of all thanking Sharon for initiating this debate with her thoughtful and longstanding critique of composition practices.  Without contrarities, Blake reminds us, there can be no progression. Before suggesting why I think her proposal is misguided, morally obtuse and doomed, I wish to call attention to the uniqueness of this occasion.  Can you imagine another discipline publicly debating the possibility of un-requiring its most populous courses? Can you imagine another discipline that has actually examined and reflected upon its courses and curricula sufficiently to allow such a debate to be substantive? Can you imagine, for example, the English department debating the abolition of its Shakespeare requirement? (Don't worry; we won't go there.)   Can you imagine another discipline whose members so broadly share such a sophisticated understanding of, and deep concern for, the quality of even its lowliest courses.
        All of which is an underhanded way of suggesting that whatever may be wrong with the status quo-which this afternoon for the first time in twenty-five years I have been entrusted to defend-there are some things that are very right with it as well.  My first concern with the proposed reform is that it not vitiate our very real strengths and weaken what, by my standards at least, appear to be our enormous capacity for good.  And what may divide us most decisively today are the different standards we use to assess ourselves. My own standards are loosely pragmatic, mostly inexact and decidedly impure. Like most folk who've spent too many years administering programs and making decisions with the potential to help some and harm others--sometimes distressingly immediate others--I tend to weigh consequences heavily in distinguishing good and evil. My criteria for judgment, meanwhile, are derived from the standards of a given community and try to acknowledge contingent circumstances within which actions take place.  If someone suggests something is bad or good, thus, I tend to ask, "Relative to what?" and "For whom?"  I am profoundly suspicious of utopias, though I do believe that human agents have a remarkable capacity to ameliorate the various scrapes that we and the systems we create, get us into in the first place.
        Now, by way of initiating my argument, I will use a vulgar and self-serving trick. In two stages: First, a mind experiment: close your eyes and imagine yourself on a packed airplane.  A voice comes on the intercom and announces that the flight is overbooked.  They need people to leave the plane; if enough people leave will, free lifetime flight vouchers will be given out.. But before you leap to your feet and head for the exit, there's one more salient piece of info: the vouchers go to passengers who stay, not to those who leave.  Starting in first class, one voucher will be given to a remaining passenger for every one that departs.  Imagine the dynamic that would set in motion? Ok, hold that thought. Stage two.  I'd like to see a show of hands of those among you who are sufficiently appalled by the evils of the fyc requirement to sacrifice your job in order to see it go.  Before you decide, please remember, Professor Crowley and I are doomed to finish out our careers in a shamefully low rent discipline unless some of you step up to the plate. Ok, now with that bit of encouragement, NOW how many of you would walk away from teaching if it contributed to the demise of comp conscription? . . . .  To those of you who sat on your hands, Sharon is taking your names and will contact you soon. To those heroic souls who raised theirs, a tip of the hat.  It gives me a sense of soaring pride to find folks like you in the profession. . . . however brief your stay may be. Watching you on the eve of your departure, I feel a bit like Socrates standing before the doors of the Republic, tearfully bidding adieu to the poets with that wonderfully sonorous phrase.  "Farewell, best loved strangers. . . . Best wishes in the Global Marketplace."
        Unfair?  Maybe.  But if I were not tenured and nearing retirement, I would be curious to hear some ballpark estimate of how many such sacrifices this proposal might entail.  We don't have to be global and vague about it either; I'd settle for an estimate based on local conditions right here at ASU, an institution that both of us and many of you know well. Let's do it in memory of all those folk who belatedly discovered, after heeding the call to "reengineer" their companies--which had nothing to do with people after all, just cumbersome regulation-that they had been "rightsized" for all the "right reasons," right out of a job.  So, what is a ballpark guess of ASU's optimum size? That is, after all, a fair question to ask of proposal-how might it affect me? Sharon's argument is unhelpful on this question. It wobbles back and forth between reassurances that abolition will little affect program sizes, and dire warnings that the sheer size of our programs is killing us (eg she cites the "argument from size" asserting that large programs are doomed to exploitive funding, and calls it "in this case. . .probably true")  and with abolition will come the joys of rightsizing.
        Having previously thanked Sharon for inciting this debate, I would like also to thank her for making me feel so at home in this debate. As I noted earlier, I'm usually on the other side of these things arguing for changes to the status quo.  And the most daunting aspect of assuming that role, as many of you know, is the burden of proof that goes with it. Prove that writing centers are actually efficacious, that WAC programs make a difference. . . then,  maybe,  we'll fund it.  Geez, prove to me that Soc 101 is even marginally useful.  But no, that's not the way things work. I have to prove (usually with data) that the status quo needs fixing, that the causes of the problem have been properly identified and that my solution will cause no more mischief than the status quo it amends, offering reasonable estimates of both the size and probability of the risks involved. Tedious business indeed.
        Now, what is so refreshing about the abolitionist argument as it has evolved over the past decade is its steadfast refusal to assume the servile burden of proof usually entailed by the petitioner. That's left to chumps like me.  Abolitionists offer suggestive but hardly definitive evidence for universal problems of hyperbolic proportions, buttressed by chilling anecdotes and pithy quotes.  And then they demand that the status quo convince them that fyc is effective, usually according to some vague standard which has never been met, at least not in any instance they cite. And in order to justify a universal requirement the status quo is asked to prove some claim on the order of "Every student needs fyc in order to succeed in the university or in life." Rarely, at least since the death of Scholasticism, does one encounter categorical demands of such daunting rigor.
        And as far as establishing causal links between their lengthy bill of particulars against the status quo and their single solution, the abolitionists appear to think, like most people in the catbird's seat, that such links are self-evident and  "hardly need saying." This is just one of many of what might be called the "mysteries of agency" that flourish in abolitionist arguments.  Though many crimes are committed, few perpetrators are to be found, at least among the living.  It's always "the requirement" that makes good people do bad things. And history, apparently, is a nightmare from which we simply can't awaken, no matter how hard the abolitionists shake us. Over and over, as if in a trance, we repeat the sins of Adams Sherman Hill, and commit acts of current-traditionalism even as we say we are not. We conduct and publish prodigious amounts of research supporting conclusions that we turn around and violate daily in the fyc courses we oversee.  Only when the requirement is vanquished, we are told, can we emerge from this collective trance and be once again fully responsible moral agents.
        By way of concluding these opening remarks, let me state, as succinctly as I can, why I oppose this proposal. I oppose it because it's not "modest"; it's in fact both an "immodest" one that entails sizable risks, and a "meek" one that can plausibly deliver only meager gains.  It's an argument that appears to lack the courage of its convictions.  If all the abolitionist assertions are to be believed, then the course, not the requirement should be abolished. (And after abolishing the course, those same arguments morally obligate us to terminate the hapless mopes who created this mess.)  It's a high risk low gain proposition that can only be successful if accompanied by a significant increase in resources. And by abolishing the requirement, we give up a major source of leverage in our struggle to attain more resources. Moreover, if we rely on some of the abolitionists' more evocative, scorched earth arguments to persuade our institutions not to require fyc, our ethos will be so crippled that we would doubtless see more, not less, resistance to our pleas for resources. Why, after all,  might a Dean or Provost increase support for a program that has, by its own admission, been complicit for the past century in offering inefficacious and exploitative courses for venal reasons?
        Abolition is not a solution in the sense that it remedies problems so much as it "disappears" them.  To what extent do we solve the problems of exploitation by "disappearing" the exploited? To what extent are we better educating our students by granting them the freedom to "disappear" from our courses into other courses that, by any measure one could imagine, are less responsible than our own?  To what extent do we address the problems of difference in our classrooms by "disappearing" diverse student populations?  And to what extent do we resolve major  misunderstandings between ourselves and outsiders by disappearing into our own disciplinary bunker. We may well emerge from the aftermath of abolition with cleaner hands and an enhanced image.  We may be free at last to pursue the purer ends of disciplinarity, most notably the disinterested pursuit of truth unfettered by niggling concerns about consequences.  We may be free at last from intrusions that force us to engage in public acts of civic discourse of the very sort abolitionists so heartily wish upon their students We may be free at last from the burdens of negotiating with each other over the goals and the construction of our curriculum. But when all is said and done, the price of such purity may well be the inconsequentiality and solitude of our pursuits.

