First-Year Composition Goals Statement

Statement Toward First-Year Composition Goals 

11 June 2021

As the newly formed Institute of Race, Rhetoric, and Literacy (previously known as the CWPA Outcomes Statement Revision Task Force), we offer this explanation and statement toward the goals for First-Year Composition (FYC) courses and programs. 

Originally, we were tasked to revise the CWPA Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition in order for that document to be more explicitly antiracist. Our discussion with the CWPA Executive Board of our revisions to the outcomes statement resulted in our parting ways with the CWPA and taking our statement with us (see Asao’s blog, While the full goals statement is still in development, we present this initial statement directly to our colleagues and the public as a way to offer a good faith status report on this ongoing work. In order to serve our communities best, we advance this summary of our forthcoming FYC goals statement. We offer this as a way to allow FYC administrators and teachers to engage in antiracist work immediately. 

Part of our original revision process was to elicit and respond to feedback from a community of scholars, teachers, and writing program administrators. We intend to move forward with this plan in the coming months. Our goal is to have the most robust possible antiracist goals statement for FYC programs and courses, a goals statement that is informed by as many diverse voices as possible. 

The forthcoming FYC goals statement addresses the primary goals for first-year writing programs in U.S. postsecondary education, with a special emphasis on antiracist and anti-white supremacist pedagogies and practices. We directly point to antiracist practices because we have found that there is still a tendency among FYC practitioners to rely on predetermined, singular, habits of White language (HOWL). Too often in writing courses, HOWL purposefully excludes a diverse array of rhetorics and other habits of language that are, at base, equal to and, when used effectively, add to and even surpass the communicative and rhetorical effectiveness of HOWL. 

We draw on and take seriously important resources available to all in our field, not the least of which is the CCCC and NCTE Students’ Rights to Their Own Language Position Statement, which was affirmed first in 1974, and reaffirmed in 2003 and 2014. That document states unequivocally:

Language scholars long ago denied that the myth of a standard American dialect has any validity. The claim that any one dialect is unacceptable amounts to an attempt of one social group to exert its dominance over another. Such a claim leads to false advice for speakers and writers, and immoral advice for humans (emphasis added).

More recent statements reiterate the core ideas of SRTOL and argue for antiracist and anti-White supremacist pedagogies, approaches, and curricula. For instance, the 2015 NCTE Position Statement in Support of Ethnic Studies Initiatives, and the July 2020 This Ain’t Another Statement! This is a DEMAND for Black Linguistic Justice! CCCC Position Statement each promote antiracist agendas. This last statement advances: 

We are witnessing institutions and organizations craft statements condemning police brutality and anti-Black racism while ignoring the anti-Black skeletons in their own closets. As language and literacy researchers and educators, we acknowledge that the same anti-Black violence toward Black people in the streets across the United States mirrors the anti-Black violence that is going down in these academic streets. (Baker-Bell, Jones Stanbrough, & Everett, 2017).

We, the scholars who make up the Institute of Race, Rhetoric, and Literacy, pursue and urge our colleagues to pursue FYC goals that are in line with the STROL, “Ethnic Studies Initiatives,”  and  “This Ain’t” statements. We further urge meaningful, antiracist, and anti-White supremacist FYC goals that center Black, Indigenous, and Peoples of Colour and embrace multilingual language experiences. These experiences confront the limitations of the exclusive use of HOWL and western ideological habits of learning, which include the promotion of so-called “Standard English.” 

As Geneva Smitherman has long argued, everyone has the right both to language and to use their own languages as resources to compose writing and engage in oral communication. Historically, in the U.S.A and Canada, Black, Indigenous, and Peoples of Colour and other multilingual students have been denied the right to use their languages in school, and in work-based writing and communication. 

