Revolution Lullabye

June 24, 2015

Hesse, Politics and the WPA: Traveling Through and Past Realms of Expertise

Hesse, Douglas D. “Politics and the WPA: Traveling Through and Past Realms of Expertise.” The Writing Program Administrator’s Resource: A Guide to Reflective Institutional Practice. Eds. Stuart C. Brown and Theresa Enos. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., 2002. Print. 41-58. Print.

Hesse explains how WPAs can approach the political nature of their work in a way that is productive and ethical. He describes aspects of academic politics that affect a WPA: that disciplinary knowledge or credentials aren’t as highly valued in administration as one might think, and that most decisions circulate around the debate for material resources. His chapter discusses how a WPA must act politically, keeping in mind these two principles, in four different spheres: the department, the institution, the profession, and the public.

Notable Notes

In departmental politics – 1. know how things work and how things get done, 2. write down (and publish) policies (these are more efficient, have more authority, can be used for faculty development, focuses the work of the department) , 3. Develop an ethos grounded in “expertise, competence, sensitivity to local situations, and the pursuit of the greater good” (44), 4. Write reports that have hard data about the students and faculty in the writing courses; 5. Create structured processes with timetables to get things done – these establish legitimacy and help with efficiency.

In institutional politics – institutions are usually conservative, don’t change rapidly or easily (46). Gives two examples of his own political work – one successful, one not. His advice: 1. “Have a place at the table” in discussions that are ultimately about resources by being on university-wide committees (48), 2. Know the people you’re talking with and that you’re competing with, 3. Be known in informal situations as well as formal (“Come to the parties” (49)), 4. Frame arguments in terms of resources, not just philosophy/disciplinary knowledge

In disciplinary/professional politics – 1. Know the past and present work/guidelines/statements published by the discipline’s professional organization; 2. Get involved in the organizations, network and do good work, 3. Get disciplinary organizations to sponsor your work (example of the CWPA Outcomes Statement)

In the public and larger higher ed – 1. Write for public audiences, tell the story you do instead of responding to attacks or accusations; 2. Network with people in other institutions and work together to make change; 3. Get on committees – state assessment boards, other education boards

WPAs need to know how to argue for material resources (42).

He argues that WPAs should prepare themselves to do political work by paying attention to the history of higher ed, the conversations happening in higher ed scholarship and journals.

Quotable Quotes

“Though WPAs wearing the ermine mantle of composition czar may set the curriculum for a course, they rarely can unilaterally set class sizes or faculty salaries. They need action by individuals with the official power to do so. Because the quality of a writing program depends largely on the conditions in which the program exists, and because the WPA has limited control of those situations, political action is vital” (41-42).

“For a good deal of their work, WPAs simply must be politicians – and, of course, rhetoricians.” (41).

In departments: “But beyond the program, especially in academic structures increasingly (and paradoxically) organized hierarchically with a professional managerial administration, WPAs often have to act with a decisiveness that may exceed their democratic sensibilities” (43).

“Second, WPAs must separate political outcomes from senses of their own worth. Unfavorable outcomes invite WPAs to doubt their abilities. But resources are finite, and expertise is lodged many places in the academy and culture. In a world where even Richard Nixon can be twice reborn, it makes most sense to understand your personae as content expert and as politician to be entwined but ultimately separable, each with endless opportunity for extension and application” (57).

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March 16, 2009

Wysocki, Seriously Visible

Wysocki, Anne Frances. “Seriously Visible.” In Eloquent Images: Word and Image in the Age of New Media. Eds. Mary E. Hocks and Michelle R. Kendrick. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003. 37-60.

Wysocki weaves together explorations of two popular circulating claims about new media and visual literacy: first, that hypertexts necessarily, by their structure, invite participation from the reader that results in a more active and engaged reading experience and second, that visuals are easily and automatically interpreted, thus not a medium for expressing a critical or complex argument. She demonstrates two visual hypertexts, Scrutiny in the Great Round and Throwing Apples at the Sun, and argues that these visual hypertexts are challenging and invite a diversity of pathways and interpretations. She also explores the political arguments (making students active citizens) made by proponents of hypertexts, showing that through her two examples, the composers of the piece were not interested in making active, independently-minded political readers, but instead, offering readers the chance to experience personal aesthetic pleasure. This opens up possibilities of new ways in which students and people might compose and design with words and images.

Quotable Quotes

The two examples “whose makers are attentive to the visual possbilities of the technologies they use but who argue against the possibilities and efficacy of liberal political engagement tied to interpretation” (44)

Sometimes “visual texts can be as pleasurably challenging as some word-full texts” (56)

“If we want our texts to be complex and to ask for interpretation, there is nothing inherent in ‘the visual’ or ‘the hypertextual’ demanding this or standing in our way – expect beliefs in some inherent simplicity of ‘the visual’ or complexity of ‘the hypertextual.’ If we want our students to value active engagment with texts and each other, we cannot expect that our texts will do that in and of themselves.” (57)

Notable Notes

need for pedagogy to teach students about complexity and interpreation, not just relying on the modes in which they compose. (57)

she argues against “the arguments that imply that visuals and hypertexts and multimedia must always accomplish the exact same things everywhere” (57)

a rich literature review of major hypertext and visual literacy theorists

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