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CCCC Statement on the Multiple Uses of Writing

Conference on College Composition and Communication, November 2007

[Submitted by the CCCC Multiple Uses of Writing Task Force and adopted by the CCCC Executive Committee on November 19, 2007.]

Two recent movements in American education are working to pull the teaching and learning of writing in contradictory directions. On the one hand, a new and critical emphasis on the liberal education of citizens for the 21st century aims to help us better respond to the size, speed, and global interconnectedness of changes in economics, science and technology, politics, environmental issues, and a host of cross-cultural concerns (Association of American Colleges and Universities). On the other hand, the rise of standards-based education in the United States, especially following the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, works to compress curricula and learning into narrow indicators of teacher accountability and student achievement. At the same time writing instruction is being called upon to multiply its vision and expand student abilities, to move outward from its traditional emphasis on academic contexts and forms to include public, cross-cultural, professional, personal, and artistic contexts and forms, it is also under increasing pressure to employ high-stakes assessment procedures which research shows encourage an over-emphasis on correctness, formulaic writing, unoriginal thought, and test-driven teaching (Armein & Berliner; Hillocks).

To restrict students’ engagement with writing to only academic contexts and forms is to risk narrowing what we as a nation can remember, understand, and create. As the world grows smaller, we will live by words as never before, and it will take many words framed in many ways to transform that closeness into the mutuality needed to pursue peace and prosperity for our generation and those to come. Bearing all this in mind, the Conference on College Composition and Communication affirms that many genres and uses of writing must be taught well in the nation’s schools, colleges, and universities:

  • forms of academic discourse that document with integrity what is known, while recording principled inquiry into the unknown, including analyses, reports, exploratory essays, essay exams, case studies, summaries, abstracts, and annotations;
  • forms of workplace discourse that observe established conventions, though never at the expense of failing to convey ideas that enlighten and compel, including memos, proposals, evaluations, oral presentations, lab and progress reports, letters, reviews, instructions, and user manuals;
  • forms of civic discourse that energize all manner of inclusive deliberation, the ideal product of which is just relations among the citizenry, broadly conceived, including arguments, commentaries, charters and manifestoes, surveys, debates, petitions, and editorials;
  • forms of personal discourse that create and maintain relationships, including a relationship with one’s self, as a means to social and emotional well-being, including journals, personal narratives, memoirs, reflections, meditations, conversations, dialogues, and correspondence, all in various media;
  • forms of cross-cultural discourse that bridge the divides among speakers of various Englishes as well as speakers of other languages, especially collaborative, visual, and internet-based projects, including websites, wikis, blogs, newsletters, interviews, and profiles.
  • forms of aesthetic discourse that encourage the individual imagination to engage with diverse cultural traditions, including poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, drama, screenplays, and songwriting.

The CCCC hereby calls together—and calls to action—all those who share its vision of a future in which an expansive writing curriculum, backed by ample resources, attends unyieldingly to the difficult work of helping students use good words, images, and other appropriate means, well composed, to build a better world.


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