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Do you remember English 101?

 
 
Reply Sun 5 Dec, 2010 07:22 pm
I have been teaching English 101 this semester, in addition to intermediate developmental English.

When I took English 101 in the fall of 1965, the section in which I was enrolled was assigned a book of essays on mass culture vs. high culture. I believe one of the editors was a man whose last name was White. However, I have not been successful in relocating the book or finding any information about it.

Our class met four days/week for 75 minutes each session. While my college was on a term system, classes met for extended time in order to grant semester credit. We wrote essays in response to the essays in the book. We were not told that we would write narrative, cause-and-effect, descriptive, argument or any other sort of essay. We were simply told to write 500 words. Our essays were corrected and graded but we were not expected to rewrite them. I believe we wrote two each week. The last essay was in response to one in the book which I believe was called, "Card-playing as kitsch."

Today, expository writing is taught in what I consider a labored manner, with far and away too much spoon feeding. Breaking down the essay types is splitting hairs. A process essay is often times a cause-and-effect essay. All essay-types involve narration and, by the admission of every author of every how to write text, nearly all essays are arguments.

What was your experience? Were you told to write or were you told to write specific types of essays? How much writing were you expected to do?

We did not write a research paper in 101 but the college where I teach demands one. I looked through several syllabi on line and saw that the research paper has become the staple of 101. Some schools want two 10-page papers.

There is a debate among English professors as to whether to teach literature in 101. I gave my class several choices of what I called projects. The idea was to select one work or one small group of works and then use that work as the basis of both the research paper and the compare/contrast essay. The projects I picked for this semester included two Shakespearean plays (Henry V and Twelfth Night); a collection of ten love poems; a collection of ten nature poems; Brave New World; 1984; Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, Volume 1, and, five books by Bill Peet. I had hoped to provide tools to use as their college careers developed.


While I used a how to write book, made up of classified essays, I was less than happy with it. I spent some time this weekend, looking into two volumes of essays. I think either book would be better used for developmental English. (However, I am uncertain that most developmental students could read it. That is something else to wrestle with.)

I want to do away with the classification of essays nonsense and probably will. It is a useful concept for developmental English but not for 101.

Anyway, I would love to hear your 101 stories.
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 5 Dec, 2010 07:50 pm
@plainoldme,
I thought it might have been William Whyte's book, The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, but as far as I can figure, that was written later. I have it, but packed with my architecture stuff.

I no longer remember 101 vs. 1A and 1B. So it goes.
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Sun 5 Dec, 2010 07:57 pm
@ossobuco,
No, it wouldn't have been that book even if Whyte had published it earlier. This book was exclusively about mass culture v. high culture and was a compendium of essays, not a report on the findings of one man's work.

I've tried googling it several times, to no avail.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 5 Dec, 2010 08:02 pm
@plainoldme,
There's another White that is ringing a bell. I'll cogitate.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 5 Dec, 2010 08:12 pm
@ossobuco,
Plus, another by Whyte, The Organization Man.
http://www.amazon.com/Organization-Man-William-H-Whyte/dp/0812218191

That might not be the one I'm remembering though, although I do remember that title.
0 Replies
 
romeogram
 
  1  
Reply Sun 13 Mar, 2011 06:40 pm
@plainoldme,
Try John King bookstore in the Detroit area. He can find any book.
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Sun 13 Mar, 2011 07:05 pm
@romeogram,
Are you in Detroit? That's my hometown.
0 Replies
 
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Mar, 2011 04:57 pm
I'm grading argument essays now. The highest grade is 83.
0 Replies
 
firefly
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Mar, 2011 05:28 pm
@plainoldme,
When I was in college, I remember we had a text called, "Elements of Style" and one of the authors was E.B. White.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._B._White
The text was also referred to as Strunk and White.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Elements_of_Style

I can't remember exactly how we were taught in college. I know that I probably ignored everything in Strunk and White. I vaguely recall it being extremely dull and not particularly useful. By the time I got to college, I could already write fairly well and easily.