As we continue to develop this work with and for our colleagues, we suggest that all programs and departments investigate and build antiracist pedagogies and ecologies with their students. As a way to offer direction to those who need it, FYC goals that support sustainable, antiracist writing assessment ecologies consider:

  • How to decenter dominant (White, middle and upper class, monolingual) languaging norms and provide ample opportunities for students to embody their own languaging varieties; 
  • How to seek and find value in students’ languaging experiences;
  • How to language with rhetorical dexterity given the multitude of languaging situations students encounter;
  • How to address the politics of languaging and its judgment in order to promote healthy critical consciousness

Below we list our first attempt at FYC goals that will be explained in the fuller forthcoming goals statement after we’ve engaged with colleagues in feedback and engagement sessions. Each goal is structured after the previous CWPA outcomes, but they are not outcomes. They do not identify preconceived ideas about what students will produce in a writing course. While not meant to be exhaustive, we also offer the following lists of resources that inform our work on that statement. These lists are initial recognitions and recommendations.

We recognize and recommend: Paul Kei Matsuda, “The Myth of Linguistic Homogeneity in U.S. College Composition;” Staci Perryman-Clark and Collin Lamont Craig, Black Perspectives in Writing Program Administration: From the Margins to the Center; Asao B. Inoue and Mya Poe, Race and Writing Assessment; Iris D. Ruiz and Raúl Sánchez, Decolonizing Rhetoric and Composition Studies: New Latinx Keywords for Theory and Pedagogy.

Rhetorical Knowledges  

We recognize and recommend: Victor Villanueva, “On the Rhetorics and Precedents of Racism;” Romeo Garcia and Damián Baca, Rhetorics Elsewhere and Otherwise; Bethany Davila, “Standard English and Colorblindness in Composition Studies: Rhetorical Constructions of Racial and Linguistic Neutrality;” Peter Elbow, Vernacular Eloquence: What Speech Can Bring to Writing.  

Critical Languaging  

We recognize and recommend: Vershawn Ashanti Young, Your Average Nigga: Performing Race, Literacy, and Masculinity; April Baker-Bell, Linguistic Justice: Black Language, Literacy, Identity, and Pedagogy; Carmen Kynard, Vernacular Insurrections: Race, Black Protest, and the New Century in Composition-Literacies Studies; Juan Guerra, Language, Culture, Identity and Citizenship in College Classrooms and Communities; bell hooks, Teaching Critical Thinking: Practical Wisdom. M. Maraj, Black or Right: Anti/Racist Campus Rhetorics; Aja Y. Martinez, Counterstory: The Rhetoric and Writing of Critical Race Theory. 

Laboring as Embodied Processes

We recognize and recommend: Asao B. Inoue, Antiracist Writing Assessment Ecologies: Teaching and Assessing For A Socially Just Future; Staci Perryman-Clark, David E. Kirkland, and Justin Jackson, Students’ Right to Their Own Language: A Critical Source Book

Conventions as Languaging Practices

We recognize and recommend: Geneva Smitherman, Talkin and Testifyin: The Language of Black America; Vershawn Ashanti Young, Rusty Barrett, Y’Shanda Young-Rivera, and Kim Brian Lovejoy, Other People’s English: Code-Meshing, Code-Switching, and African American Literacy; Braj B. Kachru, Yamuna Kachru, and Cecil L. Nelson, The Handbook of World Englishes; Scott Richard Lyons, “There’s No Translation for It: The Rhetorical Sovereignty of Indigenous Languages.” 


As a way to engage with the larger community of writing scholars and teachers, the Institute of Race, Rhetoric, and Literacy have planned monthly feedback and engagement sessions with a final version of the statement disseminated in December 2021 (estimated). While we’ll start with Black, Indigenous, and scholars of Colour, all will be invited to our monthly sessions at some point. You can get more information on the progress of the goals statement and the monthly feedback and engagement sessions on our new twitter page: @InstituteRac1. Please follow us! More to come . . .

Peace to all, 

Melvin Beavers

Beth L. Brunk-Chavez

Neisha-Anne Green

Asao B. Inoue

Iris Ruiz

Tanita Saenkhum

Vershawn Ashanti Young