College Writing 110 – The Purpose of Education

T/Th 4:30 – 6:20                                                                                         Professor Danica Savonick
Kiely Hall 325                                                                                                              Klapper Hall 356                                                            Office Hours: Th 3:30 – 4:30

“When you come out of here, who will you be?…Who decides what you are allowed to learn?…What determines the courses you take each semester?…Where is the power that controls your life here…What does quality education mean? What is a university?…Can a quality education take place under these conditions?…What are your expectations here and what do you have a right to expect?…And who makes the decisions that are even now shaping your future life?” — Adrienne Rich, “Student Passes–Education Fails”


Teaching and learning are central to the many roles we play in life as students, citizens, writers, employees, managers, authors, computer programmers, lawyers, journalists, doctors, parents, activists, social workers, friends, and critical and creative individuals. What are the most effective methods for teaching and learning, both within and beyond formal classrooms? Given our location at Queens College and CUNY, how do we understand the purpose of public education? Is college an investment that we make as individuals, or a collective social and public good? Is it a right, a privilege, or something else entirely? In this course, we will pay particular attention to debates about the history and future of public education, issues related to equity and social justice, and the complex relationships between learning and technology, exploring how these questions have historically been addressed, and how they get taken up in contemporary literature, scholarship, journalism, etc. In addition, students are encouraged to come up with their own questions related to the broader aims of the course.

This course fulfills the larger aims of College Writing 110: to help students become more critical and creative readers and writers who are able to communicate effectively in different situations.

Learning goals
In this course, you will learn

  • To practice writing as a process of thinking, rethinking, editing, and revising
  • To read critically and creatively and draw connections among a wide variety of texts
  • To make persuasive arguments that are organized and supported by sufficient evidence
  • To develop revision skills in looking at one’s own writing and that of peers and professionals
  • To communicate with different audiences and in different contexts, with an emphasis on digital and public publishing
  • To collaborate effectively, for the maximum benefit of everyone in the group


  • Active in-class participation (15%)
  • Two blog posts and comments (15%)
  • Paper one (15%)
  • Paper two (20%)
  • Paper three (annotated bibliography) (15%)
  • Final collaborative project (20%)

You will be allowed to revise most essays (excluding blog posts) for a higher grade. Note: I will not give any D’s as final grades for this course. Since you need at least a C- in order to pass this course, anything below that will be counted as an F so that when you retake the course, the F will automatically disappear and be replaced with the new grade you earn. This policy is designed to help your GPA.


Active participation is required in order to pass this course. Every class will involve some assortment of group discussion, note taking, quizzes, and in-class writing activities. Class work cannot be made up if you are absent, so make sure you are here as much as possible. Note: to get an “A” in participation you must speak up at least once per class (a comment or a question), and you must be absent no more than once or twice. Since participation is worth 15% of your grade, the highest grade you can possibly get for the course without actively participating (if you get 100% on every assignment) is an 85%.

Class expectations

Active participation: The more effort and energy you put into this course, the more we will all learn. This is your class and I expect you to be present, not only physically but mentally, and to participate and engage yourself and your peers. Class discussions are a vital part of our class and it is essential that all are actively involved. In order to actively listen, participate, contribute, and learn, you must not use electronics in class for anything unrelated to our course. In addition, if your use of electronic devices is distracting to others, you will be asked to put your device away and possibly to leave the class.

Respectful discussion: Discussion is encouraged but you must always be respectful of ideas shared by your peers; the classroom should be a challenging, fun, and positive place for all.

Preparedness: Please come to class prepared, with readings and assignments completed. It is important that you attend class and arrive on time. Missed classes and frequent lateness will impact your ability to participate in class discussion and will negatively affect your final grade.

Writing workshop

College Writing 110 includes a mandatory conference hour each week. Regular class will run each day from 4:30-5:50 and 5:50-6:20 will be a writing workshop. During this period, we will work on writing assignments and various writing skills based on the needs and desires of those in the class. Some weeks I will meet with students in groups or individually for conferences to discuss writing assignments and your progress in the course.