I do remember constantly writing essays in college, in virtually every subject. Most of the exams were also essay exams. We were simply expected to know how to write an essay, and the high school I attended had prepared me well because essays were often required. Writing papers, even quite lengthy papers, was not seen as a big deal when I was in college (at least not by me or by my friends). Just being required to do them often was a learning experience in itself.
plainoldme
 
  2  
Reply Sun 27 Mar, 2011 05:34 pm
@firefly,
That's my point exactly. Today's students do not write drafts that are corrected by the teacher. They were never expected to correct their own mistakes.

Last semester, my intermediate writing class (remedial, not college level) answered the question "What is a sentence?" with "Five words."

They can not identify verbs and nouns. They think four or five sentences is a paragraph. In other words, probably where you were at in the third grade.
hawkeye10
 
  2  
Reply Sun 27 Mar, 2011 05:49 pm
@plainoldme,
10 papers as I recall, and my prof was more interested in her students producing quality and with experimenting with different styles than with form or subject matter, though there were instructions on what we were to write. We had a text which we mostly ignored, and a book on style, which I still have someplace. We were exposed to different forms of writing, but less than half the time was spent yakking about it. A lot of it was spent in class reading and discussion, sometimes of published works and sometimes of ours. She was trying to get us motivated to write something good....and to figure out what our opinion/pov was.

She was one of the better non engineering profs I had. Interesting to me is that two of my best high school teachers were english teachers as well (we had to do four years back then).
0 Replies
 
firefly
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Mar, 2011 08:20 pm
@plainoldme,
I have read essay exam answers, by college students, that were so poorly written and conceptualized that it was almost impossible to tell whether the student even understood the material that was the basis of the essay. These students could manage multiple choice exams, but they could not discuss the material in essay form. They not only lacked linguistic skills, they lacked the ability to organize their thinking so it was coherent for a reader.

Why do you think that the students you see in your remedial classes are so deficient in understanding the basics? Are they able to show progress over the course of a semester?

What are the main arguments against teaching literature in English 101?
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Mar, 2011 09:06 pm
@firefly,
The college tests the students in reading, writing and math. There are two remedial reading courses and two writing courses. I have taught both remedial writing courses (I declined to teach reading) and ENG 101.

Most of the students, but not all, in remedial writing classes also take remedial reading. Several of my students did.

For some, maturity is the issue. For others, the problem is that English is their second language or they have been out of school for a number of years. There are some who clearly were not well taught and others who were in special education classes or were simply goof offs.

When reading comprehension is an issue, it shows. While many of the remedial writing students are also in remedial reading, this semester, I have college level English students whose reading ability lags.

One woman, a non-traditional student, has never understood an assigned essay. Most of the students in the class that she is in seem to have vocabulary issues. We spend a lot of time on definitions. There were only 15 students in the class. One dropped out. Another is dealing with his mother's stroke and probably will never return. There is one student whose face I can not remember. While this class reads the material, only two students seem to totally understand the text, called 75 Readings by Buscemi and Smith.

I'm exhausted.

The other class consists of 20 students. There is a handful that put in an appearance every 3rd or 4th class. Only four of the 20 read the material with any regularity. One works so hard that he is inspiring.

I refrained from giving them pop quizzes, although I have read that pop quizzes, unlike standardized tests are valuable learning tools. I feel pop quizzes are appropriate up to the 9th grade.

As for progress, some remedial students have "Marblehead" moments. They suddenly mature. In one case, a young man overcame his intense shyness. Most leave the class writing better than they did when they entered. Some of those who improve surprise me . . . and themselves. I had three particularly pretty girls who sat together and gossiped. At the beginning of the semester, it was apparent that not much had been asked of them during high school. By the end, they had improved dramatically. Part of their inspiration came from sitting behind a boy who may have been misplaced. They would look up at his computer and see three or four paragraphs while they had two or three sentences. He was a constant reminder of what they could do.

