The Politics of Basic Writing: Mainstreaming At-Risk College Students

The Conference on Basic Writing invites submissions of chapters for The Politics of Basic Writing: Mainstreaming At-Risk College Students. While the movement to mainstream basic writing students has been well received by many compositionists and rhetoricians, the trend to include underprepared students in first-semester writing courses is complicated by local and regional academic and political contexts and thus merits more careful study before mainstreaming can be unequivocally recommended. While noteworthy contributions have already been made by such scholars as Peter Dow Adams, Peter Elbow, Edward White, David Bartholomae, Mary Soliday, Barbara Gleason, and many others, in this book we invite potential contributors to consider these and other issues surrounding mainstreaming:

Historical contexts and precedents for tracking and/or mainstreaming underprepared students at the postsecondary level. That is, what exactly is the history of the mainstreaming movement? What historical precedents can we look to in understanding the emergence of the mainstreaming movement? Both Peter Dow Adams, in his address to the 1992 Conference on Basic Writing, and Ira Shor, in his presentation at CBW's 1996 4Cs workshop, traced basic writing programs back to the purposeful stratification of immigrant children's education. The insights offered in those sessions bear further development and elaboration, and we welcome submissions on these topics.

Considerations for the programmatic, institutional, and political implications of mainstreaming. What programs are now undergoing radical revision as a result of the mainstreaming movement? How are those programs configured and in what ways are students being assessed to determine the success of their preparation for college-level writing? What local and statewide political contexts and dynamics are at work at this time in state legislatures and university-wide decision-making committees that precipitate the need to mainstream at-risk students?

Context-specific considerations for mainstreaming. What parameters work best in defining what we can expect to be successful mainstreaming for at-risk students in particular institutions, including open-admissions community colleges, four-year colleges, and universities? In what situations would mainstreaming work against the needs of our underprepared students?

The politics of basic writing and mainstreaming as overall issues. What are the criticisms of current basic writing programs that apply in specific ways to various programs? We have all read the debates surrounding the relative successes and failures of basic writing programs. In this book, we hope to bring together the many considerations surrounding the mainstreaming of underprepared students and to appreciate the many aspects that we as compositionists and writing program administrators need to scrutinize in examining our own basic writing programs.

Chapter submissions will be peer reviewed by experts in the field of Basic Writing. Deadline for 500-word proposals is April 20, 1997. Deadline for chapter manuscripts will be August 1, 1997. Please direct all correspondence to:

Gerri McNenny
Department of English
University of Houston-Downtown
One Main Street
Houston, TX 77002
Fax: 713-226-5205