II -- Rebuttal
        By way of rendering my rebuttal of this proposal as specific as possible, I will offer now an alarmingly meager "best case scenario" for its adoption right here at ASU. Then, I'll unveil my own heretofore tightly guarded and potentially explosive counter-proposal.
        Ok, we get the requirement abolished, incurring minimal damage to our reputation for integrity and competence in the process. And no opportunist departments negate our sacrifices by scuttling into the breach and getting one of their courses universally required.  But there's a little problem with course demand.  Initially it remains brisk.  But only,  we belatedly discover, because  as soon as we "disappeared" it as a university requirement, many departments "reappeared" it as a major requirement. Sticky business. But this being a best case scenario, we'll say the departments  rescind the requirement after we regale them with a few choice scorched earth arguments from the abolitionists' abundant store.  Ok, so now enrollments are?. . . approximately bipkus.
        How can students resist ASU's exciting new comp course?  Because they rarely take any unrequired lower division courses.  Taking courses that don't "count" delays graduation.  And there's little margin for error here because ASU students have precious few-six or seven courses at most--true "electives."  For all the abolitionists' singular focus on the horrors of the comp requirement, it's important to remember that purely voluntary courses don't loom large in most students' education. [Here I skip a fine grained attempt to relativize requirements]   So how do we get out of this pickle?  Let me borrow a trusted device from my opponent's impressive store of rhetorical stratagems-I leave it to our profession's considerable rhetorical skills to persuade the university that its obsession with requirements is killing education. We win. Students have oodles of room in their schedules for comp.
        So course demand is now "just right."  We are, at last, in charge of our own destiny. Which immediately raises the question,  just who is this "we" (remember Burke's injunction always to question the corporate we) that will determine our newly emancipated program's fate. Will instructors have voting privilege? Tas? Fas? Or will we simply "hear" their concerns? And must we seek approval from  the English department or countenance its participation in the decision-making process? Might the chair veto our best of all possible proposals?  In the interests of expediency, let's just say that, thanks again to our considerable rhetorical skills, all these nettlesome questions are resolved without compromising anyone's academic freedom and with all parties to the decision calling it a win/win.
        But then, another ugly surprise. Abolishing the requirement not only dampens demand, it turns out, in the Provost's mind anyway, to decouple demand from supply. Funds don't automatically accompany enrollments and we must take our place at the end of that long queue of petitioners begging higher powers for funds in support of non-required courses. But again, thanks to our considerable rhetorical skills, etc. Which brings us at last to those questions raised in such  vulgar fashion in the opening remarks.  Who goes, who stays and who decides?  We won't linger on these unpleasantries, for, after all, taking the long view, everyone will be better off for rightsizing our operation regardless of who determines what size is "just right" and who is judged unfit for inclusion. The excluded will surely thank us later.
        And now the much anticipated punch line: the material payoff for our sacrifices. The end of exploitation, the dawn of the age of better pay, lighter loads, and smaller classes for all. At least according to the logic of the lifeboat analogy underlying the abolitionist argument, having fewer aboard should entail larger shares for the survivors. Alas, not. The powers that be, don't let us (or anyone ever, it turns out) keep resources sitting on any unoccupied line, most especially when the lines are not tenure track lines; they recoup those resources and reinvest them as they see fit. In this case they move them to courses now inhabited by our former students. And even in my sunniest liberal moments, my most Panglossian delirium, I can't foresee winning that particular argument no matter what Sharon says.
        Ok, so we still exploit people.  But, darn it, not as many.  And if other departments increase their numbers of exploited part-time teachers to handle the influx of newly liberated comp refugees, we're still blameless, right?  And surely we have now guaranteed that intrusions on the scale of the UT-Austin nightmare can't happen here.  Haven't we?   In my view, abolishing the requirement will at best make such events marginally less likely. Our ability to resist a determined assault on academic freedom is affected by many factors, including the size and level of the course in question, the collective will and shared commitment to the course by those who offer it, and idiosyncrasies of local politics and power structures.  As we've recently seen in the case of a non-required, one-hour ASU course with three students enrolled, a single determined critic can arouse an inordinate amount of public ill will toward even the least visible of courses.  I would not, in sum, assume that because a course was not required it was safe from demagoguery.
        Which brings us finally to students, whose "needs," we've been told, must not be served..  Presumably our all-volunteer enrollees will be happier, less troublesome and more committed.  And maybe they will. But as previously noted, this freedom of choice is distressingly relative. So too, presumably, will be their joy. And against the possible benefits enjoyed by a considerably smaller number of fyc students, one must put in the balance the fate of those no longer taking our courses. Are they really better off taking a 150-student course taught in large lecture format with machine-graded tests and sometimes alarming failure rates? The smaller and presumably better our program gets, the more students we consign to such courses, thereby exacerbating the already considerable shortcomings characteristic of these courses.
        Having now considered some major ramifications of the abolitionists'"modest proposal," it's time to take the wraps off my even more modest counterproposal. Call it the "painfully shy" proposal. With an "exhibitionist option."  This counterproposal is clearly the product of consequentialist thought, as surely as the abolitionist proposal is the spawn of a decidedly more deontological or non-consequentialist turn of mind. (While some might wish to call the latter an "ideological" turn of mind, I prefer the older, more neutral term from ethics, "deontological," thereby avoiding the implication that because something is "ideological"-what isn't?-it's less legitimate than some "non-ideological" argument, which no one has ever seen at home.)  When deontologists bemoan, sometimes alarmingly, the horrors and the diabolical powers possessed by bad laws and principles, their very lamentations are an expression of their deep reverence for norms.  Thus, when abolitionists suggest that "the requirement made us do all manner of awful things," they also imply that one is powerless to resist a norm, and that until the norm is disappeared one will never be free of its irresistible suasive force. Consequentialists, meanwhile, are generally less reverential toward rules, readily condoning compromises, exceptions and even violations of any norm which people agree is having bad consequences. Ironically, thus, it's precisely the consequentialists' antinomian bias that makes them more tolerant of requirements.
        According to the abolitionists, it's not just the requirement per se which is evil--though to be sure their zeal for individual freedom is perhaps exceeded only by Rose and Milton Friedman-- it's all those unspoken entailments and hidden codicils to the requirement.  Thus, if we require the course for everyone in the name of the entire institution we are inevitably and absolutely bound to create an incoherent and unimaginably generalized course. And while abolitionists may loathe the requirement, they can sooner imagine violations of the law of gravity than breaches of the requirement's covert entailment.
        Which brings me back to my consequentialist counterproposal.  If a given rule has bad consequences, again relative to the standards of a given community, then abolish, ignore, subvert or violate it.  Take your pick again, according to the relative consequences of each choice.  In this case, the significant risks and the meager gains promised by abolition do not appear to favor its selection. I like subversion and violation better. Hence, let the more timorous among us  slyly subvert it by adopting the "painfully shy" proposal.  And let the bold among us violate the damned thing publicly and noisily, by adopting the "exhibitionist" option. In either case, local decision would prevail; each program would decide which path to take.  If violation is the choice then practice the politics of "in your face," flaunt whatever course you believe in and  play up its deviance from the bourgeois, racist and authoritarian Other who've determined our fate for too long.  Get maximum exposure for all your acts of civil disobedience and challenge the complicit with acts of conscience.  As for the subverters among us, who will I expect be more numerous,  quietly get together and determine what course makes best sense by the best lights of your training and experience and with no fanfare whatsoever, start offering that course. If you decide, for example, that Sharon is right and that such a course would in fact be the introductory course to a new or an imagined writing major, by all means create and teach that course to everyone.
        Now, let me offer my hypothesis about what might happen were this proposal accepted.  I predict that many programs' version of a "best possible" course would bear a striking resemblance to the one they had been offering all along.  I base that claim on the curious belief that many writing programs have in fact been operating in good faith offering the best writing course they were capable of imagining without the fact of requirement playing a decisive corrupting role in the process. Many of these new courses will, predictably, still horrify Sharon.  Some of them will, to be sure, horrify me.  But at last we will be able to identify the sources of our depravity, the extent to which the requirement made us do things and the extent to which we were acting in the name of some fallible but hopefully corrigible belief.  Then, having finally put the matter of the requirement behind us, we might pursue some of the more direct paths to betterment, paths that have already  led many programs to become considerably stronger than they were, if not as good as they can be.  Who knows, we might even decide that the traditional model of disciplinarity urged upon us by abolitionists is not in fact the best stay against post-Fordist predations. Once our enchantment with the requirement issue finally lifts, we might even notice that our disciplinary bunkers protect ever fewer of us in ever more privileged fashion even as they preclude collective action on behalf of the growing numbers of those we exclude.

