This paper contends that modern compositionist courses have successfully met the goal of training students to become socially productive citizens by teaching them to be proficient "readers" who critically examine the sources and dissemination of knowledge, but that the field has fallen short of its goal of training students to actively produce their own knowledge because it is presenting a restricted view of what it means to "write" well. The paper argues that because most English departments focus on reading and interpretation of texts, the majority of students who take freshman composition leave believing that "good" writing means grammatically correct writing rather than writing that is morally or politically engaged or writing that constructs or produces new forms of knowledge. By examining the standard departmental syllabi, anthologies, writing handbook, and grading sheet for the 2-semester Freshman Composition sequence at the University of Georgia, the paper shows how reading is privileged over writing and how this hierarchy results in an over-emphasis on writing as a rule-bound skill to be mastered rather than a meaningful way of inventing new ideas and encouraging civic engagement. The paper first gives a brief overview of the history of rhetoric and then examines a syllabus from "a typical large land-grant university" (University of Georgia) to show that many freshman composition courses are still rooted in 19th-century concerns, and that this results in students achieving the status of "reflective" citizen "readers," but falling short of becoming "active" citizen "rhetors." (Contains 10 references. Course materials are attached.) (NKA)
Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication (53rd, Chicago, IL, March 20-23, 2002).
Historical Background; Student Engagement; University of Georgia; Writing Contexts