Revolution Lullabye

June 9, 2015

Phelps, Becoming a Warrior: Lessons of the Feminist Workplace

Phelps. Louise Wetherbee. “Becoming a Warrior: Lessons of the Feminist Workplace.” Feminine Principles and Women’s Experience in American Composition and Rhetoric. Eds. Louise Wetherbee Phelps and Janet Emig. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 1995. Print. 289-339.

Phelps explores how women in the academy, specifically women writing program administrators, can take up, assume, and use power. She points out that when she became a writing program administrator, she did not have a model or theory available to her about how she, as a woman and as a compositionist, could accept and use the institutional power invested in her administrative position. Phelps argues against the idea that power is antithetical to feminist principles; rather, she argues for a conception of feminist power that is productive, generative, and expansive, one that allows for both a strong executive leader and distributed, collaborative, asymmetrical authority. She works in this essay to “construct a more adequately complex and nuanced feminism” (300). She asks “what it might be meant by feminist” in the context of assuming power and writing program administration (300).

Phelps uses her own experiences as the writing program administrator and Director of the Syracuse Writing Program to investigate the paradoxes and complexities of power for women, composition/writing programs, and female leaders in the academy and writing program administrators. Phelps discusses how she worked to create layered, asymmetrical groupings through the coordinating groups and other Writing Program task forces and committees. Phelps also describes the resistance she faced from her teachers when she asserted power or used rhetoric in a centralized, directed way (through talks to the program or published director’s writings.)

Phelps draws on the work done to explain the multifaceted feminization of composition within the academy (teaching as women’s work, nurturing work of the writing classroom, composition without institutional power or control, practice v. theory, low status of contingent faculty who teach composition, writing as skill.) She defines power as productive and generative, not coercive. Power, according to Phelps, can allow for positive influence, though she avoids sweeping utopian positions and generalizations. Phelps argues for the role of a strong executive in program leadership – a strong leader who can wield centralized authority can represent and argue for the program as a whole in an institutionally-recognizable way. At the end of her piece, Phelps calls for more work that interrogates her central paradox: the necessity of power within institutions and for leadership, and the implications of that power and its creations for feminists, for women, and for composition.

Notable Notes

Central architecture of the argument:

  1. “Invitation to Power” – reviews the feminization of composition, WPA work, and sexism in the academy. Calls for a definition/understanding of the feminist power, a model for how a feminist might use and assume power ethically and for good.
  1. “Constructing and Complicating the Feminist Workplace” – argues that the workplace of composition is already feminist (writing/English classroom gives discursive authority to women; composition classroom has embraced feminist pedagogical principles; the predominance of women within the workplace of composition means that women have a disproportionate chance to benefit from composition workplaces that give them opportunities to lead and learn). Explains her decision to become the WPA at Syracuse: “it was vaguely but genuinely a moral decision responding to the summons to take up responsibility toward others, to act on my convictions” (306). Describes how she envisioned developing an inquiry-based writing program that depended on the creative power of the teachers and her emerging ideas of what it meant to be a leader. Explains the paradox of power and agency and responsibility: agency is not ultimately freeing, with power comes discipline, rules, and responsibility, and professionalization will not improve the working conditions of all because not all will be able to participate. Explains how she built the program purposefully around asymmetry, not symmetry.
  2. “Lessons of the Feminist Workplace” – organized complexity, bravery

The WPA role itself is feminized – it is marginal, instable within the academy’s institutional structure: “More truly marginal than in the feminist sense, we are like animals of the tidal zone, neither sea nor land creatures” (291).

You have a choice, as a WPA, to accept or reject a position of power. But where does rejecting leave us? (292)

Names the problems of a utopian feminist vision, where power is shared equally, symmetrically, without hierarchy (293) – how this is not workable in a workplace. Names the potential negatives of a woman-centered workplace (301).

Explains how in her first few years as the Director of the Syracuse Writing Program, she did not see her situation as gendered (she did not recognize the reaction of others – both those teachers within the program and higher administrators – as rooted in sexism.) Phelps was more focused on the feminized status of composition within the university (specifically at Syracuse.) (296-297)

The reaction to women (and composition) – the reactions of “exclusion” and “devaluation” – “do not go away when the door opens a crack and we squeeze in” (299).

Phelps notes throughout that these memories – writing about these moments – is painful and hard.

De-centering authority (in a classroom, in a program) requires authority (304). To have the choice to de-center authority means that you have the institutional power to make that choice, decision.

Phelps discusses her reasons for taking up the position of Director of the Syracuse Writing Program, why she made this choice (306). At the time, it was not a gendered decision – she wanted to enact her vision of literacy, composition within a teaching community (306).

