The Writing Center and the Parallel Curriculum

Our university is currently in the middle of a comprehensive curriculum review and revision. One of our recent speakers on curriculum, Joe Appleyard, S.J., focused on the idea of the “parallel curriculum”: the series of extra-curricular activities, abroad and immersion programs, and student run groups, where much of student energy is spent. He argued that in many contemporary universities the “parallel curriculum” is much more viable and interesting (particularly in teaching the Jesuit ideal of “discernment,” or reflection [1]) than the actual general education curriculum. Over lunch at another curriculum committee meeting, one of my colleagues from the business school pointed out to me that the Writing Center is a location of a kind of parallel curriculum, where there are no grades, where students initiate contact with one another, and where students drive the work. This idea intrigued me for several reasons, but particularly because it helped me to think about what students do in the Writing Center that they don’t do in their general education courses and about how work that may begin in the “Writing Fellows: The Theory and Practice of Peer Tutoring” course grows after the course is over and impacts other aspects of Writing Center work.