Question & Answer Session
Transcribed by Kohl M. Glau

A question and answer session followed the statements by Professors Crowley and Ramage, and the section below, I hope, will give you a feel for some of what was asked and answered.  While I didn't transcribe the entire session, I wanted to give Bwe's readers a sense of the give-and-take, the tenor of the questioning, and so on, for part of that session.

Transcription is always difficult and any errors are BWe's.

[Question]  I would like both John and Sharon to reflect on some data  . . . the folks at the office of evaluation every year do a survey of all incoming students here at ASU, and a lot of you in this room are familiar with that.  They also survey graduating seniors here at ASU, and they also survey alumni at ASU.  And, among other things, they ask about some skill sets that ASU students develop here at ASU.
        Question one: What skill sets do you value most upon graduating from ASU?  The three that come to the top are writing skills, speaking skills, and team building skills.
        Then the follow-up question is, "How well does ASU prepare you in those three categories?"
For the time being, I'll talk about the skill sets of writing, speaking, and team building.  In the category of writing, about 80 percent say ASU does a pretty good job in equipping students with the skills they need. . . .
        If you look at speaking, which is not a required course at ASU, students say about the same thing.  80 percent of them say it's a very valuable skill, and alumni say the same thing.  "How well did ASU prepare you?"  Down around 60 percent, for the university as a whole, and if you look at departments, its around 30-40 percent, and sometimes 50 percent.  If you two would comment on those for me, I would be grateful.

[Professor Crowley]   I think those data are fantastic.  That's great, and I'm glad students are pleased with the experience they get in writing instruction here at ASU.  And I'm assuming that your reason for quoting the separate statistic for writing, as opposed to the departmental instruction statistic for writing, is to show that the instruction they are receiving, presumably, in the freshman course, is the one that has the 80 percent [rating].

[Question]  I'm not arguing cause and effect.

[Professor Crowley]  Okay, but that is the one with the 80 percent satisfaction rate.  I find that great.  I take the implication of your question to be that if there were not a required course, some of those students at least would miss experience, that they later find, as seniors and graduates, to be useful for them.  But, it seems to me that your argument begs the question.  If students find writing skills to be so useful, then they know to take courses in it, and they don't have to be required into it.

[Question]   Then why does that not hold for speech as well?

[Professor Crowley]   I don't know.

[Professor Ramage]   A couple things.  First of all, I think one of the points of that survey makes, and I think other data would support, is the unreliability of a writing across the curriculum program, for instance, to address the problems of writing instruction in universities.  And I say that as a person who has worked with writing across the curriculum for ten years, and who strongly believes in it, etc, etc.  The problem is that it is very difficult to institutionalize WAC-it's outside the departmental structure-and it tends to be tied, with every place I'm familiar with, to people.  And people come and go, they retire, lose interest, etc., which is why courses that are still in the books as "writing across the curriculum" haven't been taught in years. And that is one of the problems with it, and I think initially, the first three or four years, you can get a good program, have lots of money, etc.  But, people go away, and others think the university still has this program.  If you don't root instruction in a department's required course, you can't rely on it . . .
        [The real question is the] justification of how someone can say which courses "ought" to be required.  I think Sharon and I differ in how we stand as to what I think it takes to require a course.  I don't think you necessarily prove that in every case that every student needs [the course] and benefits from that in order to make the case that you can require it . . .
        If people believe that the course is valuable, [and] again I think what the data shows is that an overwhelming number of people within and outside the university think that writing is valuable.  Now, as to whether we deliver on our promises is another issue, but we do believe that it's [writing] valuable.
        And I think if we reverse it and say, "The course, thought to be the most valuable, is the course where the student would miss out the most if that student did not take it."  And we are justified in requiring such a course, and we don't have to prove that every student must benefit from every course to justify the requirement.
         So, I guess two things-one, it doesn't surprise me that direct instruction in composition [is] vital, and you can't rely on the other stuff, for a whole bunch of reasons.  And second, I don't think we need to prove that every student benefits from the course . . .

[Question]  This question is for Dr. Ramage: how many populations need to become dissatisfied in order to invoke a change in this discipline?  I have found both freshman and graduate students (Teaching Assistants) to be both dissatisfied with the requirement.  Is the level of the dissatisfaction of these two groups not high enough, or do other groups need to be dissatisfied?  If so, how many other populations need to be dissatisfied in order to invoke a change?

