MAILED: Nov. 14, 2000
When Patti See was teaching a writing course in 1996, one of her students asked, How come we never read about people like us? That question and a large file of coming of age stories passed down to English professor Bruce Taylor prompted See and Taylor to collaborate on an anthology of essays, poems, fiction, memoirs, drama and letters on the college experience.
The new book titled Higher Learning: Reading and Writing About College is like no other anthology currently in print, said See, student services coordinator in UW-Eau Claires Academic and Career Services. She explained other anthologies are not as comprehensive, for they do not include critical thinking questions, as many writing ideas, an annotated list of related films, as great a variety of selections, or pieces written by students. See and Taylor also wrote an instructors manual, which supplements the book.
The book, which especially targets first-year college students, is designed to prepare students for college by reading about the experience, rather than focusing on study skills, time management, note taking and other tools found in previous texts for first-year college students.
Even other anthologies, if they dealt at all with student life, never told the inside stories, the personal stories of falling in love, dealing with AIDS, rape, gay and lesbian relationships, See said.
These are things people are experiencing, Taylor said, and not to bring them into the classroom is unimaginable to me.
We also were conscious of dealing with diversity in a lot of different ways: students of color, students with disabilities, nontraditional students, commuter students, See said.
See and Taylor speak of their book with great enthusiasm and are excited to be using it with their freshman English classes this semester. Students also are responding well to the book.
The thing that I find heartening is that students are saying theyve already read selections from the book without them being assigned, Taylor said.
When See asked her Introduction to College Writing students to complete an informal midsemester survey on the class, See said one student said, I never liked English classes, and this is the first one Ive ever liked because of what were reading. The comment is the same one See and Taylor heard while testing the books effectiveness before publication.
Taylor, who has been teaching almost 30 years, said he had begun to feel burned out a few years ago. The four years he spent working with See to publish the book and then using the book itself have reinvigorated him.
For me, it spawned a new interest in interactive teaching, Taylor said. Patti has got me trying a lot of goofy things I never would have tried. Its broadening my teaching. I might be deluded, but Im thinking Im doing the best teaching of my life and a lot of that is due to this book and what Ive learned by working with Patti.
The authors are pleased with the current success of the book, which was published by Prentice Hall in May.
The first printing sold out immediately, See said. We didnt realize it had sold out until I called the (publishers) 800 number to order desk copies for my mentors, and I was told it would take a couple weeks.
The publisher sends statements on the books sales twice a year, so See and Taylor are waiting anxiously to learn what has happened. However, they do know that Drexel University in Philadelphia has adopted the book for its new freshman experience class.
One of the reasons I think its doing well is that one-third of the pieces were written by students, Taylor said of the book that also includes selections written by one current and seven former UW-Eau Claire students. The student writing in here Im very excited about.
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: Nov. 14, 2000