The Corner

Education

The Hijacking of College Writing Classes

I’m sure there must be some “progressive” college professors who teach writing classes who resist the temptation to turn them into exercises in ideological programming, but many of them can’t. You’ve got a bunch of impressionable kids, so why not do some good for the world by making sure they’re steeped in your social-justice concerns?

That is the problem that professor Stephen Combs addresses in today’s Martin Center article.  He writes,

First-year composition should teach writing and nothing else. But at too many colleges the mission fails because writing teachers, with the support of their English departments and administrators, use their classrooms as pulpits to indoctrinate their captive-audience students in the professor’s own political ideology. Politics overtakes writing improvement. And in some courses, involvement in community activism of the professor’s choosing is a requirement.

Course syllabi don’t even bother to hide the fact that the instructor is primarily interested in social justice, feminism, sustainability, or other leftist manias. Whether the students improve their dismal writing is secondary.

Combs quotes English professor Andrea Greenbaum, who advocates that women who teach writing classes “use their authority and argumentative strategies to create a socially constructive pedagogy, a pedagogy of resistance, one that will help students not simply learn how to argue more persuasively, but that will assist in empowering women students outside the walls of the classroom.”

Alas, few college leaders have the nerve to call out faculty who misuse their courses this way. Most probably approve.

Combs concludes,

When politics and anything-goes rhetoric replace rigorous writing instruction free from the distractions of hot-button issues, students suffer. Only when they are unable to make an argument, write critical analysis, and explain meaning in papers for other courses will they discover, too late, that they’ve been the butt of a cruel joke.

George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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