This is my course review for English 131 (Composition: Exposition) at the University of Washington. I took the course in autumn 2014 with Tyler Kipling.
I don’t have much to say about this course—it reminded me of junior high and high school English, except it was quite a bit easier than my high school IB English class due to the lack of pressure.
I tried my best to twist some of the essay topics around so I could end up researching/writing about things that would be useful in the long run (e.g. I wrote about the diversity in Quora for one of my papers). (I should try uploading my papers at some point—no rush though.)
What annoyed me was that the grading for the course was so mysterious; I asked the instructor multiple times during the course about expected grades or percentages, but only got responses like “you’re doing well; don’t worry about it”.
Besides the ability to write about some potentially useful topics (and even this depends highly on how you walk around the requirements), the course wasn’t of much use. The in-class discussions were worse, in my opinion, than the ones in high school English (especially since in 131 the discussions were all just vague ones about “writing”, and not even about, say, a specific book; we did read some articles throughout the course, but they were all to prove some point that was on the syllabus, and not really because the article contained a novel idea or because it was worth reading in itself). Essentially, if you know how to write coming in, you’ll still know how to write by the end; if you don’t know how to write coming in, you still won’t have any idea by the end either. I’m reminded of this quote from Catcher in the Rye:
Pencey Prep is this school that’s in Agerstown, Pennsylvania. You probably heard of it. You’ve probably seen the ads, anyway. They advertise in about a thousand magazines, always showing some hotshot guy on a horse jumping over a fence. Like as if all you ever did at Pencey was play polo all the time. I never even once saw a horse anywhere near the place. And underneath the guy on the horse’s picture, it always says: “Since 1888 we have been molding boys into splendid, clear-thinking young men.” Strictly for the birds. They don’t do any damn more molding at Pencey than they do at any other school. And I didn’t know anybody there that was splendid and clear-thinking and all. Maybe two guys. If that many. And they probably came to Pencey that way.