Class Dismissed

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.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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