Discourse of Higher Education Project

First Draft Due (1000-1300 words): Monday, April 10th

Final Draft Due  (1400-1750 words): Wednesday, April 26th

Note: Make sure to have your draft available as a Google Doc on April 10th


Our readings and assignments in College Reading and Writing, both last Fall and this semester, have focused on Discourse, what Gee refers to as “saying (writing)-doing-being-valuing -believing combinations” (6). We’ve also thought about the ways one acquires literacy in dominant Discourses, or may be impeded from fully entering them, as well as the significance or implications of this issue of access.

For our current project, we are focusing on the Discourse of higher education alongside the Discourses of specific areas of study. In doing so, we are considering questions about why we (should) learn and what we (should) learn, who can (should) learn and how the Discourses of higher education define what it means to be literate.


Write a paper that uses both our scholarly texts and local curriculum documents to develop a perspective about the Discourse of higher education.

Questions to Consider

The following questions are meant to help you think about your contributions to the conversation. They can be useful reminders of your writing goals as you draft and revise, but don’t assume that need to answer all of them directly or organize your paper around all of them.

The first set of questions is meant to prompt brainstorming. You can work from these, as well as from the discussion questions in previous homework assignments. Notice that each question in the second set draws from multiple sources and sets you up to make connections between them. You can use these as a starting point and develop more focused or specific questions as you develop your thinking. Remember, the assignment requirements outline the minimum number of sources and quotations you should use.

Set One

  • What do most people think about when they think about college? How do these preconceptions or assumptions compare to your actual experience?
  • What should the “college experience” entail? What should be the goals of a college education? Where are these defined in your UNE curriculum?
  • Is or should college be for everyone? How is a 4-year undergraduate degree different from other types of education?
  • What do or should students learn in college?
  • What does it mean for an institution to have values and attempt to instill them in the students who attend?
  • What connections do you see between the courses you take and the values statements described in the curriculum (general education and major)?

Set Two

What is the purpose of college and who determines that purpose? How was “college” talked about in your high school or home environments, for example, and how is it defined here at UNE?

Gee argues that one  does not gain entry to a Discourse through “overt instruction” (7); rather, literacy is developed “through active social practice” (13). What are some of the “social practice[s]” required by the UNE curricula (the core or major) or by some of your specific courses? In what sense is going to college at all a kind of “active social practice”?

What characterizes or defines an educated person?  How do Ungar, Neusner, and our UNE curricula answer this question? What “saying-doing-being-valuing-believing combinations,” to use Gee’s phrase, does each draw from when they describe this ideal person?

Confronted by two of Gee’s most controversial ideas, Lisa Delpit conjectures in “The Politics of Literate Discourse” that “the sensitive teacher might well conclude that even to try to teach a dominant discourse to students who are members of a nondominant oppressed group would be to oppress them further” (547).  Read further in Delpit to identify the problems Gees’ argument poses for her and to understand Delpit’s response to their challenges. What connections do you see between her response to Gee and Sanford Ungar’s response to “Misperception No. 3”: “The liberal arts are particularly irrelevant for low-income and first-generation college students” (228)?


In Your Paper, Be Sure To:

  • Work with at least two of our scholarly texts (Gee, Brandt, Delpit, Ungar, and Neusner).
  • Work with the undergraduate core curriculum from your college, and materials related to your chosen major e.g. the major map or list of required courses. Treat them as “data.”
  • Briefly (and appropriately) introduce the scholarly texts, and make sure to name the specific UNE materials you engage in the project.
  • Introduce the question or issue you’re investigating.
  • Use at least four quotations, making sure to explain how they help support a point or idea you’re developing.
  • Be clear about your perspective or point of view on the issue you engage.
  • Document both sources using MLA style, with in-text parenthetical references and a Works Cited list. (Use The Little Seagull, MLA Style (109+) to assist you on these pieces.)