Discussion of how she thought through the ethics of WPA work, of relying on teacher’s intellectual energy, of coming to terms with contingent labor (308-310; especially her responsibility to the teachers and ethical employment on 313-315; giving teachers options through professional development 317-318).

The teaching community and empowering teachers’ own individual agency is central to her vision of the writing program (309-310)

The program’s most basic right: “Its right to try” (315) – that means the right of the teachers to try, to design, to grow, to experiment.

The material benefits a writing program can offer are never going to be enough to offset the work and low pay and low status of teaching composition (317).

Those teachers “who exploit these opportunities for development will gain options: they will have more choices about staying there or moving on” (318).

The “killer dichotomy” (Ann Berthoff) – that the ideal of a “flattened hierarchy”/symmetry and complete shared power versus the idea of a determinist hierarchy of power, that the power structure in place can’t be challenged or disrupted (320)

In her asymmetrical organization, she relied on three “significant asymmetries” – 1. “institutional authority”; 2. “attributes of competence”; and 3. “commitment or investment of oneself in the program.” Phelps tried to “subvert” #1 with #2 and #3, but maintained that #1 (executive power, authority through position or degree or credential) is important for the program as a whole and the people in it. (322)

Power as influence versus power as coercion (322-323)

She saw the empowerment of her program as emerging from three things: 1. Enabling conditions (both two-way communication and a director that encourages/articulates teachers’ own understandings of the program); 2. Structures (creating, revising structures and starting new traditions that form a community); 3. Exemplification (naming, modeling, “dramatizing” the principles and strategies of the program so that they are visible) (323-326)

Program v. department rhetoric (program as productive, community, cohesive) (327)

Discusses the importance of community in creating a program that works – people want to feel a sense of belonging (though the backlash against insular, “insider” communities.) Belonging to the community is a benefit for its members (327)

the idea that we are not in a utopia – we work in a workplace

 

Quotable Quotes

“As a writing program administrator, what I find incomplete or inadequate in these characterizations of feminization is that they fail to analyze the problem of empowerment or help us meet it when it actually comes – accompanied by its own paradoxes and discrepancies between appearance and reality, marked by lags, slippages, and regressions, but genuinely different for all that. The meaning of composition’s gendering is not immutably fixed but is suspectible to transformation (though not simple reversal) when its members, and particularly its women, begin to pursue their intellectual projects and enact their values with confidence and some measure of institutional support” (290-291).

“Yet analyses of composition as feminized can never fully anticipate the shift in the problem space that occurs when we begin to move into the tidal zone of power, nor the peculiar challenges of a transitional period. They do not contemplate the guilt and ambivalence and jealousies that will inevitably accompany accession to power; nor do they confront the radical transformation it requires in both strategies and moral understandings” (291-292).

“In short, our current understanding of the feminization of composition provides neither ethical nor strategic guidance in ‘right action,’ either for women who, as senior faculty and administrators, must learn to exercise power wisely or for the field as it begins to acquire resources, centrality to an institution’s mission, and the increased clout that goes with this position. Handling our own power, that is, coming to terms with the ineluctable authority of the writing teacher, is a central, unresolved problem for feminist classroom pedagogy. It becomes acute when the domains and forces involved are larger: programs, departments, institutions, disciplines, and the winds of social change that are sweeping over all of them” (293).

Reject pessimistic visions of power: “For the moment, I will simply say this: if as feminists we are arguing for broadly distributed power and access, we must be prepared to imagine that one can ethically have visions, lead, and wield power despite the imperfectability of institutions and the tragic limitations of human action” (293).

“What I missed here (just as well, since it might have paralyzed me with cynicism or despair) was the triple burden created for the woman leader in composition by the intertwinings of power with gender, teaching, and writing” (297).

“What I had yet to learn, on the bones, was the circuit of devaluation that runs from women in general to women’s work to composition as a feminized discipline and back to the concrete institutional project – the writing program as an enterprise, and its people. The program as a project is ignored as an intellectual force or set of ideas insofar as it is perceived as a bunch of women doing a remedial service; dismissed or critiqued (as requiring structure and external control) insofar as its practices are perceived as soft and feminine; vilified insofar as its values and leaders are perceived as dangerously, powerfully ‘feminist; or simply because it begins to be too successful in a competitive environment. Such attitudes get an extra jolt from the enormous ego investment most people have in their own writing and in moralistic beliefs about what counts as ‘good writing.’

