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Are Undergrads Learning to Write? by Shannon Pfent

After completing English 125 and the upper-level writing requirement, students may wonder why they were required to take these seemingly unrelated composition courses. The history of the English Composition Board (ECB) program partially responds to such queries. likewise, understanding some of the criticisms which have been directed at the ECB writing requirements also helps one to appreciate both the benefits and limitations of the writing program as it is presently structured. Prior to 1978, the University's writing program consisted of one course, English 123, which tried to instruct all students 10 writing by teaching the protocols and formats for a wide range of disciplines. At that time, students did not have their writing evaluated prior to selecting their courses. In 1978, a proposal to re-structure the writing requirement emerged {rom a comprehensive review of LSA requirements by the Collegiate Council. Two prevalent attitudes prompted the decision to reform the undergraduate writing curriculum. Many faculty members felt that even upperclassmen were unable to grasp, and communicate knowledge precisely and efiec- t , .. , tively. U-M personnel also began to realize that the best place for students to learn the protocols, fonnals, and general know lege of how to write for their disciplines was in classes within those disciplines themselves. In 1978, the CoUege of [SA changed to a two-part program. According to a pamphlet currently issued by the ECB, the oVerriding purpose of the College's writing program is to provide students with an introduction to college-level academic writing that will address any deficiencies in their cl;tical thinking and writing skills and prepare students for writing U

successfully both in their undergraduate years and more generally in future educational and profeSSional settings." The 1978 proposal eventually evolved into the current program, which provides a writing assessment process for all incoming students, remedial instruction for students deemed to have insufficient writing skills, English 125 (the introductory composition course into which most students are placed), and an upper-level writing requirement. The ECB pamphlet justifies these features of the program on the grounds "that students need to practice in order to learn to write well; that motivation is important, because writing is most readily learned through guided practice; and that the desire to write can be motivated by the desire to learn, especially when students are learning what they

ent of the Golden Apple Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching. Although Williams expresses a "very, very high regard for the knowledge and skills characteristic of those who have conceived and worked with the program as it now stands," he believes that the writing requirements have not achieved their goals, specifically "giving students real exposure to writing skills (some narrative analysis which will emphasize the excellence of critical thinking) in addition to insisting upon the students' status as an autonomous intellectual and exploring the ways in which people can communicate." Williams acknowledges that the ECB tried to create a program to help students hone their writing and communication skills and mandated "the involvement of faculty from all disciplines and departments in the teaching of writing." He believes, however, that English 125 currently fails to achieve these goals adequately. According to Williams, there are three "urgent directions" which reform of the ECB writing program needs to take. Williams first suggests trying to "find a way for this institution to work more insistently not only with the State of Michigan'S secondary schools but, given the UM's status as one of the top three finest public American universities, with secondary and primary schoql systems across the counlJl'tO~AAO try, to try to insist that students ... WR\T£~'.s a~ are asked to develop flexible writing skills before they arrive at the university level." Such interaction would not be without precedent. According to Director of the ECB Jay Robinson, "for a time, primarily in the late 19705 and early 1,980s want and need to know." (when external funding was abundant), Given the program's intentions, it is the ECB did attend national conferences like the College Conference on Composinot surprising that students and faculty tion and Communication (Four Cs) to members alike question the degree to promote improvement of writing prowhich the ECB is succeeding. grams at the secondary school level. It One such critic is Professor Ralph Williams, a 22...year veteran of the Enalso worked with faculty from ~, uni­ glish department and last years recipiversities,that were working on reStruc-:-.7:~ ;_

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turing their writing programs." Robinson adds'that the Four Cs conference is still sponsored by a branch of the National Council of Teachers of English, a group dedicated to improving the quality of writing and writing instruction, among other things. Robinson further notes that some members of the U-M's faculty are still involved in visiting public schools around the state to explain the U-M's writing requirements to teachers and administrators, collaborating with schools in trying to 'create better overall writing programs, and advisit:t,&.bigh school teachers on changes in .expectations for students' writing capabilities at the university level. The primary reason for the lull in the U-M's role on a national level, Robinson explains, stems from a lack of external funding. Williams' first proposal. therefore, seems implausible in view of current fiscal constraints. But Williams also questions whether "the two-tenn requirement, as set up by the ECB, is sufficient to impact upon and improve the writing skills which stu- ' dents have been developing over many years." , Williams is not alone in his belief that the present writing program needs to be modified to alleviate the burden placed

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INSIDE 2 Serpenrs Tooth 4 Editorial 5 Letter 6 Core Curriculum Anderson Review 8 9 Graff Review 11 Music _~,,~~~ ~ --;:--=--::.......-:=:=:.... "


THE MICHIGAN REVIEW

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November 18, 1992

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Serpent's Tooth In accordance with requests made by several Native Americans at the U-M, the University of Illinois' mascot, Chief Illiniwek, did not perform during the halftime show of last Saturday'S game. According to U-M Associate Mathematics Professor Robert Megginson, "Bringing him on this campus [would have been} a direct affront to the Native American people here." And we thought a mascot was meant to support its team and rally their fans. Silly us!

Psychic Interview On November 16, 1992, the Review's psychic researcher interviewed Daily

cartoonist Greg Stump. Stump, widely believed to be a twit and a ninny, was unaware that this transcendental interview with his psyche was taking place while he slept

MR: So, what's with this morning's cartoon? Why'd ya pen it? Greg: Well, last week's Serpent's Tooth made me feel terribly insecure. MR:Howso? Greg: I felt threatened. Really, really threatened. Anyhow, I thought it was witty. MR: You probably also think that you can draw? Greg: Yup. I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me. MR: Greg, do you understand half of what you read in the Review? Greg:Ummm ... MR: A quarter? Greg: Usually ... err, sometimes. MR: Greg, are you just another selfloathing liberal? Greg: "Loathing?" MR: As in "bafutg." Greg: Yes. And insecure. But technically speaking, I'm a communist, like Bill Clinton. MR: Has it occurred to you that the Review seems to harp on certain topics because folks like yourself are either unwilling or unable to get the point? Greg: No, honestly that had never occurred to me. But now that you mention it ... MR: Greg, what would you do if the Revinu challenged you to a pro/con forum on the topic of your choice? Greg: In all likelihood I'd wet my pants. That'd be really awful- I've gone almost two weeks without... MR: Good night, Greg. Sleep well.

MICIDGAN REVIEW

According to the Wall Street Journal, producers of Colgate toothpaste are not advertising the benefits of its environmentfriendly packaging "partly to avoid growing consumers' skepticism over all environmental claims." Should we say it? Yes: We told you so.

University of California, Berkeley, student Andrew Martinez, who for the past two months had taken it upon himself to attend class in the nude as a gesture in support of his freedom of expression, was finally" censored" by the administration (which - God forbid - felt he should wear clothes to class) and banned from campus for two weeks. As a result, Ted Kennedy has reportedly withdrawn his application to attend classes there.

Carol King, executive director of the Michigan Abortion Rights Action League, has stated, "Once Bill Clinton is in office we will see more research for contraceptive devices for women and men." Selfinterest, Billy Boy?

Care to guess the U-M's political ideology? Well, it has awarded honorary degrees to such notables as Coleman Young,

Question: How many liberals does it take to screw in a light bulb? Answer: None. Liberals don't like to work.

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Euphemism of the week: Universit"V Health Services is now offering an aburtion pill as a "post--coital contraceptive." Mmm hmm. Whatever.

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We are the Establishment

A flyer posted by the Progressive Party emphatically states, "MSA Election Ballot Questions: YES. YES. NO. NO." We assume the questions are as follows: Are we a bunch of socialist, pinko, commie, leftist, liberal, radical, Democratic granolas? Should Diag rallies advocating the overthrow of Western civilization be mandatory? Could we care less about your constitutional rights? Will any rational human being vote for us?

