David Bartholomae, a professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh, wrote an essay called “Inventing the University” in 1985. In this essay, he talks about what it takes to essentially create your own “university”. Bartholomae describes it as “Every time a student sits down to write…he has to invent the university for the occasion… a branch of it, like history or anthropology…”(60). This saying makes me think about my high school motto which was “Discover Your Path”. Personally, it meant that the school was there to help me, become my own person. Now I see that they were setting me up start a “path” here at Richmond. I created a new “branch” that will help me grow who I am supposed to be.
When he talks about “inventing”, one of the examples that he mentions is when he focused on a set of student papers and their context. He assumed that the students were given a certain text and therefore, he wanted to know what they could do with it and how they would create their own “university” through it. This is similar to my first persuasive speech that I had to write for AP Language class my senior year. The teacher gave us sources and we had to figure out how to use them. This was a way for her to evaluate our level of thinking and figure out where to start teaching. Although the persuasive speech was rough, as the year went on we were able to use skills, or academic discourse, used in our class to master what was needed in speech writing.
Later, Bartholomae goes on to say that there is a huge issue is between student and teacher. Studying under Bill Coles, he was able to understand the importance of how and why paying attention to students is very important. Coles insisted that “proper preparation… was to learn to read student writing, to read it with care and attention for what it did (as opposed to what it said)”(264). Bartholomae wanted to take what he learned from Coles and make it his own. Through a two-year work-study, he found out that his colleagues were already doing it. They cared about what their students were writing and made sure to get their students thinking about what they might do with the text they were given. It is the same here at the University of Richmond. Being at a college with small class sizes, the professors are able to look at your work and tell where you are struggling and give you ways to improve on it. Not only that but in all of my classes from the syllabus I know that literacy practice is highly valued. Daily, I find myself in the library reading pages from different sources and taking note on how I can use those sources to better my own writing.
What David Bartholomae wrote is as relevant now as it was 30 years ago. Having the right tools to improve your writing is important not only for yourself but your career as well. Having people in your corner helping you out, is a bonus.
Bartholomae, David. “Inventing the University.” 1985. Cross-Talk in Comp Theory: A Reader. 2nd Ed. Ed. Victor Villanueva. Urbana: NCTE, 2003. Print.