Too often, these intense feelings are concentrated and discharged malevolently on the embodied persons of the women, teachers and leaders alike, who construct their program and teach composition with bravery, fear, and ambivalence.” (297-298). The whole writing program was devalued, suffered from layers of sexism

In the end, the story is about joy:

“Finally, though, these painful emotions are not at the core of my experience as a woman directing a writing program, nor should their distorting effects be allowed to define sourly the enterprise or the community. They are simply the penumbra. The core is joy: the fun, the ingenuity, the collaboration, the exhilaration when something works, the laughter, the leap, the learning. What compels my attention, my passion, and my intellectual interest as a feminist is the thrill of possibility in our accession to power; the moral, practical, and rhetorical complexities that we encounter in daily work on constructive projects in real-world contexts; the feminism that might arise in such a crucible” (299).

The organization of writing programs as unique in the academy: “As organizations, writing programs combine a certain boundedness, recognizability, and clear definition as communities (delimited in space, in membership, in curricular purposes) with diffusion and interpenetration into the academic context through cross-curricular activity and communication with students, faculty, and administrators in many units and at all levels of the university hierarchy” (308).

The importance of people in a writing program: “Despite my inexperience as an administrator, I assumed that the single most critical factor in the success of a programmatic enterprise is smart, dedicated people: faculty and staff who are intellectually and morally engaged in working for shared goals” (308)

Phelps’ vision of her role as WPA, in regards to starting an inquiry-based writing program that relied on and valued the teachers: “I tried to place teachers’ own reflective thought and collaboration at the center of curriculum development and their intelligent, caring, and responsible interaction with students at the heart of learning” (309).

And this: Her leadership “lay rather in the idea of forming and orchestrating the activity of a teaching community in which people would be authorized and supported to teach flexibly within a broad framework of common goals, to invent curriculum together, to build a program that would finally have intellectual and educative value not only for the students taught but also for the university, the discipline, and for educational theory and practice” (309).

“Agency does not imply absolute power or freedom to do anything you please. Indeed, I discovered, there is a ratio between power and discipline: the greater your authority, the more visible and multiple the disciplines (rules, orders, structures) you must both accept for yourself and impose on others” (311).

“Leadership involves more than generative (‘maternal’ or enabling power)…It requires leaders also to channel, constrain, and judge the actions of others” (311).

“Diffusion of power is the diffusion of problems of power” (311-312).

“An increase in authority, voice, and autonomy is not an unqualified good in and of itself” (312) What teachers in the Syracuse Writing Program quickly discovered. If professionalization is offered and encouraged, it puts at a disadvantage those who cannot or do not or will not take advantage of these opportunities, even if they are not required.

The writing program is not an utopia: “In treating teachers as moral agents – adults – and providing opportunities for curricular control and leadership, I exposed them, perhaps involuntarily, to new risks and pressures while possibly exploiting their capabilities and energy without adequate reward” (313).

“I assumed that inequalities of power as well as of hierarchy are inevitable in any large social organization, patriarchal or otherwise. The possibilities for sharing power among groups in the writing program are circumscribed by the specific social facts of its membership and the organization of the university as a political and bureaucratic workplace. I proposed to work with, rather than against, these real-world constraints” (320).

The asymmetrical power relations within the Syracuse Writing Program: “The social architecture of this program created new power: it generated or attracted energy, enabled novelty and change, created new order and legitimacy, and gave people more personal autonomy and scope for action” (323).

“In actual life, in political life specifically, I think that institutions and programs, like nations, survive and thrive only when people develop a powerful sense of belonging and loyalty to them, and do indeed serve them partly for their own sake: as embodiment, however flawed and mixed, of noble human purposes, as homes or places of work and life, and as human families and collectivities that they love. If there is any single claim that feminists, in composition and elsewhere, seem to be making, it is that women’s work in families and society (the invisible work of managing social interaction [DeVault; Fishman]) prepares them to understand and build such communities. Many of the ‘feminine principles’ I have described here and tried to follow as a leader (collaborative work, consensus building, conversation, professional development, deconstructive use of asymmetries) enact a conception of relations as intrinsically rewarding” (327).

“We are back to the point that power frightens people. Even the most benign power, and most especially collective power, is in part coercive, whether overtly, through rules and rulers, hegemonically, through structures tacitly assimilated, or interactionally, through rhetorical forces. Perhaps even constructive power made available to ourselves is frightening in the electricity it creates and the demands it generates” (328).

“The issue of power is assuredly among the most difficult that feminists face. Power is most often experienced as oppression, and hence the desire for it is frequently disavowed. Yet, insofar as power is the energy and control that gets things done, it is not only an ineluctable dimension of any situation, it is something that feminists require” Nina Baym, quoted in Phelps (329).

