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SGarza: IsThereSuchAThingAsAUniversalAcademicDiscourse

Darcy L.

According to Downs and Wardle in 'Teaching About Writing, Righting Misconceptions,' a 'unified academic discourse does not exist' (552). Therefore, they claim that FYC cannot adequately prepare students for some ambiguous and general 'academic discourse' since there are so many different discourses going on in academia. However, they point out that most writing programs and teachers are out there trying to sell the idea that 'college writing' is a universal concept and can be taught in 2 semesters as a 'set of basic, fundamental skills' that are inherently transferable to all other course and in the 'real world' after college. Instead, Downs and Wardle propose the idea of first and foremost making Writing Studies its own discipline, with the FYC course being its cornerstone and moving from trying to teach a universal college writing to teaching students about writing using texts about writing, seeking to 'improve students' understanding of writing, rhetoric, language, and literacy in a course that is topically oriented to reading and writing as scholarly inquiry' (553).

I agree that a universally applicable academic discourse does not exist and trying to teach a semblance of one is too lofty for two semesters, but I also think that there are universally applicable 'good writing' skills and methods that can be worked on in the context of one general classroom. I think that a good portion of a student's chosen discipline and its unique writing requirements can be learned once the student gets past general requirements and starts taking classes within that discipline. If I were to redesign academia, I would require a gateway course for every single major in which the students were given all of the necessary tools to work within that discipline, which would cover writing conventions and proper citation, jargon, overarching concepts, etc. This would also be good for students to see if they're even compatible with that particular course of study. I know many disciplines do have "Intro" courses, but I don't think they serve the function of fully introducing students to how to converse within that discipline.

Downs and Wardle had some really great points. They talk about how writing and content are inseparable, which I found pretty interesting. They also build the FYC course around writing as the discipline, having students read writing research and write about writing itself. 'The course about writing becomes a writing course in which students study writing to learn more about it and potentially improve their own' (562). And having students learn that writing is context-specific is absolutely something that FYC should do. However, because I've not yet taught composition, it's hard for me to imagine how this all plays out over the course of two semesters. In theory, it sounds like a great idea, but I also wonder if freshmen students can adequately read, digest, and research these topics without previous exposure to writing for the academy. It's sort of a catch-22 in that way, since FYC is usually where students first get their taste of writing and researching for college-level projects.

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Page last modified on March 09, 2009, at 11:06 AM CST