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FYC renamed to reflect content

Nicole Michels | Thursday, September 22, 2011

The First Year Composition (FYC) class, a requirement for most Notre Dame freshmen, has a new name — Writing and Rhetoric.

University Writing Program Director John Duffy said the new name is intended to more accurately reflect the content taught in the classroom.

“The FYC program was much more centered on writing literary appreciation, while this is much more centered on argument,” Duffy said. “In fact, argument is the primary focus of the course.”

Notre Dame freshmen enrolled in Writing and Rhetoric courses will learn the skills necessary to communicate effectively in both an academic setting and in larger world, Duffy said.

“We believe that argument is the foundation of a university education,” he said. “All academic disciplines, in one sense or another, are in the business of making arguments in the service of discovering truth. Our course shows students how academic arguments work, and how to make good arguments themselves.”

Students who take a Writing and Rhetoric course have several different options, including a standard writing and rhetoric course, a multimedia course and community-based courses.

The multimedia course and the community-based courses take the principles of argumentation and apply them to different contexts, Duffy said.

The community-based courses take the freshmen students out into the South Bend community, engaging them in a dialogue with people at sites like the South Bend Center for the Homeless, the Logan Center and the South Bend Juvenile Correctional Facility.

Freshman Kelly Morgan is a student in the community-based course that works with children at the correctional facility.

“The theme of the class is bridging the gap, it’s about learning to relate to people I wouldn’t normally be in contact with,” Morgan said. “We’ve been learning how to think critically and analytically about the way that society’s set up now.”

The community-based classes include time engaging in service outside of class.

Morgan said her class includes time spent tutoring the children at the center each week.

Duffy said this course gives freshmen opportunities to explore rhetorical methods used to frame issues outside of the classroom.

“We propose that these skills be taught within the context of Catholic social teaching, meaning that students in our classes may study the rhetoric of issues like the dignity of the human person, the option for the poor and vulnerable and the rights of workers,” he said.

Freshman Reilly Bench is currently taking the multimedia course.

He hopes to gain skills enabling him to take advantage of the new technology defining modern communication.

“I want to come out of this as a better writer,” Bench said. “I hope to be exposed to new approaches to writing through this class, and to learn more about different opportunities for communication in the modern world.”

Bench said his class has explored several different modes of communication, including assignments requiring recording narratives and blogging.

The course will move on to explore the argumentation process used in other digital environments over the course of the semester.

Duffy said that the program’s primary aim is to enable students to engage fully in the discourse of the University by teaching them the methods to construct academic arguments.

Students study how to make a claim, support it with evidence and address and account for counter-claims, he said.

“In teaching students to frame a cogent claim, to provide appropriate evidence, to consider alternative arguments and to write in language suitable for the intended audience, we are teaching not just skills but ethical practices, ways of communicating, that will promote intellectual honesty, individual accountability, personal humility and rational civic discourse,” Duffy said.