Okay. I can't resist.
Here are my questions about "generic" writing courses.
What does one write about? To paraphrase, one doesn't write writing, one
writes something to someone. So, first decision: what do we write about?
The students' personal/intellectual growth? Sure, why not? (especially
if one remembers that personal involves intellectual at that stage and
But, and here's the big question, why should anyone assume that
this is a service course -- i.e. that this kind of writing will offer
portable skills, and that it will somehow prepare them to write well in
Biology, Poli Sci, or even English.
Alternatively, we could get them to learn to function in the realm
of public discourse (to dignify the arena): i.e., how to get things done
politically, through lobbying, letters to the editor etc. Great! But
again, why should we assume that this will transfer.
Or we can opt for what many are doing in American freshman comp --
use the comp class to teach what they call "multicultural" values -- i.e.
to use the classroom to inculcate our moral values. (There's a long
history in ENglish departments for that. As ANthony Pare would say --
well sort of -- we love to take the missionary position.)
Again, I raise the question of transfer.
So then what about the kind of alternative that I think Chuck
Bazerman would argue for: a classroom which teaches about rhetoric, about
how language works in contexts. We could make our students into many
ethnographers. Here, the question of transfer is predicated on the notion
that meta-awareness will cause our students to be able to perform
appropriately in other contexts.
Now, that's attractive, but is is true? Is there any empirical