4.0325 More on UTexas Writing Course, Part I (2/98)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Fri, 27 Jul 90 17:19:59 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0325. Friday, 27 Jul 1990.

(1) Date: Friday, 27 July 1990 8:52am CST (25 lines)
From: John Slatin <EIEB360@UTXVM.BITNET>
Subject: 4.0324 Query on Texas Writing Course

(2) Date: Friday, 27 July 1990 6:17am CST (73 lines)
From: John Slatin <EIEB360@UTXVM.BITNET>
Subject: UT's disgrace

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Friday, 27 July 1990 8:52am CST
From: John Slatin <EIEB360@UTXVM.BITNET>
Subject: 4.0324 Query on Texas Writing Course

Thanks for the query, Kessler. I've posted (at some ungodly hour this
morning) two long, rambling messages describing some of the ambient
circumstances; buried in one of them is a brief account of the syllabus
and the materials. But I'll post a more detailed account later.

Meanwhile, if it's of any interest (it certainly is to me), the National
Association of Scholars has taken to telling callers that they've scored
"a wonderful victory" in Texas: "We've succeeded in stopping a course
there," says the phone answering person. The National Association of
Scholars was described by my colleague, Prof. Alan Gribben, a member of
both the NAS and the recently formed Texas Association of Scholars, as
"an organization of resisting scholars": what they resist are Women's
Studies programs, African-American studies programs, Mexican-American
studies programs, ethnic studies programs of all sorts; they are
dedicated to resisting the hiring and promotion of feminist scholars,
Marxist and neo-marxist scholars. In short, they are staunch defenders
of academic freedom and open debate. And Gribben has already announced
his intention (and presumably his organization's intention) to fight
proposed changes in both the sophomore-level literature offerings and
the shape of the undergraduate English major. More later.
Slatin at Texas
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------78----
Date: Friday, 27 July 1990 6:17am CST
From: John Slatin <EIEB360@UTXVM.BITNET>
Subject: UT's disgrace

... [eds.]
The Dean's stated reason for acting had to do with what he perceived as
the need to address the "concerns" and "misunderstandings" that have
been raised on campus about the course. I'll just add that some of
those opposed to the course-- most notably James Duban, another
Americanist and an instructor who's gotten quite a few teaching awards,
some for his writing courses-- make the argument Nancy thought had been
"settled" some time ago: for Duban, Gribben, and many of the psychology
faculty and engineering faculty who signed the paid "Statement of
Academic Concern" in the campus newspaper, a writing course should focus
on writing: according to _The Daily Texan_ (the campus paper) of
Tuesday, 24 July 1990, "James Duban, the other professor who [with John
Ruszkiewicz] resigned from the [Lower Division English Policy]
committee, expressed pleasure with Meacham's decision [to postpone the
new syllabus]...

"'Students will certainly benefit from being able to enroll in freshman
composition classes that continue to stress _writing_ as the primary
subject matter,' Duban said in a prepared statement" (p. 2).

Ruszkiewica writes, in a longer article that appeared in _The Daily
Texan_ on the same day (Tuesday, 24 July 1990)-- this is an article by
Ruszkiewicz that was written, apparently, at the invitation of the
Texan's editor, Kevin McHargue, a supporter of the course; Ruszkiewicz

"The catalog title of E 306-- 'Rhetoric and Composition'-- includes the
term _rhetoric_ for a good reason. It identifies the subject matter to
be taught and learned-- an art of writing, research and thinking which
will benefit students, in both the long and short term, far more than
portentous classroom discussions of current affairs. Instruction in
rhetoric focuses on the logic and validity of arguments, the development
and enrichment of ideas, the appropriate arrangement of subject matter
and the power and correctness of language. These are necessary and
pertinent concerns of writers whatever their discipline, level of
expertise, or political orientation.

"It is my conviction [Ruszkiewicz continues] that first-year students
develop most effectively as writers when they are introduced to
processes of composing that make them competent to handle the rhetoric
of various academic assignments-- from analyses of causality and
evaluative pieces to research papers and exploratory essays. Such
instruction is the surest way I know of giving students the skills they
need to function as responsible and articulate citizens." ("Altered
E306 format compromised by ideological freight," _The Daily Texan_, 24
July 1990, p. 4).

Here both objections emerge: the objection to the particular content of
the new syllabus, and the objection to the departure from the
skills-based approach. Later in the same essay, Ruszkiewicz writes:
"It is my opinion that the E306 curriculum changes were compromised by
their ideological freight and by a rush to do what seemed politically
correct on this campus at the moment" (4); the proposed curriculum was
announced days after two ugly racial incidents occurred on campus in
association with a campus-wide fraternity event called Round-Up (an
annual thing which in past years has involved gay-bashing, sexual
harassment, and similar nastinesses; even the Texas Exes, an
organization of alumni boosters, has withdrawn its financial and moral
support for the event).

Earlier in the essay, Ruszkiewicz had spoken of "a familiar manual of
mechanics and usage" as the one element of the proposed syllabus that
was made openly available to interested persons. He neglects, for
reasons I cannot begin to imagine, to say that this "familiar manual" is
_The Scott, Foresman Handbook for Writers_, and that the authorship of
this handbook is attributed to Maxine Hairston and John J. Ruszkiewica.
So he is quite willing, apparently, to endorse the syllabus after all.
John Slatin