1.1 >> PixRhet >>
Is it time to Assess Our Claims about Good
In 1985, William Coles and James Vopat published the college
composition textbook, What Makes Writing Good: A Multiple
Perspective. They asked the forty eight contributors to submit: 1) a
piece of college student writing (no more than 1000 words) that represented
"excellence, however flawed or unfinished . . ."; 2) the assignment on which
the paper was based; and 3) a commentary from the teacher (of no more than
1500 words) explaining why he or she valued that paper. The purpose of their
book was to demonstrate "that excellence in writing can come in many forms
and genres and can be understood as praiseworthy from various points of
view." They posit further that what one expert values as excellent writing,
another may judge as mediocre, thus dramatizing that "no judgments about
writing can be taken as final or absolute" (viii).
I am intrigued once again by the project Coles and Vopat
developed as I think about the recent explosion of hypertext and other CMC
work in relation to writing courses at the college level. I wonder what such
a textbook would look like these days, what student texts would be chosen,
what commentary would be written, and what assumptions about good writing
would be revealed. I wonder also if computer technologies favor certain
pedagogical assumptions over others. Some claim that synchronous writing in
MOOs, MUDs, IRC, Interchange, and other forms of chat programs facilitate a
Peter Elbow-like, teacherless approach to writing, which encourages authentic
writing tasks for authentic audiences. Others claim that hypertextual
writing challenges notions of authorship, promotes collaborative work, and
promotes critical and associative thinking which emphasize cognitive skills.
Still others argue vehemently that technology has no place in the writing
classroom, that it gets in the way of the real work of the class. What
values really underlie such claims? What kinds of writing are produced?
What assumptions are being made?
I wonder if anyone else would be interested in examining current
assumptions about what makes college writing good using the Coles and Vopat
method. But rather than developing a text for use primarily in the
composition classroom, this project would become a web for us to examine the
discipline of composition. Any takers?
Coles, William E. Jr. and James Vopat. What Makes Writing Good: A
D.C. Heath: Lexington, 1985.
Send mail to Jeff Galin
Back to the front of Pixelated Rhetorics
See Dean Fontenot's contribution
See Richard Selfe's contribution
vol. 1 Iss. 1 Spring 1996