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
AuthorMilson-Whyte, Vivette Ruth
AdvisorMiller, Thomas P.
Committee ChairMiller, Thomas P.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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.
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.