CBW History

Brief history of CBW, 1980-2005 

CBW began in 1980 when Charles Guilford, founder and first chair (then at Kansas State University), posted a sign-up sheet at the Washington, DC 1980 CCCC.  The group was originally called the Conference on Basic Writing Skills (CBWS); the first regular Special Interest Group meeting was held the following year at the Dallas 1981 CCCC.  In 1982, after Guilford had moved to Boise State University, The CBWS Newsletter began publication. In those early days, The Newsletter was created on an electric typewriter and laid out by hand with press-on sticker headlines. Issued sporadically, The Newsletter often made it into mailboxes just days before the annual CCCC meeting. The Newsletter continued production at Boise State University until 1986 when Karen Uehling, the second chair, went on family leave.

CBWS was then in limbo until 1988, when it was reorganized as the Conference on Basic Writing (CBW) under the capable leadership of Peter Dow Adams of Essex Community College and Carolyn Kirkpatrick of York College, CUNY, third chair and associate chair, respectively.  During these years, the late 1980s and early 1990s, CBW grew and solidified, and the newsletter was expanded and published regularly, offering substantive articles and consistent columns. It was typeset and printed on an attractive gray paper. In 1992, Adams and Kirkpatrick stepped down. At this time, CBW entered a transitional period into the electronic age with the development of the CBW discussion list, a website, and most recently the BWe: Basic Writing e-JournalThe Newsletter continued publication, sometimes sporadically, until 1998 when it ceased publication to become in 1999 BWe

Past chairs, associate chairs, and co-chairs 1992-2005 included Suellynn Duffey, then Ohio State University, later University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire; Jeanne Gunner, University of California at Los Angeles Writing Programs, later Santa Clara University, CA:, Gerri McNenny, University of Houston Downtown, later Fullerton State University, CA; Sallyanne Fitzgerald, University of Missouri-St. Louis, later Chabot College, Hayward, CA.;  Linda Adler-Kassner, University of Michigan, Dearborn, later, Eastern Michigan University, Ann Arbor; Greg Glau, Arizona State University; William Lalicker, West Chester University, PA; and Thomas Reynolds, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

Detailed History, 1980-2005

The Bedford Bibliography for Teachers of Basic Writing is a collaborative project of CBW and has been released in four editions (2002, 2005, 2010, 2015). It is a significant project of the organization that helped define basic writing as a field. Original editors were Linda Adler-Kassner, University of Michigan, Dearborn, later, Eastern Michigan University, Ann Arbor; and Greg Glau, Arizona State University. Later editors included Chitralekha Duttagupta, Utah Valley University; and Robert Miller, The Community College of Baltimore County. In 2005, a history of CBW was published on the occasion of its silver anniversary in the second edition of The Bedford Bibliography for Teachers of Basic Writing (slightly updated in 2010 and 2015).  Macmillan Learning has graciously allowed us to post this more detailed history: "The Conference on Basic Writing: 1980-2005," by Karen S. Uehling, From The Bedford Bibliography for Teachers of Basic Writing 4e by Chitralekha Duttagupta and Robert Miller. Copyright 2015 by Bedford/St.Martin's. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the publisher Macmillan Learning. 

Brief history of CBW, 2006-2020

In 2020, CBW celebrated its fortieth anniversary. In 2010, CBW changed its name to the Council on Basic Writing (still CBW). The organization continues and has incorporated several innovations. By 2020, there was a CBW blog (administrator, J. Elizabeth Clark, LaGuardia Community College–CUNY); a thriving Facebook group; and a CBW Resource Share site (administrator, Elizabeth Baldridge, Illinois Central College). The Bedford Bibliography continued in new editions. BWe continued publication (editor in 2020: Barbara Gleason; associate editors, Lynn Reid, Fairleigh Dickinson University; and Susan Naomi Bernstein, Queens College, CUNY). In 2014, CBW achieved Standing Group status at CCCC and sponsored special Standing Group sessions in 2015, 2016, and 2017; see below for themes. Co-chairs in 2020 were Leigh Jonaitis, Bergen Community College, Paramus, NJ,  ljonaitis@bergen.edu; and Lynn Reid, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Madison, NJ, lynn.reid14@gmail.com.

