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College Composition Writing Help

Ray Wallace, Alan Jackson and Susan Wallace

Reforming College Composition: Writing the Wrongs presents nineteen essays written by leading writing professionals, professors of English in leading colleges and universities throughout the country, educational theorists, teachers "in the trenches," and curriculum designers, all who have one common goal. All these writers are concerned with their own failure as writing specialists to improve their own students' writing skills. These writers examine why entering college students still write poorly, and why our various attempts to redress such poor writing skills have failed for the most part; they compare the "promise" of previously touted new methods, paradigm shifts, and curricular innovations with the "reality" of little change or improvement; they describe what their students can and cannot do in the writing classroom, even after twelve years of primary and secondary education; and they, in several different key ways, address what they see as needed reforms in the whole idea of college composition, especially for the first-year college student.

A book for any academic reader interested in why our students' writing skills have not improved as we had expected them to, and how we are going to, more realistically this time, improve on this state of affairs, Reforming College Composition: Writing the Wrongs, begins with the confession that we, as writing teachers, have not achieved as much as we thought we would in the last twentyfive years. With the realization that colleges and universities would be faced with huge increases in student populations, given both the demographics of the baby boom period combined with open admissions policies and the rise of community colleges, teachers of college writing have been aware for a very long time that they would be responsible for bringing a tremendously heterogeneous group of students, varying in age, class, gender, and educational background, to the requisite level of literacy to perform in their respective college careers. We accepted the fact that colleges and universities were no longer homogenous havens for a particular class and/or gender; in fact most writing professionals entered the field precisely because many new populations had finally been granted access to higher education. With these new populations came new employment opportunities.

In the past twenty-five years, we have attempted to persuade each other, and more important perhaps, the paying public, that we know how to improve our nation's writing levels. In the past quarter century we have offered the process movement, writing across the curriculum, critical thinking, English for academic purposes, whole language, grammar instruction, lack of grammar instruction, freewriting, imitation, computer-assisted composition, writing labs, writing groups, MOOs and MUDs (to name just a few). We, as a profession, flit about these "new and proven" techniques with little or no real introspection as to what we are actually producing. We are sailors in search of the wind; practitioners in search of the next movement. And yet, as we drift aimlessly from innovation to innovation that we practice on each year's crop of students, we, in fact, take little reckoning of what works and what does not. We cannot, with any certainty, point to one method that can be replicated with success, and we still rely for the most part on anecdotal "evidence" to persuade others that we have found the "cure for the common writing woe" present in our classrooms.

So, here we are about to enter another millennium. Our literacy levels are falling, our admissions standards are almost nonexistent, and each year the same composition instructors who deal initially with ineffective first-year writers are busy finally sending out first-year teachers trained with the same level of vagueness of purpose and method. It is little wonder we are faced with the recurring problem of entering college students with poor writing and reading skills; we produce the teachers who instruct them. This collection admits our mistakes. Through three distinct sections: Writing the Wrongs: Voices of Concern; Righting the Wrongs: Voices from the Trenches; and, Writing and Righting the Future: Preparing New Voices, the contributors are taking this opportunity to design our profession for the next millennium. They have been asked to write our wrongs, and, then, to right our wrongs.

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