The Journal also reported this week on the continuing conflict between Coke and Pepsi over who will take control of the soft drink market in Eastern Europe. The Journal reports, liThe fact that Pepsi's bottler hasn't become privatized is the main reason Coke has pulled ahead in Hungary." Have a Coke, MIM; we'll smile for you.

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The Campus Affairs Journal of the University of Michigan

Earl Warren, Walter Reuther, Lyndon Johnson, Thurgood Marshall, John Kenneth Galbraith, Walter Cronkite, and Nelson Mandela. Your choices are a) liberal, b) Lcitist, or c) Both of the above.

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Executive Editors

Andrew Bockelman Joe Coletti Tony Ghecea

Contributing Editors

Beth Martin Jay D. McNeill Tracy Robinson Stacey L Walker

Music Editor Literary Editor Graphic Editor

Chris Peters Adam Garagiola Will Ryan

Assistmt Editors

Ryan Boeskool Brian Schefke

Copy Editor MTS Meister Systems Analyst

Shannon Pfent Doug Thiese Mitch Rohde

Business Assistants Peter Daugavietis ChetZarko Staff Eddie Amer, Eric Berg, Michele Brogley, Jerry Czarnecki, Erica DeSantis, James E. Elek, Joe Epstein, Frank Grabowski, Nate Jamison, Ken Johnston, Eric Lepard, Mary the Cat, Bud Muncher, Crusty Muncher, Dave Perczak, Drew Peters, Dan Reback, Renee Rudnicki, TS Taylor, Perry Thompson, Corey Tobin, Martin Vloet, Michelle Wietek, Matt Wilk, Tony Woodlief.

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Brian Jendryka John J. Miller

The Michigan Review is an independent, student-run journal at the University of Michigan. We neither solicit nor accept any donations from the University of Michigan. Contributions to the Michigan Review are tax...<feductible under Section SOl(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. The Review is not affiliated with any political party. Unsigned editorials represent the opinion of the editorial board . Signed articles represent the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of the Review. We welcome letters and articles and encourage comments about the journal and issues discussed in it.

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THE MICHIGAN REVIEW

November 18, 1992

Letter to the Editor

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Rich Liberal Reader Reviles Conservatism To the Editor: Re: Jay D. McNeill's essay of November 4, 1992, "Debunking the Myth of the Loving Liberal." After initially reading Mr. McNeill's essay, I must admit that I was more than a little offended. After all, it's not every day that I read a piece of work so baselessly , thoughtlessly written, and argued so poorly that attempts to "debunk" a philosophy which I hold dear. Mr. McNeill's pathetic and self-€ffacing ramblings are sure to enrage many a bleeding heart liberal (which no doubt will bring him much personal satisfaction, I'm sure), not just because his essay is chock full of misnomers and untruths (deliberate or otherwise), but especially because he does not even effectively comprehend or begin to understand the argument ( or its bases) that he so ignorantly peddles. In any case, Mr. McNeill would be well advised to first get a firm grasp ci the fundamental tenets of not only the ideology he professes to dismantle, but also that which he professes to defend, as well as more carefully choose the evidence with which he supports his arguments. For example, the crux of his argument IS that Ameri ca n" conservatism (Rl.' publicani sm, as op posed to c las~lc C< "lbl'l"Viltism. such as fa .scism) i:-, ttl(' m e>fe " :,, \ ! n1~ " pdili cai Id •.',I\<'g \' Iwcilu..;e U

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people, whereas "American" liberals (Democrats) assume inequalities. It is genuine belief in the indominability of the truly, universally equal human spirit that gives conservatism its "compassion" and "optimism." Had Mr. McNeill stopped briefly to reflect on this assertation [sicL he would have noticed a

people exists in this or any other society is an ignorant denial of reality. It is my opinion that modern American liberals exist for the purpose of establishing true equality in opportunity, because they realize the fundamental differences and inequities in society. Where Mr. McNeill gets the idea that the liberal message is, "You need me and you're nothing without me" is beyond me. Liberals do not say that "you are inferior and you need special treatment to have any chance of succeeding" (as he so arrogantly misstates the core of liberal theory), rather, liberals are saying that we recognize societal inequalities, and that because of these inequities, some may need more help than others in achieving their goals. It is this desire to help others achieve their own personal goals (on their own, mind you, for liberals individual, even

I found it pompous and offen-

sive that Mr. McNeill insisted that Jack Kemp and Newt Gingrich are my friends. Is Edwin Meese my pal? major logistical error. It has long been a criticism of classic conservatives such as Hobbes, Locke, and Smith that this fundamental assumption of equality is an inherent flaw, because it does not recognize the basic inequalities in society. This is what is commonly referred to as the "logical flaw" in conservatism, and half a day in a basic political science course should give Mr. McNeill a rudimentary und er-standing of this criticism. Givin g everyone an equal chance on ly work.." if everyone starts from ,1r1 l·q ual P,)..;itillfl . and to Js~; u m e th at tn,H' I:'qua !

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though Mr. McNeill fails to realize this basic liberal principle) that constitutes the "loving liberal." The argument he uses to reinforce his assertation [sic] to the contrary, however, is by examining the "so-called black leadership of this country." His failure to even understand the basic message of African-American leadership is offensive in itself, but his ~ misquotation ci it to weakly support a lifeless argument is arrogant and imbecilic. I also found it pompous and offensive that Mr. McNeill insisted that Jack Kemp and Newt Gingrich are my friends. Along those lines, is Jesse Helms my friend? Is Edwin Meese my pal? Does he have my interest at heart? I would say no, because I firmly believe that forcing your opinions on another (in Mr. Meese's case, dealing with "pornography") is no true sign of friendship. I also consider it offensive that they ( or Mr. McNeill) would so haughtily assume that they know what is best for me. The three of ..r-.........

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Tired of the University administrationfs clouded ViSJOIlS for U-Jv1's future? Subscribe to the Ikview and find out where the University is really headed, why that' s misgujded, and how it can be remedied . For a tilx-dedudibl e donati on of $25 or more, you' ll receive a one-year subscripti on to the iVlichigan Review, which includes 27 weekly issues and the 1993 Summer O ri e ntatlOn Issue.

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November 18, 1992 "