Co-chairs in 2006-2020 served two or three year terms, and included Kathleen Baca, Dona Ana Branch Community College, Las Cruces, NM; Susan Naomi Bernstein, University of Cincinnati, OH; Shannon Carter, Texas A&M-Commerce; Hannah Ashley, West Chester University, PA; J. Elizabeth Clark, LaGuardia Community College, Long Island City, NY; Sugie Goen-Salter, San Francisco State University; Michael Hill, Henry Ford Community College, Dearborn, MI; Lynn Reid, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Madison, NJ; Marisa Klages-Bombich, LaGuardia Community College, Long Island City, NY; and Leigh Jonaitis, Bergen Community College, Paramus, NJ. (Institutions are those where Chairs worked at the time they served.)

Full-day CBW workshops held Wednesdays at CCCC began in 1996 in lieu of separate national basic writing conferences and continued each year until 2020 when a half-day workshop was offered in conjunction with the Two-Year College Association (TYCA) Wednesday conference; the 2020 workshop then became virtual when CCCC was canceled because of the Coronavirus pandemic. Themes for workshops have ranged from social justice to technology to faculty professional learning; see below for titles. Sometimes workshops featured local foci or keynote speakers, but they always included small working groups. Some workshop presentations were later published in JBW, BWe, or The CBW Newsletter. A CBW Award for Innovation was created in 2004, and continues; it has been presented to varied institutions for their work on such issues as integrated reading and writing approaches, the Accelerated Learning Program (ALP), and strategies for introductory biology students to learn science writing. Frequently, recipients of the award presented their innovations at the following year’s workshop.

CBW Standing group sessions, 2015-2017 (descriptions from CCCC programs).
2015: The Journal of Basic Writing at Forty: Risk, Affect, and Materiality in the Shaping of a Field: “We examine the role of affect and materiality in BW work over the past four decades and promote new directions for scholarship.”
2016: Shaping the Field, Shaping the Community, Shaping the Class: The Council on Basic Writing at 35: “In our 35th year, former chairs of the Council on Basic Writing reflect on the past, present, and future of the group and the field.”
2017: Emerging Voices in Basic Writing Studies: “This session presents selected graduate student work on basic writing, highlighting the importance of BW within Comp/Rhet graduate programs.”
CBW Workshops, 1996-2020
1996: Exploring the Boundaries of Basic Writing
1997: Race, Class, and Culture in the Basic Writing Classroom
1998: Rethinking Basic Writing: Ideas Whose Time Has Come
1999: Teaching Basic Writing at the Point of Need
2000: Basic Writing in a Post Remedial World: Putting Students at the Center
2001: Answering the Call: Innovative Approaches to Basic Writing in Classroom and Community
2002: Making Basic Writing Everybody's Business
2003: Title Needed
2004: Making Basic Writing Matter: Methodologies for Us All
2005: Models for Student Success: Learning from Award-Winning Basic Writing Programs
2006: Creating Access with Basic Writing: Successful Programs at Community Colleges (Local Focus: Initiatives for Transformation: City Colleges of Chicago)
2007: Local Conditions/Global Concerns: Basic Writing on the 30th Anniversary of Mina Shaughnessy’s Errors and Expectations (Local Focus: NYC Adult Literacy Programs: City University of New York)
2008: Basic Writing after the Storm: Changing Reality in the Classroom and Beyond (Local Focus: Writing with Trauma: Greater New Orleans Writing Project)
2009: “Basic” Writers In and Out of School: A Conversation in Multiple Literacies
2010: Social Justice, Multi-modalities and Basic Writers
2011: We Are Not Alone: Strategic Coalition Building Across (Contested) Spaces Serving Basic Writers
2012: Gathered at the Gate: Basic Writing in Evidence
2013: Basic Writing and Race: A Symposium
2014: Open Futures? Basic Writing, Access, and Technology
2015: Risky Relationships in Placement, Teaching and the Professional Organization
2016: The Transformative Action of Basic Writing
2017: Implementing Long-Term Changes to Basic Writing Programs in Local Contexts
2018: Reconsidering Graduate Education and Teacher Training in Basic Writing Contexts
2019: Performing Academic Writing in the Real World: Poverty, Disability, and Cultural Contexts in Basic Writing
2020: Reconsidering Basic Writing in the Changing Landscape [afternoon, then became virtual when CCCC was canceled because of the Coronavirus pandemic]

Special thanks to Glenn Blalock, Managing Editor and Co-Founder, CompPile; and Susan Murphy, Managing Editor, CompPile; for their assistance and devotion to CompPile and to basic writing. Thanks to Ms. Emily Sanchez and Ms. Amanda Hawks, 2020 Boise State University English Department student assistants, who scanned newsletters and additional documents.

--Karen S. Uehling
   Professor Emeritus, English
   Boise State University
  September 2020