Our course is affiliated with the Futures Initiative, a CUNY-wide organization dedicated to equity and innovation in education. As a Futures Initiative class, we have three Queens College peer mentors who are eager to share their stories and knowledge, and help you with problems you may encounter as a student. You will meet our mentors during the first weeks of the semester and you should feel free to reach out to them with questions. Learn more about the mentoring program and ask questions here:

  • Hurriya Hassan
  • Kristina Aganova
  • Julissa Camilo Valerio


All readings for the course are available on the course site (, though you will need to rent at least one film using Amazon instant video. You must bring all readings to class, annotated, on the day they are assigned in order to receive participation credit.

Please also purchase a pack of index cards for the semester. A folder and notebook are recommended, as there will be many handouts.

Submission of work

All work in this class should be properly cited according to the Modern Language Association (MLA) specifications. For blog posts you may use a combination of hyperlinks and MLA style citations.

Unless otherwise stated, all formal writing assignments should be submitted in hard copy (printed), with 12 pt, Times New Roman font, double-spaced, with one inch margins, and your last name and page number in the upper righthand corner of the document.

Course website and technology

The primary website for our course is hosted on the Futures Initiative Commons in a Box site, which is built with WordPress.

In order to blog and comment on our site, you will need to set up an account with CBOX. After this, you will login to the site using your username and login. Make sure to write these down.

  1. Go to the Futures Initiative homepage ( and click “Join Us.”
  2. Create an account and fill out your profile. You do not need to check the box marked “Yes, I’d like to create a new site.”
  3. Once I’ve accepted your request, you should be able to join our course group and website. Look for “The Purpose of Education” in the Group Directory and “Request Membership.”
  4. Once your membership has been approved, you will be able to access and post to our course site from our course webpage. If you are having difficulties posting a blog, make sure you are logged in. Please contact me if you have any trouble.

We will use Google Documents to workshop drafts of our writing and to complete homework assignments. If you don’t already have a gmail account, please sign up for one here.


Blog posts & presentations: You will write two blog posts this semester, each worth 5% of your grade. Blog posts must be uploaded onto the course blog by 4 pm the day before class so other students have ample time to comment before class. Responses should be well thought out and organized, but do not have to be written as formal papers. Posts should be around 300-600 words long, and should end with two discussion questions for the class.

On the day of class for which you are blogging, you will also lead a class discussion based on your blog post and questions. You may read your blog post aloud, or simply talk through the ideas, and field questions and responses from the class. It is recommended that you coordinate with the other bloggers to discuss your plans for the class discussion.

Blog comments: For classes in which you are not responsible for writing a blog entry, you are expected to comment on someone else’s post. These comments should demonstrate an engagement with other students’ ideas and/or questions. For this reason, commenters are expected to quote at least once from either the original blog entry or any other preceding comments on the page. Comments should be about 50-150 words in length and must be posted before class. Comments will be evaluated not individually, but collectively for a total of 5% of your final grade.

I will not accept any late blog posts, presentations, or comments. These cannot be made up so remember to check your own schedule before signing up for response dates.


Plagiarism will not be tolerated. A student who has plagiarized any part of a paper will automatically fail the paper and possibly the class. The student will also be listed on a departmental record that will be maintained for the duration of the student’s enrollment at the College and reported to the Dean of Students, who may decide to take further action. See the CUNY Policy on Academic Integrity.

Writing Center

Located in Kiely Hall 229, the Writing Center is staffed by tutors trained to help you revise your writing at various stages. If you believe you need additional help with your writing, or if I ask you to set up a regular meeting with a tutor, you should make an appointment at least one week prior to an assignment due date. Online help is also available at their website.