THE MICHIGAN RBVIEW ",

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U-M Should Improve Writing Curriculum Nearly 15 years ago, the University of Michigan's College of Literature, Science, organize and discus the ideas which are central to his chosen major. and the Arts created the English Composition Board (ECB) to help improve the writing Yet this segment of the ECB plan suffers from various shortcomings as well. skills of LSA students. As a U-M pamphlet describing the program notes, ''The IECB] Perhaps the most blatant of these is the fact that students majoring in a foreign requirement was designed in response to a broad consensus in the College that language CCUl satisfy the upper-level ECB requirement with a course in which only one students were not sufficiently skillful at the interrelated thinking and communication half of the writing must be in English. Surely one can glean a good bit of knowledge processes required by advanced work in a discipline." Through the institution of a about English grammar through a comparative study of Spanish and English, but the freshman! sophomore composition requirement and a junior! senior writing requireidea that writing in a foreign language can satisfy an English composition requirement ment, the ECB sought, according to the pamphlet, to "mandate the is beyond the scope of rationality. Moreover, the nature of the upper-level requirement itself highinvolvement of faculty from all disciplines and departments in the teaching of writing." AJmost a decade and a half after its implementation, lights a problem which plagues the role of writing at the U-M as a whole. UNIVERSITY The very fact that fulfilling the requirement may be postponed until one's it is unclear whether this plan has achieved its goals. The first leg of every LSA student's voyage through the U-M's world . . I ' final semester at the U-M forces one to doubt the program's efficacy. That of composition begins with freshman orientation. Wholly unprepared A ReVIew Specla Series aside, can one 3~level course with debatably substantial writing first-year students, most of whom have already parked their minds for requirement tum students into decent writers? Probably not. The ECB the summer, are hit with one of several essay questions, to which they must respond itself admitted this in its justification for the current two-course requirement: "Underwith a relatively polished essay in relatively little time. The results are predictable: the lying the plan for Michigan's writing program are .,. [thelbeliefs ... that students need vast majority oi students do poorly enough to place into freshman composition (which practice in order to learn to write well; that ... writing is most readily learned through most students satisfy with English 125). The small percentage of students who pag; out guided practice; [and] that the desire to write can be motivated ... when students are learning what they want and need to know. These principles mandate more than a of the freshman/~phomore requirement are balanced out by a similar fraction of single course in composition" students who .d o so poorly as to warrant their placement into one of several remedial writing courses. Exactly. But isn't that what the junior/ senior requirement gives students nowApart from its role as a standardized test of writing ability, the placement test itself "a single course in composition" in a field where "students are learning what they is ol minimal help to students. While responses are graded by several English teaching want and need to know?" Granted, students must satisfy the requirements for not one, assistants (fAs), feedback on the essays is minimal and often too vague to be helpful. but two composition courses; in this respect the ECB satisfies its own plan. But is it realistic to expect students to become good writers after even two such courses? All that students receive for their time and effort is a form letter bearing a series of standardized comments and a note indicating that they should "show this [comment The U-M's problem with writing is one of focus. Far too often it seems that the University is more interested in getting \Y.oong·out of the way than in getting down sheet] to your English 125 T A." The fact that many English TAs never ask to see the sheet (and sometimes even tum down students' requests that they do so) only makes to the business of teaching it. It is this mentality that explains the existence of an the whole superficial, production-line placement process seem more absurd. impersonal orientation "essay-milL" the degeneration of freshman composition from Placement into English 125 does not, for the most part, prove especially beneficial a forum for the teaching and flourishing of critical thought into a workshop for to the writing skills of students. Freshman composition presents a prime opportunity political indoctrination, and the almost flippant relegation of upper-level composition to a single, major-specific course. for teachers to instill in students the rudiments of critical analysis and thought; but composition instructors oftentimes merely There are many plausible recommendations for remedying these disorders. For placement, perhaps the University should put more faith in the high attempt to supplant students' values with new, more liberal ones. Rather than teachschool writing histories of students than in a Single impromptu essay exam ing students the fundamentals of rhetoric, given in the middle of summer vacation. Maybe it should depend on a series argument, gr~ and style, most secof personal statements submitted when students first apply, or on the scores tions of freshman composition serve as fowhich students receive on Advanced Placement English Exams or Achieverums for grounding students in the essenment Tests. For English 125, the University might consider instituting a tials of multicultural hogwash and politiuniform curriculum to relieve instructors of their license to tum composition cally proper language and thought. Only courses into propaganda machines. The specialization of freshman composiafter students have been "enlightened" in tion courses along the lines of particular areas of study (i.e. "Writing for this way will teachers even attempt to give Science," "Writing about Literature," etc.) might present another possible them the tools they need to parry alien avenue for exploration. . ideologies and preserve the way of thinkBut the pro.blem cl focus, both in terms of the upper-ievel requirement and ing which those teachers have convinced writing at the University in general, still begs to be remedied. The only way to them is II correct." Rather than teaching stuShaykeopeer becau .. it tum students into truly talented writers is to emphasize the importance of dents to think critically before exposing ~~"'!.":: }Vriting.thr9ughoitt each CQurse of every undergraduate's career. This entails them to controversial political or philosophical views, some instructors first· 'l~~::!'= more than a freshman/ sophomore composition course and several juniorI seek to convince students of a given world view's merit. The critical thinking to read. It had themes, senior ECB requirements, for such a reform would emphasize writing in every they then learn serves only as a means for defending the views which have :y"~~~~""'" aspect of the curriculum. been instilled. As National Endowment for the Humanities Chairman Lynne , Again, there is no shortage of recommendations on how to do this. Why Cheney notes in Telling the Truth, such an approach is now commonly disnot require students to take an ECB writing course within their majors every cussed and advocated in feminist schofarship. term? Perhaps each student should be assigned a career writing counselor A typical essay ¥signment in English 125, for example, involves reading who can work with him to improve the writing that he submits for these an essay about a latina lesbian feminist and writing about ~ow it affected you." It goes courses. More difficult, but possibly more effective, would be a reordering of priorities without saying that it had better have affected you positively (unless you don't mind within the teaching of different fields along the lines of writing. Perhaps the University receiving a sub-par grade). Opportunities for constructive feedback in English 125 should mandate that all courses which can reasonably assign writing must require a exist, but it's probably too much to ask that a student's writing improve substantially set amount of written work from each student. on the basis ol four or five corrected essays, one 3O-minute class critique, and two halfIn short, while it may be true that not every student wants to learn how to write hour conferences with aTA. well, the U-M has nevertheless been delinquent in teaching them the basic writing skills they need to know. The establishment of the ECB has proven to be a step in the The junior! senior ECB requirement is an improvement, in some respects, over the two previous components of the average U-M student's writing career. Presented in right direction, but one step does.not complete the journey. The ECB must re-evaluate the, ~ of.a.writing ~oprse tailored to each student's P~. field of study, the upperits approach to teaching the skiUs involved incoIl'lPQSition if it wishes to accomplish

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THE MICHIGAN REVIEW ·

November 18,1992

Letter to the Editor

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Reader Defends Unions To the Editor: I will leave it to others to refute the simple-minded attack by Ken Johnston on affirmative action in your October 21 issue, but I cannot let his misrepresentation of the labor movement

pass. He argues that raising wages for some people must be paid for by lowering them on someone else. (Do they really teach that in Econ 201 these days?) In fact, where unions are strong, employers have

Continued From Page 3 them have not spent one second conferring with me on my thoughts and beliefs, and this being so, I find it difficult to understand how they could consider me a friend, let alone profess to know what is best for me. In addition, I found it curious that Mr. McNeill insists that liberals are the real racists, and conservatives fight racism. I wonder what our good friend Jesse Helms was doing when Dr. Martin Luther King marched on Washington? Do you think he jOined in the march and led a rally for civil rights? I don't. And how can Mr. McNeill so thoughtlessly suggest that Jesse Jackson does not care about people, specifically AfricanAmericans? In Rev. Jackson, we have a man that has dedicated his whole life to promoting civil rights, yet Mr. McNeill says he is a racist, and that he is the one (not George Wallace, mind you, the conservative former governor of Alabama who stood at the gates of the University of Alabama stating, "No nigger will ever walk through these doors," in protest to desegregation) that is opposed to equality. These painfully thoughtless and arrogant statements do nothing to help Mr. McNeill's argument, and are sure only to hurt others. Getting back to the original point, Mr. McNeill's failure to recognize the fundamental flaws in \:onservatism. He goes on to state that conservatism is the only ideology that supports success, while liberalism discourages it. This could

to raise wages for non-union workers to keep them from unionizing. The employers have to make up the difference by raising productivity per worker. This need not mean a loss of jobs because higher wages mean higher demand. Unions are also in the front line of the struggles for benefits that improve things for their members and non-members alike, such as civil rights laws, health care, education, and so forth. When employers try to ship jobs to

low-wage countries, the unions join the fight for labor rights on a world scale. They help union efforts in the Third World and raise pressure on countries which prevent their own citizens from organizing. It is no accident that other industrial democracies, which

be true; that is, conservatives do support success, but how do they Ja;ter it? Ignoring problems and pointing to individual equality" (all the while ignoring fundamental societal inequalities) and saying "stop whining and get a job" (a typical conservative response to unemployed welfare recipients that I recently overheard being said to a group of three homeless people by a DPS officer) neither fosters nor supports success, and certainly does not constitute "being a friend." This is my central point: ignoring fundamental societal inequalities does not lead to equality, and until Mr. McNeill (and conservatives everywhere) realizes this, and recognizes that conservatives are guilty of this act, his arguments will be forever skewed. Wake up to and get a firm grasp on reality before you attempt to deconstruct others' beliefs, Mr. McNeill. In sum, this letter is not an attempt to defend American liberalism from Mr. McNeill (his arguments are so weak that I hardly fear for the future of liberalism), or an attempt to defend liberal leaders such as Jesse Jackson or Bill Clinton. All people and all governments have their problems, but pompous, self-effacing rhetoric such as that peddled by Mr. McNeill, whose only intent is to convince others of the inherent correctness of his beliefs and the inherent wrongness in all others does not help the problems facing our political system at all. Ignoring these problems and basic societal inequalities while resorting to w en k, thoughtless

arguments against and childish name calling of liberals, and blaming all problems on Democrats is ignorant, simplistic, pompous, arrogant, and flat out wrong.

