The Blogora: The Rhetoric Society of America


What on Earth Has Happened to Freshman English?

Submitted by syntaxfactory on July 31, 2015 - 2:01pm


What on Earth Has Happened to Freshman English?
If you haven't been paying much attention, you may have missed a quiet academic revolution in one of the most conservative of disciplines: English—particularly, in the introductory writing course that almost all entering students were, and still are, required to take. ... I sometimes am overcome with wonder that the field I entered has—in one lifetime—so changed its content, its goals, its importance. Mrs. Grundy, that harsh figure of prim correctness, still exists, though in sharply diminished numbers, as do a few old-fashioned English departments, clinging to the requirements in force when I entered graduate school and based on the works of Chaucer, Spencer, Shakespeare, and Milton. But when we look at modern documents such as the WPA's Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition (version 3.0, 2014) or the National Council of Teachers of English's 21st Century Literacies (2008), we realize that we have witnessed a startling change, comparable to the movement from astrology to astronomy or from alchemy to chemistry. Who would have imagined such a revolution when I started teaching?

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