Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Where Have All the Students Gone?

Click above for a sobering article about the demise of the English department from The American Scholar.


B. Clements said...

Interestingly, though, in WRITING departments, the number of majors and MFA enrollments are going UP, UP, UP.

DLowe said...

Interesting article, Ron. I agree with it. I'd like to add:
I tutor a lot of high school and junior high students, plus have had two of my own babies in both places, and what the author describes as "a scattered array of secondary considerations" seems to be in agreement with what is offered within the public school system, too. Less and less, these students are offered a platform that allows for the pure enjoyment of reading -- those lost, wonderful hours caught up in a story. Instead, they are besieged by cumbersome outlining projects that interrupt the opportunity or occasion to lose themselves in a great book. (Here's one of the whackiest: a 7th grader that I tutored had to construct a four-dimensional art-piece out of construction paper halfway through a novel that "expressed the story so far") In addition, literature and other humanities-related studies are often melded with history and geography class. They're given names like, "Western Studies" and the "American Experience." Can you imagine melding, say, Spanish and calculus? Or, biology and algebra? Yes, there are many things competing for a young mind's attentions, but in the ones I meet, I have never witnessed such disdain for reading literature. They despise it. And I know there are many other reasons, too.

Ron Samul said...

Interesting point. I think many who might study literature would prefer to change it through the craft rather than the fragmented, outdated, tenure laden, English department models. Obviously this is a shift that is not accounted for in the article. It would be interesting to compare the differences between traditional English departments to that of Writing programs. Maybe that type of article is out there now.

Ron Samul said...

Writing across the curriculum is a strange beast. I've raised plenty of eyebrows introducing fiction, poetry, and creative prompts in composition classes. To throw a lifeline to freshman that they should have an opinion about art and writing is not valued or measurable in a composition class. However, it might lead to a literary awakening that isn't valued in Assessment Based Education.

Kathy said...

This brought to mind an article that I clipped out from NJ's Star Ledger this summer (July 26, 2009:
"Colleges Report Shift to the Write."
Like Brian has noted, there has been an INCREASE in the number of students interested in writing classes (this in addition to the standard required Comp 101) and an expansion in writing programs. I quote: "Most professors agree the expansion has been hastened by an uncertain job market, though they diverge on why. Some see creative writing as a way to hedge career bets, since writing skills are useful in many professions. Others consider the field a welcome escape hatch from the mounting emphasis on business and other so-called 'practical' ares of study."