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Sincerely, Joshua Englehardt wealthy white European male liberal LSA junior

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have high incomes, generous social benefits, and more economic equality, also have high levels of unionization. This notion that unions benefit their own members by beggaring everyone else is plain ignorant.

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THE MICHIGAN REVIEW

6

November 18, 1992

Essay

Rigoberta Menchu Meets John Locke The Need to Decentralize the Core Curriculum by Andrew Bockelman "Rtal the ronseruanvc/ list tmd prcxluce a natrm

or a nation rf ph~ kings. Rtal the liberals' list and prcxJuce a nation rf spineless rt1tJtivists - or a nation of upenminded roorid citiztns. RtJMl the radicals' list and pmJuce a nation r! psychobabblm and ancl!Storworshippers - or a nation r! stalwart proud-tcr-

r!sexists and racists -

be:-me pluralists. " - Katha Pollitt, on the various notions of an effective core curriculum, from "Why Do We Read?" in the September 23, 1991, issue of The Nation

In the realm of higher education, traditionalists and reformists have reached an ironic unanimity. While traditionalists have historically resisted curricular reform and reformists have followed a progressive agenda, both groups are now advocating a core curriculum as a means of providing students with a foundational knowledge of the society in which they live. The necessity of a core cannot be denied. In its 1989 report entitled 50 Hours: A Core Curriculum for College Students, the National Endowment for the Humanities presented foreboding statistics of a nation wallowing in ignorance. Consider th~t 45 percent of college students graduate without ever having studied American or English literature. The current core debate is not over its necessity, but its content: Which subjects will provide students with the requisite foundational knowledge? Which are antithetical \P the objectives at hand? History of the Core Debate The core debate has deep historical rqots, according to Gerald Graff s Bey and the Culture Wars. The debate first emerged as defenders of Latin and Greek opposed the teaching of -English literature in academic circles. Later, Anglophiles resisted all attempts to incorporate American literature into the core, claiming that it bore no relevance to serious scholarship. Beginning in the 19208, the dispute was over the teaching of modem literary works, such as those by Faulkner and Hemingway. Needless to say, the revisionists have consistently triumphed. Toda(s comb~tants, however, do not operate within the same framework as their predecessors. While politics have always played a significant role in curricular transformations, the politics of today's core debate are distinguished by an unprecedented level of partisan

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squabbling between two ideologies, each wanting to take the core debate in a separate direction. As one would expect, cultural conservatives have aligned with the traditionalists, while liberals have found refuge in the ranks of the reformists. Political goals have replaced educational goals, and the ~ consequence has been a ludicrous . ult~ ~tyacademiC . ~ assa obJec lVI â&#x20AC;˘ Misguided Traditionalists The current debate has pitted the view of a curriculum based on the great works of Western civilization against a revisionist view, which seeks to emphasize the "underrepresented" members of society. Traditionalists are adamant in their support of Western culture, clinging to the works of Locke, Smith, Madison, Mill, Hume, and Plato, among others. Conservative leaders such as William F. Buckley, Jr. have argued that a declining focus on Western thought is synonymous with a decline in social standards. An emphasis on Western thought, therefore, would most likely produce an ideal society. Irving Howe echoes the traditionalist approach to the core debate. In the February 18, 1991, issue of The New Republic, Howe mocked the whole debate and demanded a return to intellectual tradition - something he vaguely referred to as "the classic heritage of mankind." Painting the reformists as insurgents, Howe acerbically criticized the view that subjects are to be studied because of their social statements rather than their ability to provoke thought. He conceded that there is "room for disagreements," yet he never specifically identified to what degree a curriculum should be flexible. The problems with the traditionalist point of view are obvious. They begin by narrow-mindedly presupposing the superiority of one culture, often at the expense of any thought which does not have Western moorings, such as the acclaimed writings of V.5. Naipul, Confucius, or Octavio Paz. With little more than their own opinion about what needs to be taught, traditionalists arrogantly proclaim their own' apolitical correctness' on the subject.

While speaking of a "decline in standards," traditionalists often neglect to consider whether conservative stubbornness may be part of the problem. As they hypocritically attack the reformist agenda for being " P 0 Ii ti ca I," traditionalis ts fail to examine their own (often p 0 li t ic a l) motives for producing more people like themselves. To the extent that political motives prompt some conservatives to undertreat philosophically disagreeable subject matter (e.g. Marxism) there is a serious problem with maintaining a strictly conservative core.

the core, but only accentuate it by including non-Western thought. This is the same Paula Rothenberg who once eloquently likened the teaching of Western civilization to the teaching of "bullshi t." Reformists cannot possibly be taken seriously, simply because they base their ideas on the false premise that a thought's importance depends upon characteristics like ra"Ce, gender, class, and sexual orientation. Many thinkers in the revisionist core are now widely criticized for shoddy scholarship (e.g. Bernal), or, in the case of Rigoberta Menchu, for promoting dubious political beliefs thinly veiled as truth. In Illiberal Education, Dinesh D'Souza made the relevant criticism that the teaching of Third Worid "classics" is often idealized and therefore dishonest - the social hierarchies they arise from are often ignored. Any form of politics, particularly one which actively seeks to proselytize students, has no place Misguided Reformists in any core. The reformists' mindset is on!y .. ,,,..,,,,Toward a Decentralized Curriculum slightly more ridiculous thanlhe Traditionalists and reformists traditionalists'. Reformists, like criticize one another freely, while the traditionalists, assume an authoritarian vital tenet of academic freedom is ignored role in deciding the fate of the core, but they do so with the liberal twist of and jeopardized by political agendas. Obduracy on both sides prompts a overzealous, poorly-reasoned absurdity. stalemate, and students are emerging as The reformist prqeet is to incorporate the victims of a political skirmish. race, class, gender, and sexual orientation A decentralized core wherein throughout the curriculum. Credentials categories of classes exist (and students in the reformist core are based upon the are given much liberty within these tribalistic (i.e. group-identity-based) categories) would be an ideal alternative. criteria of these superficial distinctions. The desire to purge politics from the Reformists often cite Rigoberta Menchu, classroom induces a preference for a Alice Walker, Martin Bernal, Chungara decentralized core. Underlying the de Barrios, and Walter Rodney as politics of the core debate is a fundamental compatible with their approach. disagreement over which values should Professor Paula Rothenberg, in the April be taught - the infamous game of "I'm 10, 1991, Chronicle of Higher Education, right and you're not" ping pong. In order expressed the typical reformist criticism to obtain an education that is politically of the traditional core: neutral, students need an open-minded The traditional curriculum teaches all approach to subjects. The risk that a rigid of us to see the world through the core will be abused for political endsno matter who controls its content eyes of privileged, white European males, and to adopt their interests must be defused. Otherwise, speCific studies may be trivialized, subjectivity and perspectives as our own. may overcome objectivity, and many She charges that the traditionalist view social biases may be inherited under the excludes certain cultures, while guise of education. The problems of a rigid core are not purporting to be "neutral." Such criticism errs by assuming that confined to questions of political bias. Disintegrating social homogeneity is ideas become obsolete if they emerge another relevant consideration. In his from a society, which despite its virtues, essay "Reopening the Books on Ethics," condoned some contemptible actions. Dr. John A. Howard invoked Edmund The worthy ideas are no less significant. Rothenberg claims that she does not want Burke to make such a point about the to deprive Western thought of its place in core curriculum debate:


