Negotiating Academic Literacies: Teaching and Learning across Languages and Cultures

By Vivian Zamel; Ruth Spack | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
The Language of Exclusion:
Writing Instruction
at the University

Mike Rose

"How many 'minor errors' are acceptable?"

"We must try to isolate and define those further skills in composition . . ."

". . . we should provide a short remedial course to patch up any deficiencies."

"Perhaps the most striking feature of this campus' siege against illiteracy . . ."

"One might hope that, after a number of years, standards might be set in the high schools which would allow us to abandon our own defensive program.

These snippets come from University of California and California state legislative memos, reports, and position papers and from documents produced during a recent debate in UCLA's Academic Senate over whether a course in our freshman writing sequence was remedial. Though these quotations--and a half dozen others I will use in this essay--are local, they represent a kind of institutional language about writing instruction in American higher education. There are five ideas about writing implicit in these comments: Writing ability is judged in terms of the presence of error and can thus be quantified. Writing is a skill or a tool rather than a discipline. A number of our students lack this skill and must be remediated. In fact, some percentage of our students are, for all intents and purposes, illiterate.

College English, 1985

-9-

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