In “Can Teaching, of all Things, Prove to be our Salvation?” Kurt Spellmeyer makes the interesting assertion that there exists a disconnect between the world which students live in and the world that is preserved and transfered through institutionalized knowledge. Students need a cultural literacy – an understanding of the contemporary society and world – in order to address problems and possible solutions. However, especially at research institutions, most faculty are less likely to focus on the multidisciplinary specializations and teaching qualifications it takes for an instructor to be able to educate students in these types of cultural literacies. The one area in the university that might be best suited for teaching students cultural literacies, and preparing them to analyze the world around them and present solutions to problems, is the composition classroom.
Spellmeyer recounts that after years of work, a program at Rutgers was finally designed which allowed students in introductory composition classes to be able to learn about such contemporary matters as gender, human rights, genetic engineering, environmental issues, global trade, and other issues. Importantly, these classes both taught students how to write and also taught them how to gain a cultural literacy for making sense of the world around them and preparing them for the type of global and local problems they might face in the future. Thus, the composition classroom emerges as a space where the limits of traditional knowledge in academia can be transcended in order to provide students with the literacy they will need in world they live in.