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THE MICHIGAN REVIEW

November 18, 1992

" There can be no single blueprint that serves all free societies equally well or even all communities in one society because, as Edmund Burke observed in [Letter to the Sheriffs of the City of Bri&1ol], Hsocial and civil freedom, like all other things in common life, are variously mixed and modified, enjoyed in very different degrees, and shaped into an infinite diversity of forms, according to the temper and circumstances or every community." Howard correctly argues that no single core can be expected to work, given the varied composition of society. It would seem that the best alternative to a rigid curriculum - an option which would retain the necessary academic probity would be a decentralized curriculum. Aexibility and decentralization in the core would eradicate most of these problems. By keeping the core broad, and by granting students the ability to plan their own educations, decentralization of the core counters the threat of a politicized or narrowly focused core. There is hardly a consensus on the core's ideal content, so perhaps an enduring core intrinsically needs to be compromising. Disagreement, per se, does not mean that the core has to be shapelessly vague, only that competing concerns and doubts about "correctness" provide legitimate grounds for accommodating all disputants through a degree of curricular fle~ibility . In the July, 1991, issue of The Freeman, John-Peter Pham eloquently defends the decentralized approach by advocating free inquiry, free choice, and the free mind, in lieu of enslavement to a rigid curriculum. Pham notes that "any sort of government-dictated standardized curriculum, no matter how nobly intended, is dangerously statist." Pham also argues that given o~r free and pluralistic nation, with its rich cultural heritage, neither the traditionalist nor reformist argument makes any sense. Let the adherents to the old and the proponents of the new peddle their proposals in the market- place of ideas so that subjects may be evaluated for their intellectual worth. The A La Carte Curriculum A decentralized curriculum bears striking resemblance to the distribution requirements that now exist at many colleges, including the University of Michigan. This distribution method of curriculum-building, with its wide range of course op~ions, was pioneered by

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Harvard President Charles William Eliot on the grounds that academic freedom requires that students be permitted to select a course of study in accordance with their own goals, needs, and interests. A decentralized core should not forsake the importance of studying the liberal arts, but in no way should it delineate specific subjects which are to be studied. A student with a pre-existing fluency in chemiStry or philosophy will derive no benefit if required to take those classes. An opportunity cost actually accrues, for he could have opted to study less familiar subjects. This exemplifies one of the most significant problems with a rigid core: it is wrong to assume that one core is best for everyone, because interests, goals, and needs vary among students. There is also a problem with criticizing the subjects a student may elect to study in a decentralized curriculum. Those hostile to decentralization falsely assume that students are predisposed to the path of least resistance. Granted, some may be so disposed, but they are surely the exception, not the rule. Students have self-interested motives when selecting classes, often unbeknownst to the "enlightened" dogmatists. Yes, students at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst can study ultimate frisbee while their counterparts at the University of Illinois study "pocket billiards." But critics seek out the ridiculous, and fail to mention how many students are enrolled in calculus or chemistry or philosophy classes across the nation. Despite the apparent idiocy of classes like "dance roller skating" at Kent State, students do have legitimate reasons for their choices, reasons which cannot easily be criticized. The decentralized core, with its flexibility, caters to students' interests rather than the lowest common denominator. The decentralized core should ultimately require students to study subjects under broad topic headings: natural sciences (chemistry or biology), social sciences (economics or history), and humanities (classical studies or philosophy). Students are free to choose the specific subjects they so desire. Universities should avoid the paternalistic approach of issuing academic prescriptions, which denies students the responsibility to plan their own futures and an exercise in the freedom to choose. Similarly, the advantages of allowing students to sample various disciplines must be recognized: Students acquire skills,

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knowledge, the ability to think clearly, to explore different topics, to investigate thoroughly, to evaluate ideas, and to debate propositions, rather than the ability to regurgitate years of likeminded, institutionalized indoctrination. Students should be given the benefit of planning their studies in accordance with their individual interests, goals, and needs. This can only be done in a decentralized curriculum. According to the LS&A BuUetin of the u-M: Students in the College do not simply elect a variety of courses from the multitude available to them in the University . They relate courses to one another in a way that enables each student to achieve breadth of understanding in several fields and depth in one or two. The flexibility of the core permits the maximization of independent, imaginative thought. As Gerald Graff notes in his book, less rigid does not mean less rigorous. The more rigid a curriculum is, the more it neglects new ideas in a rapidly changing world. Graff argues, liThe fact is, with the world of knowledge becoming increasingly larger and more complex, the last thing anyone needs to fear is that the study of culture will become to easy." There is a slight problem in expecting students to reach their own conclusions when confronted with a diversity of subject matter, but that problem can be rectified through professorial guidance and careful academic reflection. At the same time, there is always the compromise approach taken by Dartmouth traditionalist Dr. Jeffrey Hart, who has formulated a recommended core for students of a conservative persuasion seeking a centralized curriculum. The beauty is that students have the option to pursue such a core, thanks to decentralization. A Favorable Solution Katha Pollitt, a moderate on the subject of the core, advocates the "great books and a shared culture" approach as a play on the Alan Bloom approach to higher education. She favors scrapping the" one-list-for-everyone" system in favor of decentralization, because of a belief that both Western thought and reformist ideas are relevant in a plura1i&1ic society, where no culture can claim to dominate. The centrist view has been criticized by traditionalists and reformists. In the National Review College Guide, for example,

The goal of all people Sincerely committed to real, creative education should be to decentralize, deregulate, decontrol, depoliticize, and debureacratize, and to increase incentives for direct, individual, and loc~~ucation of all forms.

In the realm of higher education, with traditionalists and reformists infecting aCademia with their political blathering, with students facing restrictions by the academic elite which discourage individual study in accordance with their interests, goals, and needs, and with the many evident advantages of decentralization, there is a real and apparent need to abandon the central control of a rigid core curriculum. The time has come to decentralize and individualize. Andrew Bockelman is a sophomore in economics and communication, and an executive editor of the Review.

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the traditionalist editors advocate "the seven-discipline sequence of what was traditionally called the trivium [language arts) and quadrivium [sciences)." They fail to recognize that in the presence of their inflexible bickering, and in the absence of a common denominator, a cogent core cannot be readily ascertained. Decentralization is the requisite . alternative. In the June 1992 issue of The Freeman, Professor Jack Douglas of the University of California-San Diego, a noted advocate of decentralization, contends that higher education will only improve if it promotes individualized studies, with a focus on diSCipline, tutelage, autodidactacy and apprenticeship. Centralization, Douglas argues, has "suffocated creative deviance." Douglas notes:


November 18, 1992

THE MICHIGAN REvIEW

8

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Book Review

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Reordering Educational Priorities Impofltofa In the remple M.-tin Anderaon Simon a Schuater Hardcover, 256 pagea $22.00 by ChetIy brko

With the explosion of student popuiations in the early 19705, the world of higher education entered a new era. Priorities shifted away from a focus on the education of individuals to the creation and maintenance of a massive system capable of handling large numbers of students. The result has been a productionline educational process wherein vast numbers of students in large classes seldom benefit from direct interactions with their professors. As professors are increasingly pressuml into producing large quantities of research at the expense of quality instruction, students find themselves being graded by teaching assistants with inadequate experience and dubious credentials. Impostors in tht Temple, by Martin Anderson, formerly a professor at Columbia University, is an appeal to America's university administrators to reform this system. It is also an exhortation to its readers, arguing that progress can be made only if many individuals are willing to confront the problems affecting higher education. Using ari~dotes that typify bureaucratic and political misdirection, and examples of revealing, self-indicting admissions by leading education bureaucrats, Anderson confirms what most students already know: that higher education is rife with corruption and stagnation. According to Anderson, the integrity d our universities is dying lithe death of a thousand cuta Each cut small and, by itself, not fatal." Although each "cut" can be explained away as human error, Anderson argues that, taken collectively, they become a comprehensive indictment of the condition of modem American higher education. The origins of the current crisis lie in the two-fold impact of the baby boom generation: both the growing number of students demanding education and the entry of women into the mainstream labor force led to a massive increase in student populations. Since the supply of professors could not be increased significantly in the short-run because of the difficulty involved in attaining a Ph.D., universities were hard-pressed to accommodate these new students.