 [Professor Ramage]   "How many populations need to be dissatisfied?" is one question.  Another question, "To what extent will current populations be more dissatisfied if the proposal is accepted?"
The second question is a more vital one for me, and I think I can argue, quite strongly, that students are not going to be happier wherever they end up in lieu of first year composition.  I don't think the choice most graduate students face would be either to teach that course and gain their support or not be there.  In fact, Sharon suggested one thing in passing, the notion that we can take some of our TAs and convert them into GAs, or move them into teaching other things.  Again that assumes that the budget stays even with enrollment; but that never happens, and will never happen.  The only hard money in the university is on occupied lines by people who have some form of contractual relationship with the institution.  In every other case, the dollars follow demand.  So, when demand goes away, positions go away.  It's very hard to convert TAs to GAs, and it's difficult to move people out of composition to literature without the money generated by enrollment.
        That's one response, and the other response is that I have looked at student satisfaction, and while we certainly don't place enough resources into composition, and student satisfaction is extremely high due to the heroic efforts of our graduate students.  I will say, "Yes, it's true that good teachers get slightly lower ratings in those courses (first year composition) than those courses on subjects they specialize in."  However, I don't think the dissatisfaction rates for the first year composition courses are as high as you might think.
        It's a tough one to answer, but it brings us to the real and underlying question: would accepting this proposal significantly help those populations?  And my response: I don't really see how it can help those populations deal with that problem, and I do in fact view them as significant populations.

[Question]    Have any of you considered the usefulness of requiring first year composition to student populations with low incomes and had never had the opportunity to get into college?  Would the first year requirement help such a population?

[Professor Crowley]  We had this argument before; we had it down in Tucson six years ago, and we had it in the pages of the Journal of Basic Writing.  Part of my answer is I'm very concerned about that population and I want them to succeed and do well.  My reservations have to do with whether or not they succeed and do well in a universal requirement.  In other words, whether the fact that requiring the course improves their chances of success, I simply don't know.  Apparently you have research that shows that if such students meet consecutively, in small groups, with the same teacher, then they have a better chance in staying in school.  If that is so, then I think that's a great idea.  That's still not an argument that the setting should be a writing course.  That's still not an argument that it should occur in the context of a universal requirement.
        I agreed in our previous discussions of this that if some special arrangements need to made for first generation college students, on a given campus, if people of good will and concern-like yourself, and this has been your concern all your life, and I laud you for it-think that special arrangements need to be made.  What bothers me about the special arrangement is that people who are at risk in staying in college are all together in one place, where they can be identified by an administration, like that of UCLA, which is worried about its image of being tainted by teaching remedial courses.  We wouldn't call these remedial, but UCLA did.  I won't go into the rest of my arguments, but they are in my first response.

[Professor Ramage]   I guess my response would be to first acknowledge my concern for this population, and I do think they are served by freshman year composition courses and by the courses associated with freshman composition.  And the data . . . about retention in the university, would indicate that if we look at a course, in a general sense, it's an ideal course from the sense that it is going to improve student interaction and student retention.  We do that better than anyone else in the university, and we do a superb job.
        Another thing.  The possibility of students not taking courses they need: students often choose not to take the courses they need, due to their anxiety about the subject or disinterest.  And I don't think it's at all improbable to say that someone who is worried about their writing would be less likely to enter a writing program.  As you decouple demand from supply, we can no longer guarantee our courses, because the administration may no longer fund courses when the courses become voluntary.

[Question]   Could it be possible that we can still keep the first year requirement and give students the option of several types of writing classes?  Students could then decide which course would be best for them.

[Professor Crowley]   Certainly.  Whenever I have spoken on the issue, I have always assumed that there would not only be a good elective freshman composition course, but there would also be a vertical curriculum.  Given a local situation, a university and department should decide how it wants to set up the prerequisite structure . . . I would like to point out that the universal requirement in freshman English is now the only universal requirement in many universities.  Thirty years ago, physical education was universally required.  Maybe you don't know this, but I once sat on a committee at another university that was interested in abolishing its universal requirement in physical education.  Apparently this was something which came up in the faculty senate every ten years or so, and the offering of the PE requirement was scandalous.  In other words, kids were going up to the mountains and ski, and they would receive three hours of credit . . . .  It [first year composition] is the one which has managed to stay alive, in most universities, for all of its history.  Speech and  PE requirements have fallen by the wayside, and math requirements come and go.
        I think you're talking about a very different beast when you're talking about a requirement that everyone has to deal with, than when you're talking about L1 and L2 courses, which at least gives students many options for writing courses (Editor's note: at ASU, L1 and L2 courses are "writing intensive" courses, taught across campus as part of our Writing Across the Curriculum Program).  I don't know how many options there are.

[Question]  Well, There are many options, but these options are uncontrolled, and that's the weakness of that argument.  At least we have composition people teaching composition classes, whereas an L1 or L2 class, all through the university, may start out with a strong writing base [but] there is no control over what happens in those courses.

[Professor Crowley]  Isn't there a board or committee or something?

[Mark Lussier]   What [the questioner] is talking about is the general studies requirements at ASU, and, in fact, we had just gone through a debate as to whether or not we should put the university writing requirement under the general studies requirement; and, in fact, that is not going to occur.

[Question]   When the courses start out, yes, they are approved.  And there is no monitoring procedure to check on those courses as they go along.

[Professor Crowley]  Well, that's typical of most universities.  I've sat on those boards at other institutions, and I know that those committees would like to surveill the teaching and it's very hard to do.

[Professor Ramage]  I would like to respond to the question.  Yes, I think it's great to give students options and have multiple curriculums and a writing program.  And, as long as you (Sharon) disillusion yourself about the nature of the "universal requirement," there is no reason why we can't do that.  We should all teach the best possible writing course.
         To speak again to [the] point, I sat on the general studies council for four years, and I'm skeptical about vertical writing programs that are not in control of the people who are committed to the teaching of writing.  [My concern] has to do with the second largest L1 course on this campus.  I also oversaw the Writing Center at this time, and we had never seen a student from this course which enrolled 1300 hundred students per year who were "writing," during the history of the writing center.  So, I asked to see the syllabus, and, as chair of the committee, I talked with the teachers of this course.  It soon became apparent that no essay, as we would call it, had ever been written in the course.  It is very difficult to insure; we can apply for it, and say all the right things, but as soon as you get the status, it's just another way of controlling enrolment management.  That's what our general studies curriculum is all about: enrollment management.  Steering students into courses, controlling demand in particular departments that cannot otherwise get undergraduate enrollments.

[Question]  It has been my experience that graduate students create very innovative and creative methods of teaching first year composition courses, i.e., their pedagogy is very effective.  So, is there a way to systemically address graduate students creating pedagogy without abolishing the first year composition requirement?

[Professor Crowley]  Yes, I agree with everything you have said.  The question for me is, "If we lost the requirement, would those of us who are interested in composition lose our interest in pedagogy?"  I think that's an excellent question, and one I'm happy to see on the table.
        I do want to make one other point, before our time runs out: an issue that really motivates me is the working conditions of people who are marginally employed.  And, we are not talking about that issue, perhaps because none of us are marginally employed.

