I really enjoyed the way Haswell discusses growth because really challenges the ways in which basic writers could be and are perceived/defined. He discusses so many different things that I would not have figured actually qualify as growth. Haswell writes, “it actually pays to forget” writing instruction that will not be relevant to the students and writing in English courses whose grades are but a small percentage of their “final grades”, but then notes that “this is learning” (22). He is able to see decay as growth because, simply put, it is a change of some sort! I can see the value in their being any type of statistically significant change, because later, he discusses a holistic assessment of papers written by high-school seniors and college juniors, which found that the junior’s papers were “no better unified, organized, supported, or made coherent” (41). In this respect, tracking any kind of notable change for better or for worse has to be better than tracking no change whatsoever. This further perturbs the entire institution of BW: if there is almost no improvement in writing between the high school senior and the college junior, then why make the newly-graduated high school senior take any kind of remedial class when at least some research is showing that his writing isn’t going to improve anyways? [I was not able to make this connection and didn’t see this dilemma until I began writing this journal, and it seems especially troubling…]
I especially found his discussion the current-traditional system and teacher value systems important because the educators in this field define it just as much as the students, if not more so. I found in my margins on page 43, with a star and underlined, that ‘it’s not just their writing but how we’re reading it’. What are we bringing to the table when we begin assessing writing? Are we really operating within the current-traditional system that we’ve supposedly moved on from? I found Haswell speaking to some of my own assessment problems—I often forget to look for what is there and often immediately notice what isn’t there (pp. 42-44).
Otte & Mlynarczyk continue to give me historical grounding in the field of BW. The connection I found between to the two texts was the challenge of the validity of BW. Like I wrote earlier, what purpose can BW really serve if there doesn’t seem to be much improvement between the HS senior and the college junior? In O&M, it is reiterated there, like in many of the texts we’ve read thus far (especially Rose and Shor), that the students who evade getting place in remedial writing often fare better in English 1301 and all of college than those who get placed in BW courses. I find it troubling that so much of the evidence seems to be pointing to the dismantling of BW programs… but for every argument that proposes the end of BW, another pops up in it’s defense. I have no doubt that many of the problems surrounding keeping BW around have to with the fact that after all this time it is still nearly impossible to define. Sure, people are agreeing that it’s based on the local context (O&M), but what connects the BW programs beyond that?