Language of Exclusion
I take a bit of exception with Rose's suggestion that English departments treat freshmen writing courses as intellectucally a "second-class pursuit" (549). Not that they don't, but rather that this is, in some way, unavoidable. Unless you're at a small (extremely small) institution, the sheer number of freshmen makes it impossible for the entire freshmen writing program to be a "first-class" operation - by which, Rose appears to mean the quality of the instructor, ie, that the best professors should be teaching this course. I don't see that happening, nor does it need to. Writing isn't solely the concern of writing classes - it's a concern in every class. Writing should be stressed across the board, in all courses, and the overall cumulative effect of a university that stresses writing works better, IMO, than one that would have the best profs at a school tied up teaching freshmen how to write 3-5 page papers.
I admit that much of what Rose argues is above my head. Not literally - I can understand what he's arguing - but in the sense that he's primarily talking about and to people in power and not the instructor themselves. When he talks about the historical baggage that "remedial" and "illiteracy" have, Rose is getting at institutional problems represented in the attitudes of entrenched faculty. It's only at the end, in the discussio about interpretation (565) that I feel like he's speaking to me - or, rather, that I can have any effect on the issues he raises.
To the issue of "interpretation vs. circling" when it comes to student errors, I believe we need both. Interpreting is fine, but a mistake is a mistake. I favor limited circling (say, circling a common mistake the first few times a student does it, and not each and every time through the paper), but I don't see any reason why a mistake can't be pointed out as a mistake. I like the way we're handling these issues in the sense that we downplay low-order for high-order. I keep reminding myself that the goal is to make these kids better writers, not treat every paper like it's their final dissertation. There's no reason that I see to be an unrepetent hard-ass when it comes to grading papers, but that doesn't mean that I think we shouldn't circle or flat-out say, when the situation calls for it, that the student did something wrong. Explain their mistake, yes, but make sure they know it's a mistake. And conversely, it's important for me to know when their "mistake" is simply my "preference" about how something "should" be done.
-- Mark Bousquet ...