I was happy to see a new survey/study of student writing practices released this week, called “Revisualizing Composition: Mapping the Writing Lives of First Year College Students.” It’s always good to have new information, and it’s especially refreshing to see such a wide range of institutions included, ranging from research and Ph.D. granting schools to community colleges. I have to say, though, that I found the initial findings disappointing.
First, there seems to be nothing new here: blogs and web writing are less popular than they were; texting on phones is up; students see academic writing as important, etc. There are a few ideas that might be worth exploring. Why has social networking, for example, had so little impact on students’ appreciation of collaboration? Why do institutions that grant Master’s degrees have more students that write often in so many genres?
Second, the study’s methodology section reproduces the U.S. blindness to class; it mentions gender and ethnicity but not familial income, parental education levels, or other indicators of socio-economic status. They did little to correlate technology use or writing habits with, say, the relative costs of an education at these differing institutions. Given the economic ranger of institutions, and the growing evidence of class divisions in the U.S., it’s a striking omission.