“The key to warriorship…is not being afraid of who you are…Shambhala vision teaches that, in the face of the world’s greatest problems, we can be heroic and kind at the same time” Chogyam Trungpa, quoted in Phelps (332)

“Real fearlessness is the product of tenderness. It comes from letting the world tickle your heart, your raw and beautiful heart. You are willing to open up, without resistance and shyness, and face the world” Chogyam Trungpa, quoted in Phelps (332)

“Remember I asked – and postponed answering – the more fundamental question, whether it is ever right to accept invitations to power in the academy. Given the willingness to teach writing, to work in any institution of American higher learning as a scholar or teacher, but especially in tenured of relative economic comfort and privilege, it seems to me the fundamental choice has already been made; what remains is just responsibility and the specific conditions that make it right or possible to take it” (332).

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October 11, 2013

Bernhardt, Review Essay: Rhetorical Technologies, Technological Rhetorics

Bernhardt, Stephen A. “Review Essay: Rhetorical Technologies, Technological Rhetorics.” College Composition and Communication 64.4 (June 2013): 704-720. Print.

Bernhardt briefly summarizes and reviews five recently-published edited collections and single-authored monographs in the field that explore the recriprocal interaction between rhetoric and technology. Each book he reviews explores how different technologies – both “old world” technologies like the typewriter and new media technologies – have impacted how we understand rhetorical theory, analysis, and practice.

The five books included in the review:

Borrowman, Shane, ed. On the Blunt Edge: Technology in Composition’s History and Pedagogy. Anderson: Parlor P, 2012. Print.

The chapters included in Borrowman’s collection look at a wide range of technologies and their impact on the field and how we understand writing, rhetorical education, and rhetorical identity. Some of the technologies include Athenian graffiti (RIchard Enos), handwriting and penmenship, typewriters, moveable type, audiovisual aids, and codes and hidden messages. Though the collection does not specifically focus on new media technologies, its understanding of how specific technologies impact rhetoric and how we think about and express meaning offer one perspective through which to explore new digital technologies.

Kimme Hea, Amy C., ed. Going Wireless: A Critical Exploration of Wireless and Mobile Technologies for Composition Teachers and Scholars. Cresskill: Hampton P, 2009. Print.

Kimme Hea’s collection explores the impact wireless computing and our constantly connected, multi-tasking lives on our students, classrooms, communities, pedagogies, and understanding of communication, writing and rhetoric.

McCorkle, Ben. Rhetorical Delivery as Technological Discourse: A Cross-Historical Study. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2012. Print.

McCorkle, through a large historical review, argues for a reconsideration of the rhetorical canon of delivery. His chapters look at ancient oratory practice, medieval preaching, the 19th-century elocutionary movement, and then look forward to how new media technologies might change the reciprocal relationship between speech and writing, a central theme of his book. Bernhardt labels his argument as “conservative,” and argues that it lacks some theoretical coherence and overlooks a possible connection to the canons of arrangmeent and memory (711).

Rice, Jeff. Digital Detroit: Rhetoric and Space in the Age of the Network. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2012. Print.

Bernhardt lauds Rice’s cross-disciplinary text that brings together rhetoric and network studies to investigate how we can experience and understand the multiple dimensions of Detroit. Rice relies on association, network, juxtaposition, and contradiction to build and recover narratives that challenge the dominant understanding of Detroit as a place of urban decay and hopelessness.

“Rice’s networking of Detroit purposefully embodies the confusion, indeterminacy, and mixed messages of a heavily trafficked and overloaded web of connections. Detroit is more like the buzzing, blooming confusion of the Web than it is a resolved, understood, and constantly signifying city” (713).

Delagrange, Susan H. Technologies of Wonder: Rhetorical Practice in a Digital World. Logan: Utah State UP, 2011. Web.

Delagrange’s eBook – a free, downloadable PDF file, rich with images, embedded links, and videos, and designed with an Adobe interface – embodies digital technology in its deliver. Her central argument is that the visual and the embodied need to be considered viable alternatives to the printed, written word. She uses an extended metaphor of the Wunderkammer (the wonder cabinet, the cabinet of curiosities). Bernhardt critiques Delagrange’s argument as a little passé, arguing that there already is acceptance of scholarship as visual, embodied, and performative at the academy and within composition and rhetoric (719). He also points out that although her book argues for an alternative to logocentric arguments, her book relies on the verbal, not the visual, to make its claims.

September 4, 2012

Penrose, Professional Identity in a Contingent-Labor Profession

Penrose, Ann M. “Professional Identity in a Contingent-Labor Profession: Expertise, Autonomy, Community in Composition Teaching.” WPA 35.2 (Spring 2012): 108-126.