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Anderson explains that universities solved this problem with several major "innovations," all of which lowered the quality of education for students. First, by relaxing doctoral graduation standards, a greater number of less qualified professors entered the mar.',j ket Second, unit1 U versities constructed larger classrooms and expanded class sizes in order to efficiently" handle larger numbers of students. Finally, universities created the position of teaching assistant (T A). TAs were ideal because they allowed professors to "teach" huge lectures without requiring them to grade papers, offer advice and counsel to their students, or handle the other procedUral details ass0ciated with teaching. Aside from examples of foreign TAs unable to speak the language or certain TAs who abuse their power, Anderson's primary argument against TAs is that, in general, they lack sufficient experience, maturity, and time to do a quality job. Equally important are the effects of this system on graduate students. Universities basically coerce graduate students into doing the "dirty work" of the professors. Anderson notes correctly that "the typical candidate for an advanced degree is in a terribly difficult position to complain to anyone about anything." Graduate students are threatened with the prospect of not receiving either their degree or financial assistance, and, in some cases, are explicitly required to teach a minimum number of terms. As the bulk of coursework is heaped upon graduate student TAs, the quality of future professors diminishes, and a self-perpetuating cycle is born. Anderson cites Jacques Barzun, a world-renowned professor, who relates that, "These young scholars have reached the hardest stretch of their studies; they either neglect them or scamp the so-called teaching they are ill-fitted to perform." Educational bureaucrats typically respond to this criticism by arguing that, given the size of the student population, universities have no choice but to use TAs, since professors can't pOSSibly do

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that makes its leaders feel they are above the job alone while being expected to the laws and values that govern others, attend to their enormous research loads the presumptuousness to believe that and other commitments simultaneously. what they say is important is important, Anderson, however, contends that that what they say is true is true." such a tradeoff is not necessary. In his Anderson proposes that the solution analysis, the principle defect of the uniis to exercise greater control over our versity research academic elites. Employing his marketsystem lies in its oriented analYSiS, Anderson finds that emphasis on the tenure is an outdated concept and argues quantity, as opthat its abolition would force professors posed to the to provide better education or else suffer quality, of the the same consequences of any other failed research performed. Often, service provider. the main criteAnderson engages this multi-faceled rion for awardproblem with a ten-point plan that ining tenure is cludes the aforementioned proposal, as well as the prohibition of student teachsimply the ing, the transformation of incentives for length of a research and writing, the division of the candidate's list Ph.D. degree process (so that two types of publication of degrees, a research specialization and credits and the a teaching specialization, are granted), number of times the abolition of political discrimination, their studies are and the elimination of bureaucratic corcited by other <""'~ption. professors. , Perhaps with excessive optimism, This proliferation of scholarly reAnderson envisions these proposals as search at the expense of pedagogy might being initiated from the top-down by be excusable if it truly contributed to the regents or trustee boards, as it is these advancement of knowledge. Unfortupeople who are ultimately responsible nately, this is rarely the case. The comfor the vitality of an educational instituments of Professor Robert W. Clower, a tion. In cases where these leaders are' former editor of the American Economic resistant to change, Anderson calls upon Review are illuminating: "What was rethe public to apply the pressure necesmarkable was the absolute dullness, the lack of any kind of new idea, that presary to persuade them. Although the solutions he recomdominated in the selection of papers I mends are radical, and most likely will got." Clower reviewed close to a thouface enormous resistance from self-insand manuscripts a year during his terested faculty and comfortably eneditorship of the journal, and he contrenched bureaucrats, his diagnosis of cludes that "the profession would be better off if most of them hadn't been writhigher education's malaise is an accurate one. To spark hope and to emphasize the ten, and certainly if most of them hadn't incremental effects that individual pobeen published." litical pressure can have, Anderson reAccording to Anderson, the current empha5is amounts to nothing more than fers to a statement made by John Maynard Keynes in a November 1919 letter about "a glass bead game," in which professors the consequences of the Versailles peace strive to maximize quantity and are retreaty: "I personally despair of results warded regardless of merit or quality. from anything but violent and ruthless At the heart of Anderson's argument trut~telling - that will work in the end, is his assertion that universities have a even if slowly." Only by continually retwisted view of the market. In a market, research would be rewarded on the basis minding our educational leaders of the cold, hard truth about their mistakes and of its quality and importance in facilitatfailures can we expect to make any siging progress, whereas quantity would be nificant progress. largely irrelevant. Anderson expands this argument by citing the lack of a coherent Chetly Zarko is a senior in political incentive structure as the cause of a science and economics and a business larger moral failure in universities. Being assistant for the Review. "largely insulated from the discipline of free markets," universities have fostered "the same kind of smug arrogance that comes to people who are never seriously challenged, the kind of elitist mindset =~M;,i ,

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November 18. 1?')2

BookReview

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Finger-Pointing in the Culture Wars Beyond the Culture Wars Gerald Graff W. W. Norton Hardcover, 214 pages $23.00

by Joe Coletti

In Beyond the Culture Wars, University of Chicago professor Gerald Graff attempts to demonstrate, as the subtitle states, "How teaching the conflicts can revitalize American education." Graff's biography ominously foreshadows his argument. He is a "founding member of Teachers for a Democratic Culture;'/ a group best known at the University of Michigan for its role in organizing the decidedly slanted conference, ''The PC Frame-up: What's Behind the Attack?" last November. The principle problem Graff sees with all of the debates between supporters of multiculturalism and proponents of a common culture has less to do with the arguments used than with where they occur. Graff thinks they should take place inside the classroom insteaq of in journals or department meetings, to which students have little access. While English professors constantly engage in lively debates over what constitutes "the text" of a work, and history professors argue about what can be stated objectively about the past, students are rarely permitted to participate in, or even become informed about the issues that shape the debate. Rather, Graff argues, students go from class to class, changing philosophical outlooks along the way to match that of their next professor, often without realizing that they are doing so. Graff plausibly and insightfully contends that students should be presented with the reasons for - and histories of - the debates that form the unacknowledged basis o£ the multiculturalism question. Students cannot debate a profe&<iOr on his approach to a course if they are not aware of alternative approaches. The student and the professor both lose in this case, because even the possibility of disagreement goes unacknowledged. If a student, however, does possess personal knowledge with which to confront a professor - particularly if it includes citations from other erudite souls - the result can be a discussion that provides a better understanding of the subject for all students in the class. Unfortunately, ma:it students do not have this knowledge, or otherwise fear the consequences which challenging

