Back to Basics: How Class Conflict Is Recreating Basic Writing

Jessie Casteel


    At its inception, scholarship in the field  of basic writing was largely concerned with simply establishing basic writing as a field and defining its borders and mission. In the 90’s, the field of inquiry into basic writing shifted to reflect a preoccupation with its social mandate, specifically the potential for basic writing to establish a more equal, empowering space for underrepresented student populations and more ready, broad access to formal education which might thereby lead to positive, egalitarian change both within and without the sphere of academic discourse.  However, our current social, political, and economic climate renders many of the approaches educators sought to embrace in the past currently unviable, even as it underscores the very concerns those approaches attempted to address. I will explore the fact that basic writing classrooms now, more than ever before, reflect fundamental socioeconomic inequalities in our educational system, making questions of a social mandate still vital. Furthermore, I will be positing that the old debates over the place and definition of basic writing are current once more as failing funding and legislative priorities necessitate the search for complex, novel solutions to those questions within the framework of a pragmatic reexamination of the options still open to educators today. I will present and explore several solutions currently being tested in the field of basic writing education, such as institutional partnerships, altered course design, revised assessment systems, and increased writing center involvement. Finally, I will argue that the crucial factor in the success or failure of these varied solutions lies in a single, simple factor: the amount of personal instructional attention available.


Developmental; composition; pedagogy

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