Revolution Lullabye

December 2, 2010

Merrill, Farrell, et al, Symposium on the 1991 Progress Report from the CCCC Committee on Professional Standards

Merrill, Robert, Thomas J. Farrell, et al. “Symposium on the ‘1991 Progress Report from the CCCC Committee on Professional Standards.’”  College Composition and Communication 43.2 (1992): 154-175. Print.

These five articles form a symposium to discuss the publication of the 1991 Progress Report from the CCCC Committee on Professional Standards, which was published in CCC in May 1992. I’m going to briefly summarize each one.

Robert Merrill, “Against the ‘Statement'”
Merrill, a full-time professor and chair, argues against the Statement because of the implications and consequences of its recommendations. Universities could never afford hiring tenure-track professors to cover all the sections of composition that they teach, and even if they did, tenure-track professors would no longer be able to offer upper-division courses because their loads would be filled up with composition. Tenure-track literature professors are not trained to teach composition or hired to teach composition. Merrill argues that lecturers and instructors do a better job of teaching composition than , tenure-track faculty, and he would support tenuring them if they continued teaching their loads of composition. Instead of trying to get rid of the two-tiered system, he argues for making “the two tiers fit closer together” by improving the working conditions of writing specialists in English departments (158).

Thomas J. Farrell, “The Wyoming Resolution, Higher Wizardry, and the Importance of Writing Instruction.”
Farrell, an associate professor, argues that teachers and professors of composition and rhetoric need to be aware of their own rhetoric and use it more effectively in order to improve the status of the teachers of writing at the academy. He points out what the Progress Report is missing – a condemnation of the expensive growth in non-teaching managerial administrators at the academy, an argument of the value of good writing instruction for students to be successful in the workplace, which depends on deliberative rhetoric, and the intellectual value of learning rhetoric in order to be adaptable to different audiences and purposes.

Eileen E. Schell, “Teaching Under Unusual Conditions: Graduate Teaching Assistants and the CCCC’s ‘Progress Report'”
Schell, a graduate student at the time of writing this, argues that the Progress Report does not “fully address the complexities of the GTA’s position” (165). The title of the graduate teaching assistant is a misnomer, Schell argues, as the GTA in composition is often a full-fledged teacher but treated as a less-than-professional. GTAs also have a double work burden: being graduate students and university teachers.

Valerie Balester, “Revising the ‘Statement’: On the Work of Writing Centers”
Balester, an assistant professor, argues that the Statement does not address the unique needs of instructors and non-tenure-track administrators who work in writing centers and contends that the Statement sees writing centers as centers of service instead of locations where writing theory and pedagogy is dynamicly enacted.

Chris M. Anson and Greta Gaard, “Acting on the ‘Statement’: The All-Campus Model of Reform”
Anson, an associate professor, and Gaard, an assistnat professor, argue that in order to carry out the reforms included in the Statement, the field should not rely on individual actions of teachers and administrators alone nor on the broader moves of CCCC (as argued by James Sledd) but instead pursue local changes within institutions by collaborating between administrators, faculty, and instructors. They use their campus-wide retreats and workshops at the University of Minnestota in 1989 and 1991 as an example of this kind of reform.

Notes and Quotes

Lloyd-Jones, Who We Were, Who We Should Become

Lloyd-Jones, Richard. “Who We Were, Who We Should Become.” College Composition and Communication 43.4 (Dec 1992): 486-496.

Lloyd-Jones discusses the tensions in the field’s identity and how the field is implicated in current problems in higher education, and emphasizes that those in composition need to take more leadership in their institutions and insist on better treatment of its teachers, expand connections with K-12 schools through NCTE and the Writing Project, expand its research, and avoid over-specialization. He warns that the increased dependence on contingent faculty is a huge problem for both the field and higher education, as the labor structure has used band-aid solutions to account for a massive change in student population and the purpose of college education in the 20th century. He uses the history of CCCC and a survey in the contents of CCC to explain the 20th century history of the field, how those in the discipline progressed from problem-solving teachers and administrators to beginning to study and theorize language and writing, moving into the academic culture and expectations of the academy. The shifting profile of American college students from post-WWII (the veteran) to the 1960s and 1970s (huge increase in community college students as the high school degree was no longer enough to get a job) constantly challenged the theories and ideas of those in the field, pushing the field to be more progressive, more ethically, socially, and practically oriented than other traditional departments like literature.

Notes and Quotes

College enrollments doubled in 1946 (GI Bill). The first CCCC in 1948 was a practical matter, English college professors and administrators trying to deal with the practical problems of the huge influx of students – placing them, teaching them, assessing them.

The discipline has just as much to do with national, international politics, economics, and demographics as it does with the creation and production of theory. Our focus on social justice and ethics in concern of our students naturally leads to a concern for our teachers (me)

The rapidly growing two-year colleges turned to cheap adjunct labor to teach composition.

The teaching of composition is a profit-generating enterprise. Why don’t we argue this point to increase working conditions for the teachers of writing?

The two-tiered college system, with tenured managers and untenured workers, “offer dark images for the future” (491). “I worry that we may ease toward a situation in composiiton where most of the people who do the actual teaching are disenfranchised. Or worse, a situation in which decisions are given over to people who have relatively little training in an extremely complex field” (491).

“I am not calling to separate composition from English; that question is passe…Literature is a form of rhetoric” (493).

Blog at WordPress.com.