I had a similar situation my first semester, only there were two girls and not three. One had some pretty solid achievements in dance and photography behind her and a definite middle class family structure. I read her third party -- anonymously -- to the class. She was in the middle of changing but the change accelerated. Her friend managed to pass as well. . . something came over her before the class ended.

I teach the argument to my intermediate groups. They need to know how an argument is structured in order to avoid false arguments. I tell them to argue about anything they wish and they do it with gusto. They seem to come out of their shells.

This is only the second semester teaching 101. The last class shown for the argument. This class just didn't get it. The highest score was 83.

I think the argument against teaching literature is that the class is supposed to teach expository writing. However, fiction and expository writing do share some common traits. This semester, I began with a Hemingway short story that was just two pages long. I'm glad I did because it was set during the Spanish Civil War, which they knew nothing about. However, while it was a very traditional beginning-middle-end story, I think the intense feeling of dislocation and grief one of the characters had confused them
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Mar, 2011 09:24 pm
@plainoldme,
I went to a college (Mount St. Mary's College) and a university (UCLA). I'm slightly older than most here. I didn't know until years later that college is sort of an advanced high school in other countries than the u.s.
For us, it was the four years after high school. Like a smaller part of a large university.

I'm not sure I ever had english 101.
I had 1A and B at Mt. St. Mary's. 1 A was about writing. The teacher was, in memory, excellent. I was on the poetry magazine, woo. 1B involved a translation of Dante, which I liked, but my essays were slammed re the word "diction". Solid B there.

At ucla, there I was in other underclassmenclasses, 4a and b? I don't know. Big books with very thin pages. The thing that killed me is that wordsworth always put me to sleep. I don't think they had a 101 then. I had 101 in a lot of other subjects, but not english.

On essay writing, I started learning that in, what?, fourth grade.
I realize that I'm rather idiosyncratic now, but I've some instruction in the past and passed it.

This is all tough to hear, how children aren't getting the basics of communication.
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Mar, 2011 09:39 pm
@ossobuco,
Mt. St. Mary's in NH?
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Mar, 2011 09:50 pm
@plainoldme,
No, west los angeles.

If you know me, and I think you somewhat do, pom, I've various reactions to my schools and nuns. My grammar school ones were great, though we'd all fight now on points of view, I admire all of them. My high school ones were scary in retrospect and somewhat even then. The year at Mt. St. Mary's was good, these were sane women and they helped balance the high school nuns (later reported as the most conservative in the u.s., bla bla). I trust they changed, that was all a moment in time, but was formative for my hostility.

When I was at Mt. St. Mary's or shortly after, Immaculate Heart was kicking up. Those nuns made history. (I was in line to check it out once, but it was a long way from where we lived).
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Mar, 2011 09:55 pm
@ossobuco,
Immaculate HEart? As in Immaculate Heart of Mary nuns or is the name of a college? I was taught by two different orders in elementary school: Franciscans and Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth. I went to a high school staffed by the former. The sisters at the high school were better educated and less crazy than those at the elementary school.

The Immaculate HEart of Mary nuns at college were great. One or two were nuts but they were such a big leap forward.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Mar, 2011 10:08 pm
@plainoldme,
I'm not sure re your refs but the Immaculate Heart nuns that rebelled and hit the news probably nationwide were in Los Angeles, Los Feliz area.

Re Mt. St. Mary's - a sister of a friend was a member sometime later of that order and was also an apparent close supporter of Chavez. Obviously, I know nothing on that.

ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Mar, 2011 10:18 pm
@ossobuco,
Aha, here.

I haven't read it through myself.. but the first sentences ring true http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immaculate_Heart_College
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 27 Mar, 2011 10:26 pm
@ossobuco,
ok, now I read it.



Moving along. Back to how to write in english.
0 Replies
 
 

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