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The Rhetoric of Remediation

The Rhetoric of Remediation

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    The Rhetoric of Remediation
    Book Description:

    American universities have long professed dismay at the writing proficiency levels of entrants, and the volume of this complaint has been directly correlated to social, political, or economic currents. Many universities, in their rhetoric, have defined high need for remediation as a crisis point in order to garner state funding or to manage admissions.InThe Rhetoric of Remediation,Jane Stanley examines the statements and actions made regarding remediation at the University of California, Berkeley (Cal). Since its inception in 1868, university rhetoric has served to negotiate the tensions between an ethic of access and the assertion of elite status. Great care has been taken to promote the politics of public accessibility, yet in its competition for standing among other institutions, Cal has been publicly critical of the "underpreparedness" of many entrants. Early on, Cal developed programs to teach "Subject A" (Composition) to the vast number of students who lacked basic writing skills.Stanley documents the evolution of the university's "rhetoric of remediation" at key moments in its history, such as: the early years of "open gate" admissions; the economic panic of the late 1800s and its effect on enrollment; Depression-era battles over funding and the creation of a rival system of regional state colleges; the GI Bill and ensuing post-WWII glut in enrollments; the "Red Scare" and its attacks on faculty, administrators, and students; the Civil Rights Movement and the resultant changes to campus politics; sexist admission policies and a de facto male-quota system; accusations of racism in the instruction of Asian Americans during the 1970s; the effects of an increasing number of students, beginning in the 1980s, for whom English was a second language; and the recent development of the College Writing Program which combined freshmen composition with Subject A instruction, in an effort to remove the concept of remediation altogether.Setting her discussion within the framework of American higher education, Stanley finds that the rhetorical phenomenon of "embrace-and-disgrace" is not unique to Cal, and her study encourages compositionists to evaluate their own institutional practices and rhetoric of remediation for the benefit of both students and educators.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7737-7
    Subjects: Education, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. INTRODUCTION: “To Embrace Every Child of California”
    (pp. 1-19)

    Remedial writers, like the poor, seem always to be with us.

    It is more than passing strange, then, that programs and courses for these writers are almost always regarded as provisional by the institutions that offer them.With few exceptions, they are seen as special short-term measures to handle a crisis of illiteracy, or malliteracy, afflicting certain segments of the student body.

    The crisis, in fact, has shown itself to have such remarkable staying power that the wordcrisishardly applies. Throughout the 150-year history of composition instruction in American higher education, crises in students’ literacy have been declared with regularity....

  2. CHAPTER 1 “The Honor of the State”
    (pp. 20-26)

    In its early years, the Subject A requirement enabled the University of California to separate the sheep from the goats, English-wise, but the separation had more symbolic than practical use. The university was committed to granting admission to both the 50 percent who passed the exam in composition, and to their less proficient brethren,¹ the 50 percent who failed. There were strong political reasons for this: the University of California was a public institution, after all, endowed through the Morrill Act to serve the education needs of future engineers, agriculturists, and mechanics—a group of applicants arguably underrepresented among the...

  3. CHAPTER 2 “The Unfortunate, the Lazy, and the Feeble-Minded”
    (pp. 27-33)

    The University of California may have been ushered grandiloquently onto the national stage by Charles Mills Gayley’s rhetorical tour de force in theDialin 1895, but the work done behind the proscenium, in the classroom and examination hall in the two decades before Gayley’s arrival on the scene tells a compelling backstory.

    In 1883, Cornelius Beach Bradley took up a place in the classroom, and most particularly the examination hall, at UC. It was a small English faculty that Bradley joined that year, as both Edward Rowland Sill and Josiah Royce had just shaken the dust of California off...

  4. CHAPTER 3 “They Can Neither Read Nor Write”
    (pp. 34-48)

    If Hubert Howe Bancroft (188?) inaugurated California’s image industry with hisAnnals of the California Gold Era: 1848–1859in the heady, brutal days of the gold rush, Southern Pacific’sSunset Magazinesurely inherited the mantle of leadership in self-promotion, and set about praising rural life in California. Established in 1898 as an organ of the Southern Pacific Railroad,Sunsetwordsmithed tirelessly to represent California as a desirable place for tourists, and “to encourage some passengers to settle down out West” (Starr 1998, 79).

    Sunset’sinducements may have been enough for the average settler, but Benjamin Ide Wheeler needed more...

  5. CHAPTER 4 “Beautiful but Dumb”
    (pp. 49-60)

    Robert Gordon Sproul took over the presidency of the University of California at the beginning of the Great Depression. California’s economic health was already in weakened condition, and had been for some years, before the crash of October 24, 1929, so the shock waves from that economic implosion hit the state hard.

    In the 1930s, California still derived most of her wealth from agriculture. Then, as now, her agriculture was large scale, dependent on heavy capital investment, and burdened with high operating costs. At that time, some 60 percent of California’s agricultural land was owned by 2 percent of her...