professorial authority may bring. Graff not content with putting simple common his own recognition later: ''That such feels that professors should bring in guest sense into words. He seems to think he claims are often four"':fifthshype does lecturers with alternative perspectives must also show that he is not a typical not alter the fact that a shift in priorities and include multiple perspectives in the curriculum critic, and therefore criticizes has taken place .... " readings for their courses to provide Allan Bloom, Dinesh D'Souza, and even Later in the book, Graff cites Robert Kuttner, a journalist who claims that Arthur Schlesingerfor their stated desire students with the necessary foundation to defend the classics from subversion by economics departments enforce strict for articulate debate. theorists of radical academia. Graff claims adherence to the supremacy of the law of Graff claims that the implementation that these men and National Endowment supply and demand as well as the idea of these suggestions is hampered by the that JIIefforts to interfere with thiS natural for the Humanities structure of the order of things, notably governments, modern university. ~-----------------------, Chairman Lynne Cheney degrade the are damaging to economic efficiency and, Specifically, he blames classics more when hence, bad.'" Graff at least admits', '1 am what he calls a "cou.rse they try to p'r otecr '; ' hardly qualified to judge, btlt I have e~~ fetish" that misplaces thes e tex ts from heard it suggested that some ot America's th e e mph as is on bizarre insertions of present economic difficulties might have individual classes and political conflicts than been averted if departments of economics teachers rather than any new interpretation had been more open to criticism of their the entire department. or attempt at assumption that dire consequences Graff cites Joseph deconstruction ever follow from governmental tampering Tussman, a reformer could. with free markets." Curiously, he does at the University of True, the classics not consult his beloved course catalogs California at Berkeley can withstand their in his treatment of the Clausen who stated, "[A detractors' criticisms, debunking, perhaps because the object professor) can develop provided that they have stalwart and of attack is not one of Graff's favorites. a coherent course, but a collection of articulate supporters. But Graff commits A furthe!~ rebuke to Graff's blind coherent courses may be simply an incoherent collection." Graff contends, the same errors for which he condemns acceptance- rof the strict orthodoxy in "Only a weak system would depend on economics is evident in the University of the critics. For example, Graff spends perpetual feats of personal virtuosity to Michigan's economics department, eight pages early in the book detailing keep it functioning at its best." If the how a comment by Penn State English where some professors ate . prodepartment is displaced for the department head Christopher Clausen, government intervention. The supremacy classroom, the university itself is even became "exhibit A in a trumped-up of the market is a proposition that can b€ further obscured. charge of canonicide in the national proven, unlike the assertion that Graff laments that the relative press." multiculturalism is a boon to self-esteem. equanimity with which universities Clausen's comment, that he "would Economics is more analogous to created new departments and fields bet that [Alice Walker's) The Color Purple mathematics than pop psychology. within departments during the salad is taught in more English courses today Along this line, Graff ignores the fact years, when money was abundant, led to than all of Shakespeare's plays combined" that Gary Becker, a free market economist separatist thought. Although expansion was later cited in a Wall Street Journal at Graffs own University of Chicago, has of the university did keep the peace, it led article by David Brooks, a Chronicle of become the university's third economics to more insular thinking by those in both Higher Education story on a William professor to accept the Nobel prize in the established and new departments. Bennett speech, and an essay by Mark economics. Graff also neglects to note One problem with Graff's that two of the greatest economic minds Helprin for New Criterion. Among those explanation of the current state of involved in this seeming conspiracy, of this century - Joseph Schumpeter universities is that when he mentions the according to Graff, were Lynne Cheney, and Friedrich Von Hayek - saw the politics involved in the creation of new Terry Teachout (who wrote an article for moral depredation inherent in departments, he implies that politics Commentary), and the Washington Post government involvement in the economy. provide a perfectly acceptable reason to and New York Times (both of which The strength and validity of thought introduce new courses or departments. published "editorials on thetheme of the expressed by these.mer fu.rth~rdiscredit vanishing classics"). Graff states, Graff's assertion that there is an irrational Graff does concede, however, that the expansion of the university into a "Somehow, Teachout neglected to quote desire to exclude those who think departmental smorgasbord has created Clausen. But by now it was ceasing to differently from economics departments. matter who was quoting whom." TI1e two examples detailed here are tensions now that university budgets are growing at a slower rate. What Graff apparently finds typical of the dubious assertions which characterize Graff's book. The basic idea upsetting is that none of the critics who Graff attacks departments such as women's studies and "cultural studies," that revealing the controversies in some used the Clausen comment ever made "any effort to check its accuracy." He fields can liven debate and improve which are interdepartmental in scope but then uses course catalogs and enrollment education is worthwhile, but is often lost as cut off from the outside world and as rigid in their enforcement of a leftist figures to document how many students in Graff's vitriol against those who should orthodoxy within the departments as read The CaJor Purple versus those who be his allies. traditional departments are in their read any of Shakespeare's plays and Joe Coletti is a senior in Asian studies assumptions, if not more so. comes up with a pro-Shakespeare ratio and an executive editor of the Review. These thoughts almost seem to be of 83 to 1. Although the original comment was ryperbolic, Graff does not listen to co~on sense. But Graff is apparently ". '

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ECB Reform Continued from Page 1 upon an introductory cornpo;ition course like English 125. Former teaching assistant Rob Sulewski, presently pursuing a Ph.D. in comparative literature at the UM, says that the current one-semester introductory course is "insufficient in what it tries to do." Williams additionally suggests that a course in rhetoric should preface the introductory composition course and would benefit students by teaching them not only how to think and write critically but also how to communicate effectively. He says that he would "like to see courses ranging across the intel1ecn.a1 life of the college, involving a variety of different folks from the different disciplines within the university, to talk both excitedly and intensely about issues of social and cultural import." It is clear from Williams and

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Sulewski's remarks that one introductory course can seldom do much to improve students' writing skills and that the U-M's writing requirements need to be strengthened. Despite such criticisms, Robinson maintains that the U-M's writing program is continually evolving. He notes in particular that the pre-entrance writing assessment has become more sophisticated and that the ECB is considering new methods of evaluating students' writing skills, such as portfolio assessments. A report by LSA's Planning Committee on the Undergraduate Experience (entitled" A Michigan Education: The Challenges of Undergraduate Education at the University of Michigan") acknowledges the inability of the "first-and-Iastand-n othing-in-b etween" requirement structure to develop students' writing and critical thinking skills sufficiently. The Committee supports the imp lemen-

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to the criticisms rai;.;.!d or ~.yilitJrn" an.d Su!,'wski, tlw U-·M s('ern~; tn tw ,1ttu l1vd to the limitation ~; of the writing program as it is currently structured. Robinson p redicts that "there wi ll probably be some changes to U-M's writing requirements over the next three to four yea.rs." Nevertheless, Wllliams' empJ:!asis on the urgency of ref(>rm reminds on e that mJny U-M stud ents may graduate with poor writing and cri tical thinking skills w hd l' trw Umv ersitv reforms itself with dislwartening lethargy, lndf'('d, there l:-, an .~rnportant: and l Ch itiD'1Jt{ ~ q u ·.:" ~t!()n J,~

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tation of an additional requirement under which students would take "at least one writing-intensive course each term or each year" to assure that they graduate as proficient writers. Williams finally suggests a re-configuration of staff involvement in teaching students how to write. He contends that although there have been great efforts to provide guidelines for teaching assistants of introductory composition classes, these instructors are themselves often graduate students in literature programs who are given the "hugely complex task of teaching students to write, think, and communicate effectively" in one semester. Without sufficient guidance and background, such a gonl is nearly impossible to achieve. Sulewski says that the training program for the terms during which he taught (Fall 1990 and Winter 1991) consisted primarily of a one-week training session. Although T As are also assigned a mentor - generally a lecturer or professor who answers questions and offers advice - the structure of English 125 frequently prevents their direct interaction with students. The Planning Committee on !he lJn:'~ dergraduate Experience recommends that the College of LSA "seek to hire a director of the [writing] program whose primary interest is in rhetoric and composition and who should work with English to insure greater involvement of tcnure--rrack fac t! It; in th t' teachins of Fngnsh '.12.5 or an ,:lH(~ p"l,Jh\' (~ , .Pl,.;r... ··! 3 ''' lr!

