The teaching of writing at Dartmouth, a word from Joe Asch

Joe Asch ’79 generously funded a highly successful writing program at Dartmouth for the better part of a decade until Dean Carol Folt terminated the program. As I suggested last night, Dean Folt’s decision seems to have been due in part to displeasure with Joe’s sharp criticism of Dartmouth’s administration.

There’s no one I’d rather hear from on the subject of the teaching of writing at Dartmouth than Joe. This morning, I received the following message from him:

When the new “Institute” was announced, about 30% of freshmen were exempted from Writing 5 based on their AP and SAT writing scores. These top-scoring folks are now the object of most of the additional spending in the writing program! This move makes little sense to me; one might imagine that these students are among the College’s best writers.

Beyond this point, an external review of the writing program a few years ago showed that the Writing 5/Freshman Seminar/RWIT model was not successful in teaching students to write (as almost any faculty member who requires writing from students can tell you). To now add to the number of students in this failed system is simply to do “more of what does not work”.

It seems that one of the real motivations behind this change was simply to get more freshmen into small classes at the lowest possible cost. Too many students were finding freshman year an impersonal experience due to the large size of so many classes at the College today, and this is the administration’s slapdash solution.

This much ballyhooed change at Dartmouth is further proof that the College desperately needs a new President who can appoint effective, imaginative administrators.

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