The Debate Of The Abolition Debate Essay

The Debate Of The Abolition Debate Essay

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According to Connors, a significant event at Harvard University in the late 1800s sparked the different literacy crises, earning titles such as “Illiteracy of American Boys” and “Johnny Can’t Write” (Connors 58). In the nineteenth century, more students began enrolling into college, and a delay in these students’ understandings of classical material quickly became obvious. As a result of the test scores, Harvard created an English entrance exam. In short, the students failed the test (Connors 48). Consequently, the institution established a freshman composition course as a temporary solution to fix what the Academia deemed a crisis (Connors 48).
In “The Abolition Debate in Composition”, Connors outlines the abolitionist and reformist movements that followed the implementation of the freshman composition course, and he describes the different conditions that drove these movements. To the abolitionism movements, he attributes institutional conditions, such as professors’ refusals to teach the course because of the tedious curriculum and its original purpose to only be a temporary fix. He attributes the cultural condition of the arising liberal culture as well as the economic condition of the schools’ frugality in not wanting to pay professors to teach the course (Connors 48-49, 56). Moreover, Connors attributes social elitism, similar to Lounsbury’s position, to the refusal to teach students how to write when their minds were still “furnished” (Connors 50). Similarly, the author uses social conditions of the war and Baby Boom as reasons for abolitionists’ attempts to end the composition course; there was simply less of a demand for the course. At the same time, it was a common understanding among colleges that basic literacy skill...


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...ne’s ability to read and write in the dominant language. Instead, it is based upon people’s abilities to communicate in a variety of ways; these multiple methods of communicating with the world manifest themselves further and change as people experience more and change themselves. In the context of education and this new perspective on literacy, written works are not the only form of literacy in the classroom. Instead, teachers consider other forms of literacy familiar to students and use those forms to mold well-informed and self-sufficient students (Barton 206-208). Perhaps if Harvard had not labeled their prospective students as literate or illiterate based on writing and reading skills, the entire issue of abolishing versus reforming the freshman composition course would not have existed because other forms of literacy would have been utilized within the school.

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