Critiquing the Personal over the Public

After establishing his aims, objectives, and motivations in Part 1, Donald Lazere continued in Part 2 (chapters 4–9) by critiquing the current state of academic discourse and discussing the consequences of a more internal, reflective focus. In Part 1, he strongly advocated for the incorporation of critical thinking into the composition curriculum, alluding to an existing pedagogical deficit. In fact, he wrote that the decline of critical thinking in composition occurred simultaneously with the privileging of the production of a students’ personal writing (whether expressive or argumentative) over analysis and criticism of either academic texts or public rhetoric, with the personal dominating conceptions of first-year writing and the analytical and critical being bumped to advanced courses or other disciplines (pp. 67–68).

Lazere’s critiques regarding the prioritization of personal over public composition frequently return to the conclusions of the 1966 Dartmouth Conference and the scholarship that followed, including the works of Joseph Harris, Min-Zhan Lu, Sharon Crowley, and David Bartholomae, among others. In several instances, Lazere relied on Mina Shaughnessy’s findings as a framework and justification for his critiques, as well as for his methods to reclaim the classroom as a space for critical thinking. A classroom that prioritizes a student’s own language over academic discourse, he argued, will (more than likely) result in writers who are unable to understand the illogical nature of their prose as they have been taught to value their own methods of communication, rather than subscribe to the conventions of another (pp. 114–118).