Special accommodations

If you have a learning, sensory, or physical reason for special accommodation in this class, please inform me and contact the Office of Special Services: Kiely Hall 171, 718-997-5870.

How to do well in this class

  • Identify your intellectual investment in the course material. Pay attention to what most interests and perplexes you each class. Take note of these. Try to make connections among them. These will help you craft interesting blog posts and response papers.
  • Come see me during office hours. If you want to come but aren’t sure what you’d like to talk about, start with your list of intellectual investments. I’m here as a resource for you. For questions about how to be a successful student at Queens College, contact the peer mentors.
  • Ask questions. No question is too small. We are all learning and experimenting.
  • Make an effort to connect our course discussions, readings, and activities to your experiences outside of the classroom. This is called praxis.
  • Be an active classroom participant. Come to class ready to share questions and ideas. This includes reflections on the structure of the class itself. Be vocal about what does and doesn’t work for you, and suggest learning experiments you’d like us to try as a class.
  • Because this class is structured around experiments, take creative risks and be willing to fail.
  • Care about your work as much as I do. This means proofreading ad nauseum (so many times that you can’t bear to look at it again) and finding people, such as peers and tutors, willing to proofread your work. I won’t proofread your papers but if you come to office hours we can talk specifically about your revising and editing strategies.
  • Plan ahead. At the beginning of the semester, write all of your assignments down in a calendar, agenda, or planner. Include reminders two weeks, one week, and two days before each deadline. If you need to print something, do so the day beforehand. Printer problems are not an acceptable excuse for late work.


  1. Debates in Higher Education (3-4 pages, 15%)

Write a thoughtful, organized, and persuasive argument about a contemporary debate in higher education, related to our class readings and discussions. Some possible topics include technology and education, teaching and learning methods, and assessment.

Your paper should

  1. Identify and explain a debate: what is the question people are arguing about? Why is this important?
  2. Describe 2-3 possible ways of answering this question using arguments we have read about in class.
  3. Take a stance in the debate. Include an argument/thesis that clearly states where you stand and use plenty of evidence to support this claim.


  1. The Purpose of Education (3-4 pages, 20%)

Based on the readings we have done so far, write a paper that makes a claim about the purpose of education that is supported by evidence. This paper will require a thesis statement (your argument) and several pieces of evidence drawn from our readings and your personal experiences. While you should actually believe the claim you make, treat it as provisional: if this course is a success, your thinking about this question will become more complex, the more we read and discuss. Your argument/thesis should be well-supported with evidence from multiple readings, your own experiences, and outside sources if desired.


  1. Annotated Bibliography (15%)

As a class, we will decide on several key issues that we want to research and write about, related to the topic of the course. Students will be placed into groups based on the topic they are most interested in. As a group, you will submit an annotated bibliography of sources (newspaper articles, books, scholarly journal articles) that you have read related to your topic. Each student will be responsible for four annotations, which must include at least one book or chapter from a book, one scholarly journal article, and one newspaper article.

Each entry in the bibliography will include an MLA citation for the source, followed by a paragraph-long annotation. The annotation paragraph should summarize and evaluate the source, and explain how it relates to your topic, and to other sources you have read.

Each group will submit one bibliography with all annotations, including a collectively authored introduction to the bibliography.


  1. Co-authored submission to Hybrid Pedagogy, “The Purpose of Education” CFP (20%)

For this assignment, you will work in groups to submit an article to the scholarly, peer-reviewed journal, Hybrid Pedagogy. Prior to this assignment we will familiarize ourselves with the journal’s aims, audience, methodologies, requirements, and style. Your submission will be based on the research from your annotated bibliography. More details to follow.

Course schedule

Dates designate the day on which readings will be discussed in class and the due dates of assignments. Dates and assignments are subject to change.

