I certainly can see the point about the usefulness of a test to keep
writing in the spotlight, Laurence. But it sounds as though there is a
problem with the linkage between the test and WAC. Tests always imply
a search for particular deficiencies that require particular remedies,
making any courses linked with them seem remedial in some way or other.
How could they not be, if they are designed to remedy deficiencies
detected by a test?
This is one of the reasons why our English department got out of the
business of providing courses to help students meet the requirement.
They got swamped by "remedial" students.
On the other hand, if there is a test that detects deficiencies,
contextualized courses seem a better way to fix 'em up than the usual
decontextualized comp course. I taught one of those for years, and it
was no joy. (The only thing less joyful was teaching _non-credit_
decontextualized courses, in which the audience dwindled from 25 to about
2 (I'm not kidding) by February.)
Ideally, it seems as though every student should have to take a nuber of
courses that feature writing. In the best of all universes, this would
happen by itself, but these days it is quite possible to graduate without
having done much serious writing at all. Hence the standard WAC model of
requiring WI courses.
What I'm hoping for is that each department will take a few courses that
students can't graduate without and make them more writing intensive.
For instance, most departments provide some kind of course in research
methodology. What better place to teach the writing habits of the
dicipline--once people realize that this means more than documentation style.
The APC report on WAC here suggested that the test and the writing centre
would provide a "common baseline," meaning that at least our students
could all be considered marginally literate within the definition of the
test. WAC would provide further honing of skills at higher levels. This
distinction is facilitated by the fact that students can't stay in the
system more than 12 months (theoretically) without passing the test.
So the test and WAC have clearly defined, related but distinct roles.
The problem of course is that the test is a firmly enshrined institution
and the WAC program exists as vapourware. But, as Camus points out, we
must think of Sisyphus as being happy at his work.