Revolution Lullabye

November 16, 2010

Howard, Power Revisited

Howard, Rebecca Moore. “Power Revisited; Or, How We Became a Department.” WPA: Writing Program Administration 16.3 (Spring 1993): 37-49. Print.

Howard explains that to create change at an institution, the agent of change must have power, and those who want change must propose the change as if they were equals to those they are proposing to (even if they are not equals.) She positions her non-adversarial approach to gaining power opposite Ed White’s more miltaristic view (in “Use It or Lose It”), characterizing the Colgate University Department of Interdisciplinary Writing as one that runs and teaches through collective, democratic power. She argues that this approach is a way for composition as a field to gain institutionally-changing power. She offers other WPAs advice for creating and cultivating power for their writing programs and departments based on her experience of creating the stand-alone department of writing at Colgate through the mid-1980s to early 1990s.

Notes and Quotes

Advice: 1. don’t rely only on written communications: talk to people face-to-face. 2. always write up and send follow-ups after meetings 3. write down what you do each day as an administratror 4. know that you must “hound” people (nicely) to do tasks for you 5. make sure your program is known for its scholarly work as well as its adminsitartive work on campus 6. get an external review of your program done

opportunism = method; collectivism = mode (46)

building political capital for things you want by doing things for others

everything is done by a vote, together, collaborative development and administration even in the midst of a hierarchal university structure.

department is made entirely of women.

Hjortshoj, The Marginality of the Left-Hand Castes

Hjortshoj, Keith. “The Marginality of the Left-Hand Castes (A Parable for Writing Teachers).” College Composition and Communication 46.4 (December 1995): 491-505. Print.

Hjortshoj, the director of the stand-alone Cornell Writing Program, uses an allegory of the left-hand castes in Indian society, the artisans and smiths whose services were necessary but who were shunned by the others, to explain how compositionists could define what they have in common with each other across institutional and hierarchal lines. He notes that teaching writing is seen as messy, dirty work (not unlike custodial work) because it is: it is unpredictable, it is often difficult, and it happens invisibly the margins. Many academics, he contends, do not want to pull open the veil and reveal to others the difficulties they face as writers, the same problems that students struggle with. He argues that writing teachers and compositionists should strive to form programs or move to programs (as opposed to traditional departments) that value the kind of work that they do.

Notes and Quotes

“At research universities, especially, marginalized teachers (including teaching assistants) are most directly engaged with the interactive, exploratory, “hands-on,” transformative learning processes that university brochures advertise as the foundations of the undergraduate experience. By contrast, official ranking systems in these institutions, from undergraduate grading schemes to tenure reviews, privilege what is already known and already written, along with theory over practice, products over processes, individual achievements over col-laborative endeavors: being over becoming.” (503)

“paradoxal, unstable interdependence” (497).

written communication is fundamental to all academic discourse.

“What we teach, therefore, is fundamentally powerful and important, even if we are not. Within our institutions, writing teachers and their courses might be subordinated to all other kinds of instruction, but written language is not subordinate to anything.” (499)

“Like fire, language is essential, transformative, and potentially destructive. Most of the people I know, especially in academic institutions, are to some extent afraid of writing-daunted by the challenge of controlling language for their own purposes, and afraid that they might be controlled by language for the purposes of others. Writing teachers do not really control language. But the idea that we can or should control language makes us objects of fear or discomfort by association. Keeping us in our place-in a marginal, parenthetical relation to the rest of academic life-is a way of keeping the potentially disruptive power of language contained and disguised, though not altogether denied.” (501).

 He points out that the discoruse surrouding composition – that teachers of writing value their work but believe they are marginalized at the institution – comes into conflict with the fact that some compositionists are not in marginalized positions (deans, chairs, directors) and that a university-wide writing program is almost universally seen as a necessary and valuable enterprise in all US colleges and universities.

Hairston, Breaking Our Bonds and Reaffirming Our Connections

Hairston, Maxine. “Breaking Our Bonds and Reaffirming Our Connections.” College Composition and Communication 36 (1985): 272-82. Print.

Hairston notes, in this, her 1985 CCCC Chair’s Address, how far the field of rhetoric and composition has come in terms of graduate programs, membership and attendance at CCCC, and disciplinary journals. She argues that it might be time for the field to break ties intellectually, psychologically, and, if necessary, physically, from English departments dominated by literature. She points out that often it is those in composition who are reaching out to bridge the gap between literature and composition studies and that it would be better for the field to stop trying to gain acceptance from a field that seems to undervalue the teaching and research of writing. Composition and literature have different value systems: literature largely Platonic; composition Aristotelian. She argues that the field must prioritize research and the publication of research, make connections to other fields outside of literature, and make connections to businesses and organizations in the community.

Notes and Quotes

“I think that as rhetoricians and writing teachers we will come of age and become autonomous professionals with a discipline of our own only if we can make a psychological break with the literary critics who today dominate the profession of English studies. Until we move out from behind their shadows and no longer accept their definition of what our profession should be, we are not going to have full confidence in our own mission and our own professionalism.” (274)

“In many institutions, it’s clear that a majority of the English department
faculty do not share our conviction that English departments have an obligation
to teach people to write. If students do not already know how to write
when they get to college, they hold, that is somebody else’s fault and we
shouldn’t have to deal with it. It’s much easier to invoke the magic phrase
“rigorous standards” and proclaim that since students should have learned to
write in high school, freshman English is a remedial course that we shouldn’t
have to teach.” (277)

We must listen to our different drummer and pay attention. For we are different. As writing teachers we are engaged in a dynamic and loosely-structured activity that involves intensive interaction with people. It is an activity that is tied to living language, that shifting and ambiguous medi-um that won’t stand still to be examined and is never pure, and it is an activity that focuses on teaching a process for which there are no fixed rules and no predictably precise outcomes. We are engaged in a messy business, and necessarily so. And it’s one that is essentially Aristotelian – pragmatic, concrete, situational, and personal” (278-279).

