Friday, July 22, 2011

History of Writing Instruction

Question: Did you know this?

Answer: “The cooperation movement (c. 1900-1930) was the first in a series of twentieth century attempts to broaden responsibility for language instruction by involving faculty across the curriculum, the most recent of which is the current writing-across-the-curriculum movement. Cooperation in language instruction was another of the wide-spread urban educational reforms of the Progressive Era (c. 1900-1920).”

“Though the cooperation movement finally had little effect on writing instruction in the 1930s and beyond, it raised central issues of curricular organization and language pedagogy to which later reformers returned.” P. 399.

Specialization vs. Cooperation
“In a nation which cherishes ideals of unity and equal opportunity, it is easy to forget that specialization is not a temporary aberration, to be corrected with some new program or pedagogy that will remove or negate differences; it is the fundamental organizing principle of modern education and, behind that, of modern knowledge and life. Every curricular reform of writing instruction in secondary or higher education must sooner or later come to terms with differentiation and the attitudes it fosters.” P. 421.

Comment: It’s not going to be easy to overcome the desire for specialization.

This article is a lesson in the history of teaching English. Another “Been there, done that.” I think professional journals would do well, when publishing articles on the latest ideas, to begin by suggesting ideas related to the topic that have been tried before. Would give readers the context of the history of the idea. Would help readers separate what is new about the idea this time from what has already been tried—not necessarily unsuccessfully. Of course, authors are supposed to do that when they review articles related to the topic in the beginning of the article, but those references are usually relatively recent. I’m talking about historical perspective. I admit I did not know about the cooperation movement of 1900 to 1920. RayS.

Title: “The Cooperation Movement: Language Across the Curriculum and Mass Education, 1900-1930.” David R. Russell. Research in the Teaching of English (December 1989), 399-423.

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