Try to identify the following educational scenario: The compulsory writing course does not exist. If students are taught to write in any formal way at all, they are taught to write in Latin. Latin is the relatively fixed language of the educated class, seemingly impervious to the dialectical mutability and vernacular idiosyncrasies of the English language. Most readers of this journal would recognize this Latinate compositional environment as typical for an Oxford student in late fourteenth-century England. Yet, some may be surprised to know that it also accurately describes the linguistic context of the Harvard student in late nineteenth century America. While the stature of English as a literary language was certainly elevated in the intervening centuries, its place within, or should I say without, the writing curriculum remained remarkably static. Eventually, each of these moments in the history of higher education led to profound transformations in the role of the English language in social and academic life, from translations of Latin texts into the vernacular to the revolutionary belief in “education for all,” but they were consistently met with opposition from the educated elite. As I suggest below, the recurrence of reform and resistance in the history of writing in English reveals the need to historicize egalitarian educational initiatives. In particular, I want to recognize a “prehistory” of one popular writing movement, Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC), which should inform the way we teach and empower students to write effectively in all disciplines.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/alex_mueller/9/