I also can't resist this conversational string.
In my view Comp/Rhet courses, WID courses and Writing Centres are all
necessary, but they need a political and philosophical integration to
make the system work for all concerned.
What do I mean?
Well first of all Comp/Rhet courses--good ones--are necessary as the
disciplinary focus and training ground for faculty and graduate students
interested in the teaching of writing. In fact, one of the reasons
WAc/WID has been slow to develop in Canada is because we lack such
training grounds and consequently the "field" status to advance and
support WAC/WID programs. By "good" courses, I mean courses that have
some disciplinary focus to them. And these course should be voluntary.
I have been in the business of forcing writing down unwilling throats,
and it is soul destroying expereince--one that I don't wish to repeat.
NOr do I wish to replicate the "comp" business as I see it in some of the
universities in the States--huge numbers of courses taught by grad
students and sessionals, underpayed and overworked. A small, limited
composition program that students want to get into would suit me just fine.
With such a program in place it then becomes possible to advance and
argue for a WAC/WID program. After all then the expertise is on campus
and can be used effectively to support the WAC/WID program.
And in this equation, we must not forget writing centres. In my view,
writing centres are essential to support WAc/WID programs. Faculty will
not support aWID effort if they have to deal with really problematic
writers--and there are some (sometimes many) on all campuses.
The problem with writing centres at the moment, though, is that many of
them do not have strong disciplinary or field connections. By this I
mean that people who work in centres often cannot get disciplinary
recognition for what they do. This makes it hard to argue for their
presence on some campuses. It would be nice if English departments
everywhere actually recognized the importance of the English language.
But then we would be in some kind of virtual reality--certainly not the
reality I know.
So all three are necessary--but they must fit into a coherent political
scheme of some kind. Otherwise in-fighting and nasty fights over crumbs
occur--something I have witnessed on several American campuses.