The title of this week's Discussion Board post is misleading, but only a little. You may not know this, but Bridgewater is the third oldest Normal school in the country, and the only one still in operation in its original location. BSU was founded by Horace Mann in 1840 as a "normal" school--or a school that was not a university. Normal schools were Mann's idea for how to train the vast number of teachers that the new fangled-idea of public schools very much needed. Back then, BSU was known as The State Normal School at Bridgewater.
In the field of Composition and Rhetoric, the standard History (capital "H")--that you read some of last week and will read about (again) in the Crowley reading from this week--identifies Adam Sherman Hill Class A at Harvard as the start of what we have come to know as Composition, and that's not wrong; however, the Fitzgerald reading for this week suggests an alternate way to consider the history of literacy instruction that stems from the Normal School curriculum--and, thus, one that stems from K-12 education.
For this week's Reading Response: remember the central purpose of the Reading Response assignment: What is the central argument or arguments you can trace through the readings for this week? But, as you do this, react to this idea: What is the relationship between K-12 education and First Year Writing, commonly acronym as FYW or FYC (for Composition)? What does the relationship seem to be, historically, and what kind of unicorn, fantasy, perfect world relationship could there be?
As you write, consider your own experiences in first year writing classes--if you had them.
NOTE: I realize that this question seems to ignore the Asao Inoue reading for this week, and please feel free to write about that introduction too. I know that it might be the thing many of you are more interested in writing about. But because you will have the chance to write extensively about Inoue in the coming weeks, I wanted to give us a chance to close out our discussions that attempt to position the field of Composition and Rhetoric historically--both in the University and in the wider world.
2/5/2022 05:29:44 am
Every English teacher faces the reality that their curriculum and methodology will never meet the countless expectations surrounding them. We must both individualize instruction in composition and ensure that all students are ready for the “next” thing. This week, both texts express concern with how we understand success in composition. Normal school teachers recognized student background as an explanation for “poor performance” and sought “to make [each] student conscious of his own speech, and to create self-activity” (180). In short, success was found in responding to students’ prior knowledge and preparing them for future goals. According to Crowley, the universal FYW course has a far different purpose: to train students to “join the community” in their ability to “behave, think, write, and speak as students rather than as the people they are” (9). I see value in both systems. For instance, poor performance may very well be the result of a student’s background or the failings of his K-12 education, but it is still “poor” if the student is unable to read, reflect, and write clearly, not merely as an exercise in personal reflection, but more significantly, as part of a greater academic community of which he is now a part. Crowley speaks about “students” and “the people they are” when they enter school as mutually exclusive; however, anyone who enters an academic institution elects to become part of a new conversation – one that requires essential tools of literacy.
2/7/2022 03:48:54 am
One may argue that the creation of the basic tenets for First Year Writing Seminars are first, to separate White patriarchal dominance (being White male students) from all those who higher education labels as “Others,” second, an attempt for academia to maintain its imperial grasp over education and pedagogy, third, a means of stripping autonomy and identity from freshman –– in an effort to weed out the “desirables” and “undesirables” attending post-secondary institutions, and fourth, predicating the sole responsibility of scholarly writing upon the shoulders of those within the English department which eliminates literary obligations to those within other post-secondary academic fields. Fitzgerald and Crowley argue that the creation of normal schools is an attempt to appease elitist institutions from having to admit students they gauge as less than, when in fact these “Other” students may experience sub-par educations in comparison to their peers who attend historically exclusive institutions of higher education. Fitzgerald and Crowley center their arguments for normal school pedagogical practices by stating that “student’s errors are the natural outcome of a combination of academic teaching and incomplete learning,” and that compositional literacy works best when teachers and students work in tandem, not in opposition, abolishing the textbook as the sole proprietor of compositional literacy.