Basic Writing e-Journal

Book Review Section

Review of Time to Know Them
by Marilyn Sternglass
(Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1997)

Reviewed by Patricia Licklider
Director of Composition, John Jay College--CUNY

        When Open Admissions began at the City University of New York in the early 70s, few, if any, English instructors knew how to move students with very weak writing skills quickly, in a semester or two, from orality to literacy to academic literacy. Many of us were brand new members of the professorate, trained in literary studies, with only the vaguest notions of how to teach writing, let alone writing to students who came to be called "basic writers." From our own undergraduate experiences, we remembered composition courses as product-driven: instructors would assign a theme a week; these themes would be edited in red and graded, and thus we would "learn" to write. This method did not work for the new student writers we met in our classrooms. And so we began to search out other teaching methods or to invent our own. Some of us, notably Mina Shaughnessy and Sondra Perl, began to study the composing processes and products of our students. We were filled with a heady hopefulness, punctuated by bouts of despair.
        This story has been told already and more fully elsewhere, but I was reminded of those early days of Open Admissions when I read Marilyn Sternglass's impressive book Time to Know Them: A Longitudinal Study of Writing and Learning at the College Level (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1997). In her six-year study undertaken when she was teaching at City College, CUNY, Sternglass followed the college careers of 19 students recruited from her own composition classes. Starting with 53 volunteer students, down to 19 by the second year, and finally nine students studied in great depth, she collected all the writing these students composed for their courses across the curriculum every semester until they graduated, interviewed the students regularly about their writing and the ways it related to their learning, and observed some of their classes. The students who volunteered to participate represented both a full spectrum of writing skills, from the most "basic" writers to those placed in regular college composition, and "a wide range of racial, ethnic, and social backgrounds" (xi). Sternglass shows that if we are willing to follow students' academic progress beyond their first semesters in college, we will see them acquiring the critical thinking and writing skills that seemed out of reach for them as freshmen. She shows that our hopes for our students in the early 70s were not ill-founded. But we must allow students the time to develop their skills.
        In her book Sternglass examines the interrelationship and maturation of student writing and learning within a variety of contexts: in terms of their own complex lives, the writing instruction they received, the classrooms in which they learned, and the testing they endured. Her chapters are enlivened with examples of particular students' writing and interview remarks. Her study, involving six years of accumulating data and two years of studying and assembling the data, confronts "the messy, real-world environment in which writing is actually produced" (11). It affirms several findings about progress in writing and critical thinking skills from shorter or different kinds of studies. Such progress does not proceed in a strictly linear fashion but by fits and starts, depending on many factors, such as the requirements of the discipline for which the writing was produced and the comments made on it by instructors. Students who enter college with poor reading and writing skills are often impeded in their struggle to improve by their life conditions outside of school, especially by the necessity to work to support themselves and to pay college costs, but that, given time and support, these students can develop the competence we should expect in college graduates. Furthermore, the social histories of students--their ethnicity, their gender and sexual orientation, their class, their values--all affect their performance of academic tasks. In fact, she demonstrates more powerfully than in any other study I have read to date that students from diverse backgrounds, including basic writers, can contribute valuable insights about the values of the larger society when in their writing they relate them to the facts of their own lives. Such insights would be lost if such students were barred from the academy because of their poor skills, and just as importantly, such students would be prevented from realizing their full potential. The chapter on the effects of students' complex social histories on their writing should be "must" reading for instructors and administrators new to urban colleges and universities. But it is even more essential reading for trustees, legislators, and other people outside academia who control the purse-strings and the admissions policies of academic institutions. "If we deny students the opportunity to bring their world knowledge and experience to the fields they are studying, we will be denying not only them but the entire society the opportunity to change in directions that will benefit all. If, for example, New York City and other urban areas do not make it possible for young people to get an education and improve their lives..., who will suffer? Not just the individuals, but the entire community will as well" (113). Sternglass's reiteration of this warning echoes as her "cri de coeur" throughout the book. She has the evidence that underprepared students can succeed if they have persistence and support. Who will listen?
        Reaffirming what researchers like Haswell have argued and what proponents of writing in the disciplines have been arguing for years, the students Sternglass studied said that writing about new ideas in their own words helps them understand and then to analyze and evaluate them. Contrary to Geisler's claim that writing does not help students acquire specific facts, the students in Sternglass's study said that writing WAS useful for that purpose. Even more supportive of WAC/WID efforts, the students, particularly those starting out with weak skills, said they preferred essay exams to multiple-choice and other "objective" exams. They felt that they could better show their instructors what they had learned in a course when they could write about the material in their own words.
        In her chapter on writing instruction and its effects on student writing, Sternglass shows that instructors need to comment on the content of student writing in order to move the students to deeper analysis, but they should also be candid in pointing out sentence-level errors and nonstandard word forms. However, instructors should be able to see improvement in content underneath surface errors and not equate an inability to control surface features in writing with stupidity. Sternglass sees freshman composition courses as an essential first step in helping students understand the goals and uses of writing, but not enough development in writing ability takes place in one or two semesters to be measured and considered adequate. Several of the students in Sternglass's study started out in Basic Writing courses and then proceeded into "regular" college composition. Because Basic Writing instructors often concentrate on surface features of student writing and set less demanding reading and writing tasks, Sternglass prefers mainstreaming students with weak skills and providing various kinds of extra support for them within the course by stretching it, for example, from one semester to two or by providing an extra hour for students who need it.
        In examining learning environments in courses other than composition, Sternglass found that students progressed well when there was empathy between them and their instructor and when the instructor encouraged them. With empathy and encouragement, instructors could make heavier demands, and students could cope with them. This chapter would be good reading for those interested in promoting writing in the disciplines.
        Considering the students' experiences with writing tests, Sternglass argues that a single, impromptu, timed piece of writing is a poor tool for evaluating writing competence, especially the abilities to revise and to proofread. The holistic scoring of such tests, particularly CUNY's Writing Assessment Test, with which she and her students are intimately familiar, concentrates on students' essays as products. Yet most composition instruction emphasizes writing as process. Graders of such tests, in their inexperience with ESL students and basic writers, are also apt to consider the sheer number of individual errors in an essay rather than the patterns of error. To highlight her remarks, she cites the example of Ricardo, a student who kept failing the CUNY test, even though he was doing very good work in other courses. His impromptu essays contained more surface errors than the papers he wrote at home, yet both displayed a thoughtfulness about their subjects that the graders of his exams did not seem to credit. She recommends eliminating impromptu writing tests for placement purposes, substituting teacher evaluations after the first few weeks of class or portfolio assessment. Her criticism is valid, yet given the current climate, especially at CUNY, for "raising standards" and cutting costs, testing as a means of barring students from entering college and then from exiting remedial courses is, unfortunately, here to stay.
        Throughout, Sternglass displays a thorough knowledge of other studies of student writing and often presents useful reviews of the scholarship for less well-read readers. She also provides useful advice both for instructors and for researchers interested in doing their own longitudinal studies. Sternglass throughout the book uses excerpts from the writing of the students, especially the nine who kept in touch with her over the six years. But in a late chapter, she pulls together all the details of four of these histories into four narratives so as to present a well-rounded picture of each student's intellectual development. I myself found the verbatim repetition of paragraphs I had read earlier annoying. Reading these case histories, I was sorry I had not started with them and then gone on to read about particular aspects of their writing history in other chapters. This is the only time I have regretted the "cut-and-paste" feature of computer writing! Occasionally, I was also put off by the repetition of Sternglass's most fervently held beliefs about the importance of maintaining both open access to higher education and financial support for the poorest students. But perhaps because these are my own most fervent beliefs, they seemed obvious to me. However, I know that, no matter how totally I and my colleagues agree with Sternglass, there are many others in much more influential positions in academia who do not. As I write, CUNY, following the mandate of its Board, is preparing to eliminate remedial courses in all its four-year colleges and to replace its Writing Assessment Test, against which Sternglass rails, with yet another timed, impromptu writing sample for both placement and exit purposes, this one to be developed by a "nationally recognized" testing company. It is difficult to be heard over the voices crying for "higher standards" both in admissions and in matriculation, but if any voices should be heard it is Sternglass's and her students'. One of them, the young woman Sternglass calls Joan, the same student who was misrepresented in James Traub's book on City College (1994) as a "miraculous survivor," wrote that "being at college is my life. I will not let anyone take it away from me." She survived financial difficulties, health problems, and a deficient precollege education to graduate and land a union position at a methadone clinic, earning more money than anyone else in her family. She succeeded not by a miracle but by her own hard work, her dedication, and especially her tenaciousness and a college that allowed her to persevere. Can we afford to lose the Joans seeking entry to college because they do not yet have the requisite skills, skills they would surely develop, given the support, the stimulus, and the time to grow?

