An Academic Disgrace

While making my way through all the reading for the week, navigating throughout the websites and information provided, I found myself at first overwhelmed by everything and then quickly I became disturbed. Very disturbed. What was I disturbed by you ask? Firstly by reading the WPA Outcome Statement for First-Year Composition. Adopted in 2014, the introduction statement explains the “outcomes for first-year composition programs in U.S. postsecondary education. It describes the writing knowledge, practices, and attitudes that undergraduate students develop in first-year composition, which at most schools is a required general education course or sequence of courses” (“WPA Outcomes Statement”).

The threshold concepts (and here’s the book just in case you’ve already forgotten what it looks like) we’ve become so familiar with over these five weeks seem very far off compared to these “outcomes” and “standards”. But again, what am I so disturbed by? It’s simple, and I’ve been slightly obsessed with it since starting university in 2011. It’s the education levels in the United States. That we’re at University, attending high education, and that students are coming into that not knowing these simple writing skills. This is not how other parts of the world utilizes their universities, and I think it’s time the US catches up.

Now maybe I’m very a little snobby, but think about it this way (and I can only speak from my own experience). Going to university is a choice. You choose to go. Therefore you have to pay, unlike primary and high school (unless it’s private) where you don’t pay. But the thing is we’re HIGHLY encouraged to attend university. So much so that we can’t find jobs unless we have a Bachelor’s Degree or higher. So there you are, you’ve got your degree that you were highly encouraged to get in order to find a job and yet now you can’t find a job. Now we’re told we need MORE education. Now we need Master’s Degrees or higher. It didn’t used to be like this. This is a new phenomenon. We’ve got people who are highly trained mixed in with those who have limped through school on technicalities. Neither one is necessarily to blame, and yet here we are.

So when I look at this WPA Outcome Statement and look at these “by the end of first-year composition, students should” (“WPA Outcomes Statement”) I seriously worry about the state of students coming into university, because like I stated, they should already know all this stuff. And it makes me wonder how in the world they got into university in the first place? And if we’re not hurting students by just limping them along? Are we then not just glorified babysitters?

My only other comparison, school wise, is to New Zealand. When I was in my final years of high school we already had “rhetorical knowledge”, “critical thinking”, “composing processes”, and “conventions” (“WPA Outcomes Statement”). And when we attend university in New Zealand, it is vastly different from how it is over here. I never attended university in New Zealand, but almost everyone I know did. I found this fantastic article comparing the differences.  

Here’s also a video as well talking a little about the troubling numbers coming out of education in America:

I am VERY concerned.

I’ve read so much in these different pages that I almost can’t keep all my thoughts straight. I hope that when I teach that my students will know more than these statements are making it seem. I disagree with so much that I’ve read that I feel very disheartened. The one thing that I can agree on however is in the Writing Assessment: A Position Statement. The statement, well states that “choosing a correct response from a set of possible answers is not composing” (“Writing Assessment: A Position Statement”).

And also if anyone is interested, here is the New Zealand Education system!

Works Cited

“Education System.” Education New Zealand, 2019,

“Studying at College in New Zealand Compared to the USA.” The Education Abroad Network,

“U.S. Education Vs The Rest Of The World.” Youtube, uploaded by Newsweek, 30 May 2018,

“WPA Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition.” Council of Writing Program, July 2014,

“Writing Assessment: A Position Statement.” Conference on College Composition & Communication, November 2014,

Featured Image can be found here.


Melinda Grant
October 8, 2019 at 8:16 pm

Hi Miro! I must admit I was a little overwhelmed when I, too, began reading through all the various links on position statements. As a new first-year composition instructor, there is so much to think about and balance. Trying to fulfill departmental guidelines, governing agency guidelines, and make a difference for each student seems like a lot of pressure. I also understand the frustration that all students won’t arrive at college at the same writing level. But I think, at least for me, no matter what educational background they have, no matter where their writing skills are that day, I hope to be a resource of learning that will enable them to advance their skillset while creating more confidence in their writing abilities. As we learned in the threshold concepts, we never finish learning the discipline of writing. For this reason alone, every student in every class has more to learn, even if they are highly skilled.

October 9, 2019 at 3:40 pm

Hey Miro! You make some really good points during this post. It is crazy to me too that they make college simultaneously feel like a choice and a requirement at the same time. It’s really hard these days to get a good job without having gone to college first and the fees and tuition at some schools are absolutely crazy. It makes me feel fortunate that I am able to get my Master’s degree tuition free. But because it is a necessity, and most people are not going to college to be English majors, these first year composition classes are likely to have many students who don’t know the material and don’t care to know it. First year composition teachers have a great challenge in finding a way to present these concepts in a really interesting way for everyone.

October 9, 2019 at 6:06 pm

Hi Miro,

Man, I’m now second guessing if I read the right thing for this assignment. I actually liked a lot of the positions that the WPA took. They seemed to recognize the importance of process and the flexibility therein, and I also liked that they were making sure to include rhetorical knowledge.

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"Your Brain on Writing"

September 30, 2019