A History of Writing Instruction for Jamaican University Students: A Case for Moving beyond the Rhetoric of Transparent Disciplinarity at The University of the West Indies, Mona

Persistent Link:
http://hdl.handle.net/10150/194079
Title:
A History of Writing Instruction for Jamaican University Students: A Case for Moving beyond the Rhetoric of Transparent Disciplinarity at The University of the West Indies, Mona
Author:
Milson-Whyte, Vivette Ruth
Issue Date:
2008
Publisher:
The University of Arizona.
Rights:
Copyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
Abstract:
In this dissertation, I trace academics' attitudes to writing and its instruction through the six-decade history of The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, in Jamaica. I establish that while the institution's general writing courses facilitate students' initiation into the academy, these courses reflect assumptions about writing and learning that need to be reassessed to yield versatile writers and disassociate the courses and writing from the alarmist rhetoric that often emerges in the media and in academe. In Jamaica, critics of university students' writing often promote what Mike Rose calls the "myth of transience" and perpetuate the "the rhetoric of transparent disciplinarity." According to the myth of transience, if writing is taught correctly at pre-university levels, students will not need writing instruction in the academy. The concept that I call "the rhetoric of transparent disciplinarity" is defined in the work of David Russell, who examines the view that writing is a single, mechanical, generalizable skill that is learned once and for all. Advocates of this view consider writing as a transparent recording of reality or completed thought that can be taught separate from disciplinary knowledge. Based on my analysis of archival materials and data gathered from questionnaires and interviews with past and current writing specialists, this view has been evident at the UWI, Mona, since the institution's earliest years. Academics there have perpetuated a certain tacit assumption that writing is a natural process. By recalling the country's history of education, I demonstrate how this assumption parallels colonial administrators' determination that Jamaican Creole speakers should naturally learn English to advance in society. I argue that if the university wants to widen participation while maintaining excellence, then academics should foster knowledge production (rather than only reproduction) by acknowledging the extent to which disciplines are rhetorically constructed through writing. If writing specialists and other content faculty draw on rhetoric's attention to audience, situation, and purpose, they can foster learning by helping students see how writing contributes to knowledge-making inside the academy and beyond. This study contributes to international discussions about how students learn to write and use writing in higher education.
Type:
text; Electronic Dissertation
Keywords:
history; writing instruction; literacy; higher education; Jamaica; Jamaican Creole
Degree Name:
PhD
Degree Level:
doctoral
Degree Program:
English; Graduate College
Degree Grantor:
University of Arizona
Advisor:
Miller, Thomas P.
Committee Chair:
Miller, Thomas P.

Full metadata record

DC FieldValue Language
dc.language.isoENen_US
dc.titleA History of Writing Instruction for Jamaican University Students: A Case for Moving beyond the Rhetoric of Transparent Disciplinarity at The University of the West Indies, Monaen_US
dc.creatorMilson-Whyte, Vivette Ruthen_US
dc.contributor.authorMilson-Whyte, Vivette Ruthen_US
dc.date.issued2008en_US
dc.publisherThe University of Arizona.en_US
dc.rightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.en_US
dc.description.abstractIn this dissertation, I trace academics' attitudes to writing and its instruction through the six-decade history of The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, in Jamaica. I establish that while the institution's general writing courses facilitate students' initiation into the academy, these courses reflect assumptions about writing and learning that need to be reassessed to yield versatile writers and disassociate the courses and writing from the alarmist rhetoric that often emerges in the media and in academe. In Jamaica, critics of university students' writing often promote what Mike Rose calls the "myth of transience" and perpetuate the "the rhetoric of transparent disciplinarity." According to the myth of transience, if writing is taught correctly at pre-university levels, students will not need writing instruction in the academy. The concept that I call "the rhetoric of transparent disciplinarity" is defined in the work of David Russell, who examines the view that writing is a single, mechanical, generalizable skill that is learned once and for all. Advocates of this view consider writing as a transparent recording of reality or completed thought that can be taught separate from disciplinary knowledge. Based on my analysis of archival materials and data gathered from questionnaires and interviews with past and current writing specialists, this view has been evident at the UWI, Mona, since the institution's earliest years. Academics there have perpetuated a certain tacit assumption that writing is a natural process. By recalling the country's history of education, I demonstrate how this assumption parallels colonial administrators' determination that Jamaican Creole speakers should naturally learn English to advance in society. I argue that if the university wants to widen participation while maintaining excellence, then academics should foster knowledge production (rather than only reproduction) by acknowledging the extent to which disciplines are rhetorically constructed through writing. If writing specialists and other content faculty draw on rhetoric's attention to audience, situation, and purpose, they can foster learning by helping students see how writing contributes to knowledge-making inside the academy and beyond. This study contributes to international discussions about how students learn to write and use writing in higher education.en_US
dc.typetexten_US
dc.typeElectronic Dissertationen_US
dc.subjecthistoryen_US
dc.subjectwriting instructionen_US
dc.subjectliteracyen_US
dc.subjecthigher educationen_US
dc.subjectJamaicaen_US
dc.subjectJamaican Creoleen_US
thesis.degree.namePhDen_US
thesis.degree.leveldoctoralen_US
thesis.degree.disciplineEnglishen_US
thesis.degree.disciplineGraduate Collegeen_US
thesis.degree.grantorUniversity of Arizonaen_US
dc.contributor.advisorMiller, Thomas P.en_US
dc.contributor.chairMiller, Thomas P.en_US
dc.contributor.committeememberHall, Anne-Marieen_US
dc.contributor.committeememberLeSuer, Getaen_US
dc.identifier.proquest2650en_US
dc.identifier.oclc659749508en_US
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