  6. CHAPTER 5 “The Hordes ... Invade the Campus”
    (pp. 61-74)

    Born so soon after California’s crippling general strike and her first (but certainly not last) Red Scare, this new system of regional colleges, rechristened “state colleges” in 1935, was assigned heavy political duties. According to the State Board of Education in 1939, “The state colleges more than any other group of institutions in California, face the task of interpreting democracy to society ... [The state colleges] are qualified to assume leadership in the development of the spirit of democracy on this West Coast of America.”¹

    Meanwhile, on the University of California’s patch of West Coast, students were interpreting democracy through...

  7. CHAPTER 6 “The Decencies of English”
    (pp. 75-91)

    Clark Kerr was the somewhat unlikely appointee for chancellor at Berkeley. Indeed, Sproul did not appoint Kerr as soon as chancellorships were created; he retained his close control over Berkeley for another year. Kerr, as an early and vocal opponent of the loyalty oath, but one who eventually signed, was acceptable—albeit reservedly—to both faculty and regents. Arch-conservative Regents Ahlport and Neylan abstained from voting on Kerr’s appointment, and Regent Dickson made his sentiments known shortly after Kerr took office by grabbing Kerr’s lapels after a meeting and addressing him as the “Red Chancellor” (Kerr 2002, 131).

    Chancellor Kerr...

  8. CHAPTER 7 “The Tides of the Semi-literate”
    (pp. 92-104)

    The first Tuesday of November 1957 was a great day for California Democrats. Edmund G. “Pat” Brown was elected governor, and for the first time in a hundred years, Democrats held the majority in both houses. Governor Brown was to prove himself an excellent friend of higher education, and a staunch supporter of Clark Kerr in times of trouble. Kerr had accepted the regents’ offer of the presidency of the University of California upon Sproul’s retirement in July, although he was not inaugurated until September of 1958. Governor-elect Brown was initially rather critical of the University of California, characterizing it...

  9. CHAPTER 8 “Viewed as Disgraceful by Many Scholars”
    (pp. 105-116)

    It was not just the protestors who were pathologized in the second half of that volatile decade at Berkeley. Students who failed the Subject A exam were, once again, submitted to a range of diagnoses. In 1965, Chancellor Kerr had proposed that the Subject A course be dissolved and these students be admitted into a “writing clinic.”¹ He had earlier proposed alternative treatments for Subject Amaladies, such as recorded TV lectures and lab work with audio tapes.²

    In those years of generalized public outrage about the state of affairs at UC Berkeley—not to mention the state of emergency—there...

  10. CHAPTER 9 “The Technically Qualified”
    (pp. 117-124)

    A survey published by the Office of Student Research showed that between 1970 and 1980, the UC Berkeley campus experienced a 74 percent increase in the number of immigrant and refugee students.¹ This was a national phenomenon, but New York’s and California’s higher education systems felt the effects most strongly. Articles in both theNew York Timesand theLos Angeles Timesreported on the rising numbers of these students, as well as on the problems that many of them had in meeting some of the demands of college-level work (Ohmann 1976). Berkeley had, in fact, expressed its concern a...

  11. CHAPTER 10 “Bonehead English”
    (pp. 125-132)

    In June of 1989, on the Berkeley campus, yet another task force was assembled to review Subject A. It was chaired by Professor Charles Faulhaber, of the Spanish and Portuguese Department. Predictably, the task force was charged with considering whether Subject A and SANSE were “optimally conceived ... to bring students up to the level of competence [necessary for] entering the freshman composition sequence.”¹ The committee was also asked whether either Subject A or SANSE instruction could be out-sourced to a community college or to University Extension.

    Unlike its predecessors, the 1989 committee was asked to address matters of racial...

  12. CHAPTER 11 “Below Acceptable Levels”
    (pp. 133-137)

    In 1995, Hull succeeded Arthur Quinn as College Writing Programs director, and immediately began her considerable efforts to move composition instruction in from the periphery of the academy. During her four years as director, she guided a succession of proposals for upper-division writing courses through a chilly and occasionally hostile course-approval procedure. Course approval is, and should be, a rigorous process of examination both of the course content and of the sponsoring unit’s capacity to offer appropriate instruction. Course approval for these particular upper-division writing courses, however, entailed invoking the rhetoric of remediation; questions were raised as to the capacity...

  13. CONCLUSION: The Disdainful Embrace
    (pp. 138-142)

    So, after this excursion through UC Berkeley’s long engagement in the rhetoric of remediation, I have to ask:What do I have to show for my travels? What stamps are on my passport?

    As I wandered through the archives, eavesdropping on long-expired conversations, I heard so much about the Eden of Proficiency, that lush and ferny place in the university’s past where students’ essays did not disappoint, and where standards were not chronically about to crash. I beat the bushes, but that Eden eluded me. It was nowhere to be found in UC’s past, and certainly not in its present. Student...