2/7/2022 02:08:02 pm
Throughout these texts, it seems that history shows we are not good writers by the time we get to college. Our idea of writing before entering college is very different. As I mentioned in the previous week's reading, we are taught one process in K-12 and there is no room for individuality, research, or imagination essentially which is provoked in first year writing courses. In a perfect world, we would all be amazing writers by the time we get to our First Year Writing courses. This is clearly not case as argued in many of these articles. It surprises me because of the importance of writing essays for applications, entrance exams, etc. Logically, it seems like we are prepared if we get accepted into a university.
2/7/2022 03:18:07 pm
The expectation for the relationship between K-12 education and the First Year Writing (FYW) course seem like they should build on each other so that in FYW students are refining their writing skills while being introduced to more sophisticated writing styles and strategies. However, scholars and teachers seem to notice that there is a disconnect between K-12 education and FYW. Professors, even at Harvard, are complaining about their students’ writing abilities by the time they get to the FYW course.
2/8/2022 01:48:34 am
Crowley and Fitzgerald both consider the past and present roles of composition in the context of the first-year writing (FYW) classroom. While their discussions diverge on the topic of the field’s foundations, they both favor the contemporary interpretation of composition as an area of study that should prioritize student-specific pedagogy over the one-size-fits-all content of textbooks. They also aim to bring the lack of respect composition teachers receive to light, as the social problems within their profession often prevent them from fulfilling this promise. Crowley in particular argues that this attitude toward writing instruction persists in K-12 education, but becomes less prominent at the post-secondary sphere due the departmental connection between composition and humanism. Although I did not take a first-year writing course during my undergraduate experience, one of the twelfth-grade writing courses I teach serves the same purpose: to strengthen students’ writing skills and prepare them for the numerous contexts in which they will need to use them in the future. As a result, I found that the pedagogical approaches the two theorists analyze - Herbartian pedagogy in Fitzgerald’s case and humanist pedagogy in that of Crowley - each explain how K-12 education can function as an effective bridge to first-year composition (FYC).
2/8/2022 05:50:03 am
In an ideal education system, each year of reading and writing instruction would be a complete steppingstone towards a first-year writing (FYW) course. But the reality is these steppingstones often have cracks in them or have pointed students in a different direction, meaning they often arrive at their FYW course like a fish out of water expected to breath seamlessly on their own by the end of the course. In our readings this week, Crowley and Fitzgerald address K-12’s impact on student’s writing and the disconnect between FYW faculty and the rest of Academia who expect experienced writers to be produced from this course.
2/8/2022 07:51:24 am
For this week, our readings traced the history of composition classes, and their effectiveness. Composition classes have the biggest opportunity to lift people out of oppressive situations and give them independence to navigate the world. In both the Crowley and Fitzgerald texts, for example, there was a focus on the ways that composition gave women paths in life that were not merely marriage. They furthered their education and became teachers. Putting off marriage and the other typical things that women were expected to do in society.
2/8/2022 11:54:58 am
In this week’s readings, there were a few trends that I noticed. They discussed how composition or first year English courses fit into the college or university structure. The authors of these readings argued the importance of those courses despite the lack of desire from full time, accomplished professors to teach those low level courses. That aspect was further developed in Crowley’s “Composition in the University.” Crowley explained that since the early twentieth century, the responsibility of the teaching of composition courses has been placed on part time teachers instead of full time. This was done because, “Full-time faculty realized that there was no professional future in teaching a course that produced no research” (4). The lower level English classes, required by all students regardless of discipline, were and presumably are left for less “qualified” faculty to teach. Crowley claimed that, despite that fact, students were still getting quality instruction, “Given these circumstances, it is remarkable, to say the least, that the quality of instruction in required first-year composition is as good as it often is” (6).
2/8/2022 02:25:11 pm
Composition studies has seemed to suffer since its inception from a lack of autonomy. Truly, it is only in the last few decades that composition programs have begun to separate from the general English department of a school and become their own academic subset. For years, composition studies have been limited by their inherent connection to the First Year Writing (FYW) course that colleges and universities began requiring in the late 1800s. The FYW course itself has gone through many pedagogical changes over the years, but throughout it all the course has seemingly been viewed as a “necessary evil”.
Leave a Reply.
Use this space to post your weekly reading responses.