Review of Defending Access: A Critique of Standards in Higher Education
by Tom Fox
(Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 1999)

Reviewed by Terry Collins
Director of Academic Affairs, General College-University of Minnesota

        Reading Tom Fox has always left me optimistic about the work we do in composition and basic writing.  He helps us see that what we do is genuinely important.  And he reminds us that persistence in working for change on our campuses is worth the effort when measured by more humane and more effective programs for students who aren't always welcome in higher education.   Fox's work points us toward consideration of questions of access, equity, and authenticity in the education of all citizens.  He defines accessibly the terms of manufactured exclusion and the regressive practices fostered by them.
        Fox's new book Defending Access: A Critique of Standards in Higher Education sits very comfortably alongside Marilyn Sternglass's recent award-winning Time to Know Them: A Longitudinal Study of Writing and Learning at the College Level.  In both books, the authors confront head-on the right-wing's reimposition of arbitrary measures of students' "preparedness" and their "success" in rolling back access to higher education.  Both books use student lives and student work, situated in actual programs (for Fox, Cal State Chico; for Sternglass, CUNY), as the foundation for the argument in favor of access and against the racist, classist cant of "standards."
        Defending Access is a smaller book than Time to Know Them, and in some ways is the more accessible volume.  Fox introduces us to five African-American student writers through whose lives and work we come to understand that "failure" among students has little to do with preparedness or skills, and has much to do with the social, economic, and political situations they (and many access programs) inhabit.  He reviews key historical moments in the evolution of the arbitrary social constructions which pass for "standards" and explores the ideological arguments which lead to their imposition on the lives and futures of our students.  He does so in a most readable, cogent way.
        Rehearsing a series of political conflicts over writing instruction at his home institution allows Fox to critique earlier work in composition (his own included) which suffer from an underestimation of the hegemonic domination of writing programs, students, and faculty by institutional authorities.  He offers a thoughtful overview of processes that might serve to dislodge "standards" and the exclusionary practices they impose on writing programs in their historic gatekeeper function.  Finally, he offers ideas about what a liberatory, anti-racist curriculum featuring committed, authentic writing    might look like.
        Fox's book is timely, coming as it does on the heels of Sternglass's work.  Moreover, the larger critique of "standards" and the rollback of access to higher education is being enriched from a couple of directions which makes Fox's work noteworthy.  We might want to consider Fox's book alongside the work Claude M. Steele and his colleagues are doing on "stereotype threat" and minority student underperformance on standardized tests, for instance (see Steele, "Thin Ice: 'Stereotype Threat' and Black College Students," The Atlantic Monthly, August 1999, 44-54).   Likewise, James Paul Gee's concept of "Discourses," enlarging as it does our understanding of cultural difference from a rich sociolinguistic perspective, interacts very energetically with Fox's new work (Gee was a featured speaker at the 1999 Conference on College Composition and Communication; his theory of Discourses is most accessibly available in his Social linguistics and literacies: Ideology in Discourses [London: Falmer Press, 1996]).
        Most importantly, Fox invites us to dig in for the long haul.  He argues convincingly that alternatives to racist "standards" and the practices they spawn will be countered only in local situations, through ideologically charged "siege warfare" against those structures and practices which we might affect in our local sites.  This is a quietly optimistic, important book.

Review of Gypsy Academics and Mother-Teachers: Gender, Contingent Labor, and Writing Instruction
by Eileen E. Schell
(Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 1998)

Reviewed by Susan Loudermilk
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

        Often distressful, sometimes hopeful, always very informational.  After reading Gypsy Academics and Mother-Teachers: Gender, Contingent Labor, and Writing Instruction by Eileen Schell, I had to wonder, "Is slavery alive and well as we round the corner to the 21st century?"  In her book, Schell attempts to provide "a model of collective feminist transformation" as she examines the past and current state of affairs for what she terms "contingent faculty," specifically part-time and non-tenure track faculty in the English profession.  She focuses on writing instructors, most of whom are women, who are most often relegated to teach the "dreaded" first year composition courses that many tenure-track faculty wish to avoid.
        Schell traces the history of how feminine attitudes have affected women in the writing profession.  As writing courses came to be seen as lesser (un)scholarly endeavors, the courses were left for women to teach, based on sentiments that "women had 'special endowments' that naturally predisposed them to Freshman English" and an attitude that women "identify with the service ethos," the need to nurture those under their care.  The trend continued well into the 80's and 90's when the money crises and fear of decreasing enrollments led college administrators to rely more and more on
contingent faculty to teach courses.  Yet even though enrollments did not decline, and even with the rise of professionalism in the field of rhetoric/composition, still today many highly qualified women writing instructors find themselves in part-time or non-tenure track positions, hoping from year-to-year that they will be able to support themselves until full-time tenure-track positions open up for them.
        I was struck by the parallel between the conditions Schell describes for these women and my grandmother's experience as an elementary school teacher.  When my grandmother began teaching in 1926, male teachers were paid more than female teachers, and female teachers were not considered good long-term prospects because it was assumed that they would get married and have children.  My grandfather left my grandmother after the birth of their third child, so she was left to raise the children on her own on a teacher's salary.  They had to move almost every year to wherever my grandmother could find a teaching position.  She, like the women writing instructors who teach today, did not know from year-to-year where she could find a job and be able to feed her family, and often she did not know until just a few weeks before the school year began.  I myself am one of the contingent faculty that Schell talks about.  Currently I hold a visiting assistant professor position that may turn into a tenure-track position. So like my grandmother, I do not know if I will be teaching at the same place next year or not.  (And today I sit here at my computer trying to meet the deadline for this review that I have been writing on the road as I completed a whirlwind move in 2 weeks time in order to get to this position one week before classes started!)
        One of the strengths of Schell's book is that she brings to our attention the attitudes that still affect women in the workforce, astutely forcing us to become more aware of the specific plight of women writing instructors. Yet at the same time, she balances the negative portrayals with positive affirmations of what is being done and what can be done to change the situation.  She asserts throughout her book that her intention is not to characterize the women as "victims" or "martyrs," but to "initiate proactive--rather than reactive" policies that will provide new ways to "incorporate, value, reward, and develop the knowledge and contributions of part-time and nontenure track faculty."
        The methodology Schell employs is three-fold: she focuses on women's social experiences, examining their social roles in terms of gender differences; she provides strategies for change; and she analyzes these issues and problems "within the frame" of her own socialist feminist assumptions.  Schell draws us into the book by relating her experiences as a contingent faculty person.  She then utilizes "revisionary histories of women's schooling and literary practices" in order to present a corrected picture of the history of written composition, which has been focused on men's experiences.  She takes what is a broad mix of research topics and methodologies, including email surveys and what she terms "practitioner work narratives," and does an excellent job of guiding the reader through what each study reveals, but also showing us what we may have missed or wrongly interpreted.  From this information she presents a clearer picture of how conditions within the profession, and most importantly how attitudes within the profession, affect not only contingent faculty but also tenure-track faculty as well.  Because, as she points out, as the policies and ideas of corporate America begin to creep into the university structure, the idea of finding the cheapest, most expendable labor to do the job of teaching, strengthens the idea that tenure is an outdated model and hurts the overall profit margin of the new corporate university organization.
         This book debunks many of the myths and the labels and attitudes that go along with such myths regarding contingent faculty.  Schell borrows a term from economic theory to explain one of the attitudes held by administrators regarding contingent faculty.  The term, "psychic income," refers to the belief that women choose part-time teaching positions in order to find "satisfaction and fulfillment," a psychic income rather than a real income that they can live on.  Women have been "stereotyped as those willing to take lesser paid, lesser status teaching jobs."  Some of the women Schell interviewed do benefit from and like the advantages of part-time work; however, Schell discovered that they still feel "frustrated by their working conditions and by the lack of opportunity for professional development and advancement."  The many problems encountered by contingent faculty include reserve labor status, balancing career and family, contractual instability, "an office of one's own," and the politics of naming.  I found her section on naming especially interesting and enlightening as she relates the different titles by which contingent writing faculty are now, or have been known, including such derogatory names as "call staff," which brings forth the notion of call girls.
        Another issue Schell asks us to consider is whether a feminist approach to teaching writing that advocates maternal pedagogy reinforces attitudes that writing instruction is women's work and thus hinders equity for women in the profession.  The problem she sees with this maternal pedagogy is that it "does not sufficiently address the question of difference in the classroom," as it is too focused on the white middle-class female teacher and not inclusive for minority teachers.  And even white female teachers, Schell reminds us, may feel that a decentering of power in the classroom can be interpreted as a lack of authority and also discourages a "confrontational feminine pedagogical stance" that can be very beneficial to students.  Schell states that it is better to replace "feminine caring" with "feminist caring" so that both liberal and cultural feminist positions can be utilized.
        Throughout the book Schell tries to elevate the focus of the situation to what is being done to improve the status of contingent faculty, and provides many suggestions, including developing scholarship programs for nontenure line women to present at CCCC, writing an "ethical code of hiring," and conducting a comprehensive survey to further address the problems of contingent faculty.  She also advocates a shift in graduate programs to more of a focus on teaching rather than history and theory, in order to develop a "model of presenting teaching as scholarship" as Kristina Hansen did at BYU.   This book should be read by all deans, administrators, and anyone involved in the budgeting and hiring process of contingent faculty.  It should also be read by graduate students and those who are in the contingent faculty category.  Even though it may seem discouraging at times to the latter group, I think Schell's admonishment that "hard work and excellent teaching" do not bring job security is a very important note to heed.