Chapman, Harris, and Hult, Agents for Change

Chapman, David, Jeanette Harris, and Christine Hult. “Agents for Change: Undergraduate Writing Programs in Departments of English.” Rhetoric Review 13.2 (Spring 1995): 421-34. Print.

The authors, who conducted a survey of English major programs (316 schools responded), found that there were an increase in the number of undergraduate major programs that offered a concentration or emphasis in some sort of writing (linguistics, creative writing, rhet/comp.) Their 1992 survey came five years after a smaller but similar survey conducted by Donald Stewart in 1987. They argue that this increase in course offerings in writing and rhet/comp puts pressure on the traditional, humanities-based literature curriculum that pervades English departments and ask whether or not this emergence of rhetoric and composition will result in either separation from English departments (like communication, English ed, theater) or a shift in the culture of English departments (to value more productive-based knowledge and learning.) They argue that undergraduate majors with more balanced offerings in literature and writing will better prepare students for future careers and offer alternative ways to learn and teach students critical analysis and thinking skills.

Notes and Quotes

“The challenge we face is not simply to replace the old hegemony of literature with a new hegemony of composition but to construct a new English department where reading and writing are mutually valued and mutually supportive activities. The achievement of this beatific vision may seem impossibly remote in some departments, but, on the whole, our survey showed movement toward a more balanced department that should ultimately best serve the needs of both students and faculty.” (429).

CCCC Committee on Part-time/Adjunct Issues, Report on the Coalition on the Academic Workforce

CCCC Committee on Part-time/Adjunct Issues. “Report on the Coalition on the Academic Workforce/CCCC Survey of Faculty in Freestanding Writing Programs for Fall 1999.” College Composition and Communication 53.2 (December 2001): 336-348. Print.

A 1999 survey of 51 freestanding writing programs in the US (only 21 responded) showed stark differences in the treatment and working conditions of part-time non-tenure-track instructors and full-time non-tenure-track instructors. Part-time non-tenure-track instructors received less pay, less access to private office and computer space, less professional development support and funding, and less access to institutional benefits (health insurance.) The report argues that 1. more needs to be done to bridge the gap between these two types of instructors 2. working conditions need to be improved for both types of instructors and 3. more research needs to be done that connects the quality of classroom instruction to the treatment and positioning of the instructor at the institution.

Notes and Quotes

Improve working conditions by converting part-time positions to full-time instructorships and/or unionization

what instructors make (esp. part-time) is not a livable wage, below the poverty line.

Maid, More than a Room of Our Own

Maid, Barry M. “More Than a Room of Our Own: Building an Independent Department of Writing.” The Writing Program Administrator’s Handbook: A Guide to Reflective Institutional Change and Practice. Ed. Stuart C. Brown, Theresa Enos, and Catherine Chaput. Lawrence Erlbaum, 2002. 453-466. Print.

Maid explains the considerations a WPA must think about when creating an independent writing program or department. He addresses institutional, faculty, and budget issues in creating a stand-alone program. He argues that WPA must always be aware of how their institutional context both constrains them and gives them opportunities, urging WPAs creating stand-alone programs to tap into their institution’s missions, which they could use in an argument for how an independent program could better serve the institution’s mission.

Notes and Quotes

“Far too many faculty in English Departments think that specializing in rhetoric and composition means specializing in First Year students” (460).

“What we can say, I think, is that minimum requirements for teaching FYC be training in rhetoric and composition and continuing professional development” (458).

cites Katherine Adams A History of Professional Instruction in American Colleges (stand-alone programs started from the turn of the century.)

faculty issues: reconstitute what service is, all faculty do administration, rewrite tenure guidelines (like Syracuse did)

institutional issues: what’s in the writing program (WAC, FYC, writing center, other), create and offer upper division courses to extend composition beyond the identity of first-year composition, think about where you place it and name it. Argues for using rhetoric.

budget issue – tap into student service fees for writing center; faculty development for WAC. Don’t build a program on one-time grants.

Blair, Only One of the Voices

Blair, Catherine Pastore. “Only One of the Voices: Dialogic Writing Across the Curriculum.” College English 50.4 (April 1988): 383-389. Print.

Blair argues that allowing English departments to house writing-across-the-curriculum programs gives them, either intentionally or unintentionally, more power and administrative oversight over the WAC program, which conflicts with the underlying theory of WAC, which is to see writing equally spread and used across the curriculum. How English departments see and understand writing is local and discipline-specific, and the goal of a WAC program is to expand that understanding of writing; the “English way” is not the “only way” and is certainly not the “best way.” She uses her interdisciplinary WAC program at Bucknell to explain how a WAC program can be run by a cross-curricular committee.

Notes and Quotes

draws on Bakhtin, Freire to talk about understanding through dialogue – what happens in a true WAC program

don’t let English be the experts (extension of colonialism, oppressor relationships)

see a WAC program founded on “frequent writing,” not a set number of words or pages, which doesn’t serve the needs of all disciplines.

assumes some sort of consensus about writing will be reached – but will it?

“Neutral, all-purpose, one-size-fits-all, context-free writing is an impossibility; this course teaches writing from the English department point of view” (385).

“Therefore, whether we like it or not, whether we intend it or not, in teaching writing (a language use), we teach context, we teach our imaginary worlds, we teach our disciplines – their definitions, syntax, assumptions, goals, moral code, their ways of being in the intellectual world” (384).

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