Course Description

What does it take to move the world, to change opinion, to make progress toward social justice? In this course, we’ll take a look at and practice using the strategies social activists use in documents that further the causes of social justice. The central aim of the course is to identify an audience (or audiences) that can help you further the cause of social justice in your local context, to create the document (or documents) that you think will persuade that audience to help, and to justify your choices by describing them in terms of the concepts provided in the course readings.

We intend for the term “social activists” to be broadly defined; it includes not just leaders of organizations like Black Lives Matter or the Women’s March, but also leaders of local social service, civic, and religious institutions. You’ll need to identify an organization that you want to learn more about (it can be an organization to which you already belong), identify the key players of the organization, determine the agency’s rhetorical needs through observation, interview, and research, and then craft a message to audiences that are in a position to make a difference for your agency.

The course is arranged in a series of six steps:

  • Identify a local issue that interests you or has had an impact on you or your family.
  • Identify an organization in your community (broadly defined) that aims to address these social issues
  • Observe the workings of the agency by spending time in the main office or attending a meeting
  • Interview some of the agency’s program leaders and members to better ascertain their goals and needs
  • Create an archive of materials
  • Address one of the agency’s needs by finding an audience that is in a position to help your agency and creating a document–written, image, video, or something else–that will influence your audience. Whatever document(s) you create, you’ll create a secondary document that describes the rhetorical choices you made and that will use the course readings as a justification for those choices.

Please note: this class will take place in a technology rich environment. You don’t any equipment of your own (though it’d be useful to have a cell phone camera), and you don’t have to know anything about how to use the equipment, but you should know that part of the course will be figuring out how to use digital tools for academic purposes. Some of your work will be published on the web (with instructions for how to maintain your privacy).

First-Year Composition Mission Statement

First-year composition courses at CCNY teach writing as a recursive and frequently collaborative process of invention, drafting, and revising. Writing is both personal and social, and students should learn how to write for different purposes and audiences. Since writing is a process of making meaning and communicating, FYC teachers respond mainly to the content of students’ writing as well as to recurring surface errors. Students should expect frequent written and oral responses on the content of their writing from their teachers and peers. Classes rely heavily on a workshop format. Instruction emphasizes the connection between writing, reading, and critical thinking; students should give thoughtful, reasoned responses to the readings. Both reading and writing are the subjects of class discussions and workshops, and students are expected to be active participants in the classroom community. Learning from each other will be a large part of the classroom experience.

Writing Program Philosophy

Although there are many sections of composition, all of them should aim to help students achieve the course learning outcomes for English 110, the writing sections of the Freshman Inquiry Writing Seminary, and all of the courses in the 210 series (21001, Writing in the Humanities; 21002; Writing in the Social Sciences; 21003, Writing in the Sciences; and 21007, Writing for Engineering). The individual assignments might vary from section to section, but all courses share these common goals. The writing program is designed around the concepts of rhetorical knowledge and genre knowledge; our aim is to help students understand key rhetorical concepts and to be able to use those concepts to help them read and write in genres across the curriculum. To achieve these aims, students should reflect on their writing in terms of their achievement of the course learning outcomes. Their reflections should culminate in a long self-reflective essay in which they review their writing from the semester. Reflections after every assignment, a graded, end-of-term self-reflection, and a digital portfolio are required components of every class.

English 110 and the Freshman Inquiry Writing Seminar Course Learning Outcomes

  • Explore and analyze, in writing and reading, a variety of genres and rhetorical situations.
  • Develop strategies for reading, drafting, collaborating, revising, and editing.
  • Recognize and practice key rhetorical terms and strategies when engaged in writing situations.
  • Engage in the collaborative and social aspects of writing processes.
  • Understand and use print and digital technologies to address a range of audiences.
  • Locate research sources (including academic journal articles, magazine and newspaper articles) in the library’s databases or archives and on the Internet and evaluate them for credibility, accuracy, timeliness, and bias.
  • Compose texts that integrate your stance with appropriate sources using strategies such as summary, critical analysis, interpretation, synthesis, and argumentation.
  • Practice systematic application of citation conventions.