Review of Representing the "Other": Basic Writers and the Teaching of Writing
by Bruce Horner and Min-Zhan Lu
(Urbana IL: NCTE, 1999)

Reviewed by SusanMarie Harrington
Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis IN

        Anyone involved in basic writing these days has a lot to talk about.  Among the many academic developments that affect basic writing programs are "stretch" or "jumbo" classes that offer students more time to complete a composition course (effectively merging basic writing and first-year composition); abolitionist arguments about first-year composition that may (or may not) put basic writers at risk; and directed self-placement, which refigures the relationship between basic writing and first-year composition by offering students the chance to make a meaningful choice between the two courses.  Meanwhile, debates about public funding for higher education in general and developmental education in particular have put pressure on basic writing programs. It's a heady time for the field, with calls for reform and abolition coming from the left and right, from academics and politicians.  Basic writing teachers with an eye on the classroom can well find all these larger debates overwhelming, and program administrators can well find the political analysis difficult.  Representing the "Other": Basic Writers and the Teaching of Writing, Bruce Horner and Min-Zhan Lu's recent collection of essays about the field, should be required reading for all of us.  Their insightful political analysis offers a valuable historical perspective on the forces that have shaped basic writing.
        Representing the "Other," the latest in the NCTE series "Refiguring English Studies," has broad aims: to "map the central problematics, key terms, questions and assumptions" of basic writing (xi).  Horner and Lu have collected here a series of essays written over a 9 year period, most of which have appeared in print before.  The collection opens with a jointly-authored introduction, and includes 3 chapters plus an afterword by Bruce Horner, and 4 chapters by Min-Zhan Lu.  Of the 7 chapters, only one (Lu's "Importing 'Science': Neutralizing Basic Writing") is completely new, although two others (Horner's "The 'Birth' of Basic Writing" and "Some Afterwords" are revised and expanded versions of earlier work).  Horner and Lu present their work conceptually, rather than chronologically, which adds to the collection's utility.  The first part, Discoursing Basic Writing, examines how basic writing defines itself theoretically and historically; the second (and much shorter) part, Professing Basic Writing, examines classroom issues.  When I scanned the table of contents and permissions page, I was at first disappointed that so little in the volume was new.  But that feeling vanished as I worked my way through the collection.  Its organization serves to highlight the questions that Horner and Lu have relentlessly pursued over time, and the juxtaposition of their work illustrates the ways in which their individual work develops new ways of approaching those questions.  This is a powerful collection.
        Horner and Lu consistently apply a cultural materialist analysis to basic writing research and pedagogy.  They survey basic writing not simply to describe the field itself, but to understand why the field is set up as it is.  What cultural influences have affected basic writing?  What historical forces have left their mark?  Whose voices and views are privileged, and whose are suppressed or ignored?  These are the questions that surface in every chapter.  Even readers who are familiar with the bulk of the essays here will find it rewarding to follow these questions through this series of essays, arranged as it is to demonstrate the coherence of a long collaboration.  The introduction charts some specific ways they have composed in response to each others' publications, and the ways they have interacted while drafting.  They examine the material influences on their own work, setting the stage for a new reading of the work that follows.
        Discoursing Basic Writing opens with Horner's chapter "The 'Birth' of Basic Writing," which explores the roots of basic writing, examining binary oppositions that arose in the 1970's debates about open admissions at CUNY.  The opposition of student activism and student excellence, for instance, or ethnic diversity and academic excellence, was a common feature of public debate about the revision of the CUNY curriculum.  Horner argues that the CUNY writing faculty responded to the political debates by depoliticizing basic writing.  Drawing on both published scholarship, news reports, and CUNY memos, Horner chronicles the hard work of Mina Shaughnessy and her colleagues, ultimately critiquing it for withdrawing from a political and social debate.  This critique continues throughout the book.  Lu's "Conflict and Struggle" explores teacher-scholars' attitudes about acculturation and education, arguing that we need to re-read accounts of students' struggles with language to make productive use of their struggles in the curriculum.  The attempt to smooth over student struggles, Lu argues, prevents teachers and basic writers from engaging with the cultural issues involved in basic writing.  She continues in this vein in "Importing Science," arguing there that basic writing research has adopted a faith in scientific methods of reasoning, a move that ultimately objectifies students, teachers, and language.  Lu's critique of essentialist views of language also shapes "Redefining the Legacy of Mina Shaughnessy," a close reading of Errors and Expectations.  Here Lu argues that Shaughnessy's work (which she takes as an exemplar of pedagogical scholarship in basic writing) overlooks the political dimension of students' language choices.  Horner's "Mapping Errors and Expectations in the Field of Basic Writing" is a fitting end to the first portion of the book.  It draws together an analysis of basic writing in the early years at CUNY, the assumptions we make about language, and the importance of a borderlands perspective in the classroom.
        The second part of  Representing the "Other" concerns classroom issues.  The two essays in this section address error, multiculturalism, and style.  Horner's "Rethinking the 'Sociality' of Error" challenges teachers and researchers to examine both social and cognitive approaches to error, arguing not just that teachers need to make students aware of the historical and social construction of error.  Rather, Horner suggests, teachers need to enable students to negotiate about error, thus taking seriously the choices students make as they write; he describes several ways to use conferences, assignments, and class discussions to do so.  Lu's essay which follows, "Professing Multiculturalism," challenges typical approaches to style in composition classrooms.  Lu includes an extensive discussion of her own experiences in first-year writing classes.  Her discussion illustrates the range of discussion she and her students have on matters of style.
        Overall, Representing the "Other" is an impressive collection.  Horner and Lu challenge the binary distinctions that so often surface in our teaching and research practices, over and over finding ways to break down the binaries and challenge current practice.  Their scholarship is impeccably researched and reflects a long and broad acquaintance with the field.  Their challenges are mounted forcefully, yet gracefully.  While their larger agenda is to correct what they see as institutionalized blindness in dominant approaches to basic writing, they are careful to say that their very interrogation of the field is an honor to it.  Lu's "Redefining the Legacy of Mina Shaughnessy" is a careful critique of Errors and Expectations.  Even as Lu argues that Shaughnessy's iconic status itself should be questioned, she notes that a thorough critique of previous scholarship is a way to "honor this legacy" that Shaughnessy left (106).  In a field which reveres the legacy of Shaughnessy, Horner and Lu's questions can seem hard, sometimes too hard-but those are the questions that will help us use the history of our field, without being limited by it.  The fiftieth anniversary issues of College Composition and Communication have had as a subtitle "A Usable Past."  Horner and Lu offer basic writing an alternate usable past.  A re-reading of our history is one way to ensure that the past lives in the present-and that involves asking hard questions as well as celebrating past triumphs.
        Lu and Horner could have done more, I think, to provide their own retrospective on their collection.  While the introduction offers a summary of the cultural and material conditions under which these essays were originally written, neither the afterword nor the introduction really addresses how they see their own thinking shifting over time the shifts in thinking over time.  Readers who want to see how Horner and Lu came to rethink their work as they revised it are left to do comparative readings for themselves.  I wished that as they revised for publication, they had included headnotes or afternotes to the chapters, to offer some material insights into they re-read their work, and how their earlier work stands up in their eyes in this modern climate.
        Ultimately, we are left to make those judgments for ourselves.  Horner and Lu have been extending a provocative challenge to all of us for the better part of a decade now, and this collection intensifies the challenge.  Look to history, and look to the social and political forces that shape our work, they warn; we ignore those forces at our peril, and at our students' peril.  In the current political climate, such a perspective is energizing.  We cannot afford to ignore it.