# Date due Assignment
1 Thurs 8/25 Welcome! Introductions.
2 Tues 8/30 Worthen, “Lecture Me. Really.” (New York Times); Freeman et al., “Active Learning Increases Student Performance in Science, Engineering, and Mathematics” (abstract required, full text optional); & Schuman, “Professors Shouldn’t Teach to Younger Versions of Themselves” (Slate)

Post a short blog introducing yourself to the class. Questions to consider: What brought you to Queens College? What do you enjoy studying? What are your strengths and weaknesses as a writer? Comment on at least one other blog post.

3 Thurs 9/1 Prendergast et al., “A Lecture from the Lectured” and Wesch, “A Vision of Students Today” Blog posts and comments.

In class: Gonzaga, “I am going to college because…”

4 Tues 9/6 Davidson, “Project Classroom Makeover” from Now You See It. Blog posts and comments.
5 Thurs 9/8 Bronson and Merryman, “The Creativity Crisis” & Sousanis, Unflattening (excerpt). Blog posts and comments.

Assign essay one.

6 Tues 9/13 Guinier, The Tyranny of Meritocracy (excerpt) and Kaminer, “Lists that Rank Colleges’ Value Are on the Rise.” Blog post and comments.

In class: Lamott, “Shitty First Drafts”

7 Thurs 9/15 Rossi, Ivory Tower (film). Blog posts and comments.

In class: “Solving Student Debt”

8 Tues 9/17 Brady and Konczal, “From Master Plan to No Plan: The Slow Death of Public Higher Education”   & Queens College mission statement Blog posts and comments.
9 Thurs 9/22 Rough draft of essay one due in class. Peer review.
10 Tues 9/27 Annotate Three Miles (podcast) with narrative strategies using Sound Cloud Blog posts and comments
11 Thurs 9/29 Coates, Between the World and Me (excerpt). Blog posts and comments.

Final draft of essay one due via email by 4:30 pm on Tuesday, October 4

12 Thurs 10/13 Washington, “Industrial Education for the Negro”
Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (excerpt).

Optional but highly recommended (two short videos we did not get to in class): Tuskegee Institute and The DuBois/Washington Debates

Blog posts and comments
Assign essay two.

13 Tues 10/18 Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (chapter two) Blog posts and comments.
In class writing time for essay two.
14 Thurs 10/20 hooks, “Introduction” and “Engaged Pedagogy” Teaching to Transgress. Blog posts and comments.
In class writing time for essay two.
15 Tues 10/25 Rough draft essay two due in class for peer review.
16 Thurs 10/27 Skellerup Bessette, “It’s About Class: Interrogating the Digital Divide” & Davidson, “Why Start With Pedagogy? 4 Good Reasons, 4 Good Solutions”
Blog posts and comments
17 Tues 11/1 Final draft essay two due in class.
Stommel, “What is Hybrid Pedagogy?” & “The Purpose of Education CFP”&  Hybrid Pedagogy submission guidelines
Assign annotated bibliography and final essay (article)
Research, references, finding sources
18 Thurs 11/3 Library Day with Suzanne Li, meet in library rm. 223
19 Tues 11/8 Computer lab – work on annotated bibliographies, co-author introductions
20 Thurs 11/10 Rough drafts annotated bibliographies due in class
Conference call with Dr. Chris Friend, Hybrid Pedagogy editor
21 Tues 11/15 Final draft annotated bibliographies due in class
Work on articles
22 Thurs 11/17 Work on articles
23 Tues 11/22 Rough draft of articles submitted to instructor by 11/21
Work on articles
No class November 24
24 Tues 11/29 Final drafts of articles submitted to Hybrid Pedagogy by 11/27

In class: “Practicing Democracy in the Classroom”

25 Thurs 12/1 TBD – Implementing feedback, revising submissions. Blog posts and comments
26 Tues 12/6 TBD – Implementing feedback, revising submissions.
27 Thurs 12/8 TBD – Implementing feedback, revising submissions. Blog posts and comments
28 Tues 12/13  Last class – Submit revised articles to Hybrid Pedagogy