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ENGLISH 30: Honors Composition

Advising Notes

English 15 and English 30, first-year composition courses at Penn State, can help students to understand the varieties of discourse they will encounter both in school and out, to think and interpret critically, and to write more effectively for academic and public purposes. The concept of argumentation provides the unifying focus for the courses. Students learn to analyze and evaluate the arguments they encounter, in different kinds of texts and in class discussion, and to invent their own arguments in response to various kinds of issues, audiences, purposes, and occasions. Both English 15 and English 30 classes are small enough to be discussion-based, are often lively, and frequently develop a strong sense of community that dramatically fosters intellectual growth and exploration. Moreover, these courses give students a unique opportunity to obtain close individualized attention—in classroom discussion, in instructors’ offices, and in comments on their writing.

How does English 30 differ from English 15?

English 15 focuses on teaching students fundamental rhetorical concepts and on fostering students’ abilities to write particular kinds of arguments and analyses of other arguments. Readings for this course tend to be essays written by a wide range of writers (including former Penn State English 15 students) on a variety of controversial and timely topics. Students typically choose their own topics for most assignments. English 15 classes are taught by a wide range of people—from tenured faculty members to graduate students—in the Department of English.

English 30 differs mainly in the range, depth, and sophistication of its readings. A series of reading assignments is often used as the basis for an inquiry into a central theme, such as the culture of post modernity, issues of race/gender/class, concepts of the “good society”, the problematics of the written word, the notion of "cultural literacy," or the ethics and the rhetorics of belief. Themes from a recent semester included the following:

  • Presidential election
  • Thinking critically and bioregionally about the environment
  • Rhetoric of popular culture
  • American dream
  • Apocalyptic rhetoric in antiquity and modernity
  • Leadership as an act of meaning
  • Writing about film

English 30 is taught by some of the best teachers and scholars in the Department of English.

Who takes English 15 and 30?

All Penn State students are required to take English 15 or 30 (or English as a Second Language 15). Most Penn State students take English 15, although some students must take English 4 first as a review. The students who achieve the highest scores on the NSO placement test in English are permitted to take English 30. In general, the English 30 class consists of students who enjoy intellectual stimulation, who relish good discussion and debate, and who are ready to read some complex texts and to try sophisticated writing strategies.

How does taking English 30 affect a student's GPA?

Grading standards for English 30 are exactly the same as those for English 15. A student's writing will be evaluated according to those standards, not in comparison to other members of the class (there is no "curve"). However, readings and class assignments in English 30 may be more rigorous than in English 15.

Approved by Gregg Rogers, Department of English, 3/10.



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