Rice’s “English A”

Rice’s article got me thinking about the terminology we assign to developmental writing classes–terms like “elementary instruction”, “basic writing”, “remedial”, “English A”, etc.  Simply by virtue of the course title and/or description, we are defining the students who must take the courses as “deficient” in a fundamental skill that really should have been acquired before entering into higher education.  I cannot help but wonder about the psychological impact of the course title/description on students entering into the college world.   The power structures involved with English A are apparent when Adams, Godkin, and Quincy (qtd in Brereton 75) describe the practice of composition as “obtained in short weekly themes, written in the class-room and criticized by the instructors”(qtd in Rice 56).  The instructor is the ultimate determiner of the student’s success in this particular paradigm.  Though Rice does not focus on the student-teacher power differential in either English A or <A>, I found it a possibly interesting point to consider as we move toward a more technologically-based instructional model.  Where does the instructor fit into English <A> pedagogy? How does evaluation of writing look in such a writing program? If it is true (and I believe it is) that English A curriculum places value on correctness, “a necessary skill within a variety of communicative practices”, but simultaneously “deemphasizes the need for relationships” (58), how do instructors teach both individual accuracy (English A) while also conveying the importance of group connectivity in a “large network of people, things, ideas, and places” (64) (English <A>)? I am intrigued by Rice’s distinction between traditional paper-based and new web-based “Englishes” and would like to understand practical methods for the incorporation of English <A> into composition classrooms, including evaluation models for student writing in this environment.

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