Thanks to all of you who responded to my plea for help last week when I was
preparing my report for our Senate committee on Writing at Memorial. No,I
didn't know that the committee chair and our VP had already asked many of
your institutions to send info on your writing programs. I have permission
to look at those, and look forward to finding out more details about what
you all are up to these days.
Since some of you asked for a report on how the session went, here's
I did manage to keep my presentation to less than 10 mins, as we were asked to,
enough time to sketch out different models of writing instruction and some
key assumptions underlying each, and to describe the resources we
already have at MUN: our expanding and most successful writing centre,now
run by Jacqueline Howse (who is co-chairing with me the all-day preconvention
workshop on Ethics and Evaluation at the C's); our writing courses at the
first, second and third-year levels in the English Dept; our grad course in
rhetoric; some writing intensive courses in other depts and faculties;
the faculty development initiatives with (emphasis on writing) now
co-ordinated by Kathy McManus , who many of you know and more. . . . and to
suggest that what we have are the bits of a good writing program but not the
[Asking for the substantial funds for new program]
here is about as much use
taking out my jigger for a feed of cod these da
I was followed by our self-appointed expert on writing from the Psych dept.
who launched into a 30-min diatribe against students, high schools
and others responsible for her having to deal with cognitively deficient
students coming into her advanced psych classes. She knows they are
cognitively deficient, because they can't spell and
punctuate properly,and can't make their subjects agree with their verbs.
She spent a lot of time telling us about dyslexics, and I never did quite
figure out why, but seemed to imply that these
are among the deficient ones we should exclude. . . with stringent
admission tests on writing competency . Most of the committee seemed
impressed with her analysis and her proposed solution. . in addition to the
admission tests we should require all students to take four English courses
, instead of the present two. And she doesn't "give a damn" if
introductory psych courses have 200 or 400 students and no writing since
these are service courses, not for psych majors.
I decided the best antidote to the sesssion was to read the autobiography
of Helen Suzamn, mainly about her 36 years in the South African parliament.
From 1961 to 1974 she was the only member of her (Progressive) party there,
and had to confront daily the obtuse, self-righteous, viciously anti-semitic
, sexist architects of apratheid. Well, I don't see myself as any Helen S
(not a very dialogic person, for one thing) but her sheer dogged
persistence helped me place our Senate committee in a healthy perspective.
Now on to competency tests, for anyone who may still be out there.
I'm opposed, on the whole, for mostly the same reasons that others have
given this week. My initial enquiry was meant to be a request for
arguments that I could use against them to the administation and this
committee. But I do agree that if we can't stop 'em we maybe should
consider getting in on the act to design and administer 'em, as Richard
Haswell and Susan Wyche-Smith argue in the May '94 CCC.
That's about it for now.
I can't edit out some of the bleepers in this,coz I haven't learned how to
do this as newmail comes in. Or maybe I'm cognitively deficient. Hey, why
didn't any of my friends out there tell me that before?