Review of Living Language: Reading, Thinking, and Writing
By Alleen Pace Nilsen
(Allyn & Bacon, 1999)

Reviewed by Alice L. Trupe
Bridgewater College of Virginia

        If you have used Alleen Pace Nilsen's provocative essay,"Sexism in English: Embodiment and Language," in a writing class, you will be glad to know that it has a place in her new textbook, Living Language: Reading, Thinking, and Writing.  Nilsen has shaped this book out of her lively interest in how language works within culture, and the result is a text that brings togeter a stimulating collection of short readings that explore issues of naming, labeling, and communicating with words.  This well-planned textbook includes detailed suggestions for workshops as well as writing assignments, along with comprehension and discussion questions.
        There is something to catch the eye of every reader, even the reluctant reader, as chapters progress from a focus on the personal (discussing given names and surnames) through a look at social groups (addressing links between language and gender, ethnic and racial discrimination) through glimpses at special uses of language (in humor, advertising, and electronic media) to, finally, some comments on change in language.  The texts selected represent a range of genres, from engaging book excerpts (selections from Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Bill Bryson's The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way, among others) through letters to the editor to headlines, cartoons, advertisements, and mass-mail sweepstakes invitations.   Most readings run from two to six pages.
        Throughout the text, "Living Language" sections supplement and illustrate the readings with relevant anecdotes from the news that may be used to spark class discussion or writing assignments.  "Brain Teasers" invite students to think critically and reflectively about language use.
        Chapters on "Language to Persuade" and "The Mass Media" are particularly timely.  Representative of the range and juxtaposition of texts that Nilsen includes, the chapter on persuasion follows an overview of logical fallacies (Donna Woolfolk Cross's "Propaganda: How Not to Be Bamboozled") with a Garrison Keillor story ("The Speeding Ticket") that illustrates "bamboozling."  Discussions of brand names, signs, bumper stickers, and euphemisms are included in this chapter, as well as reflections on the connections between hate speech and a specific violent incident.  William Lutz's "The World of Doublespeak" is excerpted to raise questions about political rhetoric.
        Workshop activities are planned to involve students in actively analyzing language.  An entertaining workshop on eponyms is included in the chapter on the media.  Students are invited to connect the meaning of words and phrases with the stories they originate with, using Biblical and Classical terms, twentieth-century history, and 1990s news items.  The workshop included in the final chapter, on linguistic change, focuses on the naming and marketing, of foods, fabrics, concepts, and cars.  These activities are geared to relating linguistic investigations to students' daily concerns.
        The chapter on "Technology and Language Change" is, unfortunately,  disappointing.  Nilsen's own essay, "The Recycling of Words in Cyberspace," is the best text in this chapter.  Judith Stone's essay ("If U Cn Rd Ths, U Undrstnd Scnce") addresses average Americans' conceptual knowledge and recognition of the relevance of science to their lives rather than more specifically linguistic matters, while John Allen Paulos' essay  ("More Dismal Math Scores for U.S. Students: X, Y, and U") focuses on the reasons people should study mathematics.  A self-proclaimed neo-Luddite's reflections on the Internet (Gertrude Himmelfarb, writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education) are included, and a text voicing concerns about email privacy (Philip L. Bereano's "Rein in Bosses Who Spy on E-Mail") focuses on the workplace, apparently because "Computer technologies will never be readily available to most Americans because of high cost," and "the population at large still fails to have a significant need for them" (Bereano 412).  Nilsen's essay, based on a 1995 English Journal article ("Literary Metaphors and Other Linguistic Innovations in Computer Language") refocuses the text's linguistic theme by tracing metaphors in cyberculture.
        Given the rapid pace of technological change, it is hardly surprising that print texts on computer culture easily become dated.  Yet textbooks like Victor Vitanza's CyberReader show us that a focus on cyberculture need not be outdated by the time texts make it into print.  Of course, those of us who usually teach in computer environments will probably find that analysis of students' own classroom electronic texts-transcripts of MOO sessions, bulletin board postings, Web pages, and listserv messages-yields more useful data on technology and language change than most of the readings included here.
        This is, however, to focus on the exception.  This textbook is, on the whole, very useful.  It has a sound theoretical basis, a clearly articulated and developed theme, an orientation to making classroom talk relevant to students' lives, a timely focus, and a plethora of useful classroom activities and writing assignments.

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