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THE MICHIGAN REVIEW

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Every student at the University of Michigan will have to write a paper at some point during college. Faced with this task, many students - especially underclassmen - panic at not knowing whether their writing will be "good enough." Upperclassmen and even graduate students who must write lengthier, more complex esays may wonder whether they have succeeded in communicating their arguments clearly. To help allay these concerns, the English Composition Board (ECB) has created a system of peer tutors. Peer tutors are students who volunteer their time to help students with whatever writing problems they may encounter. They can serve as sounding boards for ideas or help writers with the technical aspects of writing. Peer tutors are selected based on their recommendation by English instructors. Students who possess exceptional writing abilities and interpersonal skills are called upon to be tutors. Recommended students are contacted by the ECB, and if tl1ey show interest in becoming tutors, they move on to the next step. One of the three EeB peer tutor instructors, Susan Marie Harrington, says thnt during this next step, she conducts "an interview with Ith e studvnt] and asks to see il writi ng ~;a rnpl('u Bt:cause m,)"t of the stud ent~ h ;}',

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Hinkiin, who is a tutor this year ", ;\ lot (if the penple [\\'h o use the tutors] are very good writers," he sa id. Harrington agrees. " Don' t be shy," she urges. "Most good writers talk to other peopl e abo ut their writing," EeB tutors are availabJe Sunday through Thu r~Jay nights from 7:00 pill. to tUm p.m . in the Angell Hall computing center, as well as (In Suncbv oveni m:;~ from 6:3() p.m. to 10:00 pm. in mum 120 oi th e' Undt;rgr;'idu · "tt> Llhrcu}, They ,1['0 ;Jk, ;:tvai b bk in \.· .~l rlnu 1 d\)rn~i ~~ \-"ti~ .h2; th t~ 1.'. '\ '1.:\.:d~\ P',< Fr - L :;"f;, '. ' ,-: \ :" ::'~::,L·f..1)(} ~ ; '1' -;c~· { ':::;'. ' l:~ .";' ~"'. ..

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November 18, 1992

THE MICHIGAN REVIEW

Crusty's Corner

11

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Plaid-Clad Junk Monkeys: Poor Man's Rock by Crusty Muncher "We started out as a glam band, kinda like the New York Dolls," explains Dave Bierman, vocalist/ guitarist of Detroit's Junk Monkeys. " At the time, it sounded like a good idea. This was ten years ago - way before Motley Criie, before anyone dared to put lipstick to lip. Human League and Bauhaus were the rage of the day, and it was a definite slap in the face to all of that - but we packed , em in every night." Despite the inauspicious start, the Junk Monkeys have come quite a long way. Gone are the pantyhose and high heels; in their place one finds flannel. In the late eighties, Metal Blade Records signed the band; Bliss is the band's third album for that label. The album is midwestern garage rock n' roll, which places the Junk Monkeys in the very same vein as their flannel-dad peers the Replacements and Soul Asylum. But Bierman is tired of the comparisons. "I love those bands and I take it as a

compliment, but I've been hearing that for years," he says. "We just play poor man's rock n' roll. We're a shitty version of a rock band - just simple music, nothing out of the ordinary. "But the flannel thing really bothers

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Detroit's Junk Monkeys me," he continues. "We catch shit because we wear flannels. People say we want to

Mancunian Blandness by Franklin Delano Muncher

Supreme Love Gods

The Darling Buds

Def American I'll get to the music in a moment -let

Supreme Love Gods

Erotlcs Chaos

Erotica marks the maturation of a band that has shown remarkable potential in the past. This deeply resonating, atmospheric but muscled music is not necessarily the next logical step after 1990's smart and tight Crawdaddy, yet there can hardly be a fan who would disown them. The Darling Buds - a quartet from Wales - have released one of this year's mo~t compelling and satisfying albums. The guitars don't so much manufacture hooks and riffs as they create SWirling whirlpools of souno. Orbiting about a steady bass which becomes more pronounced than on past efforts, they ring and chime their way through minor chord after minor chord. The effect is less elegiac than one might expect, but their forceful interplay grants "Isolation" a powerful sense of desperation and lends "Off My Mind" a moodiness that lesser bands cannot evoke. The lyrics are not especially good, but singer Andrea (she uses no last name) more importantly knows how to use her voice as an instrument. She capably flits from the girlish to sultry and her performance atways adds something to the song.

me start by saying that the Supreme Love Gods have about the dumbest promotional package that I've seen in several years of reviewing. It's a poem, and a pretty long and lousy one to boot: "Supreme Love Gods they called themselves with pride/Besides, 'The Butthole Surfers' had been tried." Hardee har har. Should this stop you from buying the album? Not really. Just don't go out of your way. What we have here is a series of mildly pleasant Manchesteresque tunes: Charlatans UK without the funk or attitude, EtvfF without the hooks or the samples. Pieces of each song attract, like the low intensity guitar of "Fire" and the slowly building momentum of "Nothing." The band never lets loose, however, and the entire production seems too careful. With the possible exception of Alive," it lacks anything memorable. Play this one in the background and nobody will complain, but nobody will dance, either. /I

Franklin Delano Muncher is buried on the Diag. 'This review, which is not about feminazis or affirmative action, is dedicated to Greg Stump.

covers, Zodiac Killers is an eight song EP of lirnp-wristed poop ... Bob Weir, Jerry Garcia, Budgie, and Eddie Van Halen appear on Astronauts & Heretics, the new LP from Thomas Dolby ... Proper Grounds is one of the first bands Signed to Madonna's new label, Maverick Records. They spew the worst fusion of rap and metal I've heard since One can mosey down the Hard Corps. I think that these guys to the art museum here in are trying to be innovative, but they are town and see art lovers so far from the cutting edge that it's not going nuts over spilled paint. Picasso could have , surprising Madonna had something to defecated on canvas and do with them. Even Marky Mark is all over Proper Grounds' rapper, and the today some would deem it a masterpiece. Well, alto horrid musical accompaniment is too reminiscent of Anthrax and mid-€ighties saxophonist/ composer European metal ... John Zorn has become the Picasso of counterculture Speaking of Marky Mark, his brother (New Kid on the Block Donny Wahlberg) experimental music. Sure, has produced an EP from a terrible pair he's done some cool things of rappers called the Def Duo. Donnie, (like produce Mr. Bungle's forget it. You'll never have anything to LP), but most of the records do with decent rap music, buddy. that he's touched and I've heard are nothing more than pointless """}{emember, you used to wear acid washed jeans, dress like a fruitcake on stage with noise. a few other hearthrobs, and sing really Painkiller is his new noise trio and bad disco songs to 12-year-old girls. Buried Secrets is the album. Zorn makes Donnie, you even made a Christmas his sax sound like a tortured animal while album. Any rapper with even a stitch of Material bassist Bill Laswell and extalent is going to avoid your fake ass like Napalm Death drummer Mick Harris the plague ... join in on the annoying mess. This stuff is mighty dumb, but Zorn's got tons of fans Crusty Muncher harvested your ... Mr. Bungle fans will enjoy the hilarious Thanksgiving turkey. He'll send you new album from British wackos the feathers if you like. Digitally Lawnmower Deth. These guys mix bad recorded samples of what he calls the heavy metal with every other popular "slaughter soundtrack" will appear on genre (yup, rap and reggae) on their new his upcoming seasonal release, Gobble LP Return of the Fabulous Metal Bozo This. Crusty's Comer, which is not about Clawns ... feminazis or affirmative action, is From Liverpool comes another dedicated to Greg Stump. mediocre Brit-pop band, Scorpio Rising. Sounding like the Clash doing Ned's Atomic Dustbin and Duran Duran

look like the Replacements. Shit, it's cold here in Detroit and I've been wearing flannels since my mom bought em for me when I was eight years old. People don't understand that in the midwest flannel shirts aren't a fashion statement fl)r many people." I

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