Penrose analyzes the factors that constitute professional identity – dynamic expertise, autonomy and authority, and participation in a professional community – and argues that this definition of a professional could be a new way WPAs can articulate the goals they have for their non-tenure-track instructors and for improving their instructors’ material working conditions.

Penrose argues that the fractured nature of the field and the work of composition instructors – that the field, though broadly coherent, can look very different through the vantage points of sub-specialties, individual research agendas, and composition curricula and programs – leads to non-tenure-track composition instructors feeling like they don’t belong in the professional composition community.  Penrose calls on WPAs to make concerted, continual efforts to cultivate a professional composition community for their non-tenure-track instructors and graduate TAs, calling the instructors’ attention to the ways they are building their multifaceted professional identites, shared language, and common values.

Penrose argues that having a vision of what a professional composition instructor is will help in WPAs arguments for offering professional development and improving instructors’ working conditions.

Notable Notes

looks at research in what makes a professional and a professional community in history, sociology, higher education

even composition programs all founded on the WPA outcomes can look widely different

professional development can seem coercive – as a way to regulate, to supervise – not as a continued process of shared learning. They can be disruptive to autonomy and authority. (116)

studies show that high levels of professional identity among K-12 teachers lead to greater student learning (110).

trend from the autonomous professional (shut my classroom door) to the collaborative professional from the 1980s and beyond (111)

current pressures in politics to deprofessionalize education, to turn it away from an authoritative community that regulates itself, has the danger of making teaching an amateur enterprise, where teachers implement and reproduce but do not create or add to the knowledge base of the community (111)

definition of profession (112): specialized expert with dynamic knowledge base, has rights and privileges, and member of a social community with shared languages, values

Quotable Quotes

“The concept of professional identity is particularly intriguing in our field, where staffing practices intersect with disciplinary indeterminacy to create a teaching community comprising professionals with widely varying preparation, knowledge, philosophical commitments, and disciplinary allegiances.” (109)

“The diversity of perspectives that we value in theory and entertain in our disciplinary scholarship becomes complicated in the applied contexts of FYC programs, where contingent faculty are often hired to further others’ agendas rather than their own.” (109-110).

“Professional identities are not simply a matter of assigned status or recognition but self-images that influence behavior – determining, for example, where we seek our professional knowledge and to whom we consider ourselves accountable” (112)

“True professionals do not simply possess a body of knowledge but engage in continuing professional development and actively contribute to the community’s knowledge base” (113).

“Professions are dynamic social groups. Being a professional is not a matter of being free from community decisions but being part of them; not just of acquiring the profession’s knowledge but of contributing to it; not of working in isolation but of engaging with colleagues. Clearly we are aiming not for one of these identities – expert, autonomous agent, community member – but for all of them” (120).

“Understanding professionalism as collaborative provides useful perspective on the question of expertise, for it shifts attention from knowledge as static to knowledge as responsive and evolving” (120).

“Composition experts are identified not by the possession of a finite body of knowledge but by a rhetorical understanding that motivates them to assess, apply, and adapt their knowledge and develop new expertise as needed to meet teaching challenges in varied contexts” (121).

May 26, 2011

Fleming, Becoming Rhetorical

Fleming, David.   “Becoming rhetorical: An education in the topics.”   In Bahri, Deepika; Joseph Petraglia (Eds.), The realms of rhetoric: Inquiries into the prospects for rhetoric education. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2003.

Fleming shows, through an investigation of the topics (topoi), how there is true rhetorical knowledge and how that knowledge can push students to develop in discursive ability. He calls for scholars and teachers of rhetoric to turn back to the heart of rhetoric, which depends upon a multiyear curriculum where students have the opportunity to develop, naturally and deeply, as rhetoricians influenced by ethics and virtue towards civic, responsible ends. He warns against rudimentary definitions of rhetoric  – “checklists” of terms and ideas divorced from a larger ethical base – and also all-encompassing theories of rhetoric that, in their largeness, make rhetoric also meaningless. The goal of rhetoric, Fleming argues, is not so much to transmit a certain kind of knowledge but to develop a certain kind of person, an ethical, productive, civically-minded, knowledgable leader. That development depends on practice, imitation, exercises, and repetition.

Topics depend on understanding the commonplaces of a particular culture – what that culture values, what opinions are generally accepted, the “endoxa”  of a community, what allows people to meet together on the same ground.

Rhetorical education, Fleming argues, can’t hope that students will absorb a rhetorical sensibility through mere exposure to many different disciplines and ways of knowing, the foundation of liberal arts education. Rather, rhetorical education needs to help students develop a rhetorical self-consciousness, flexible but still concrete in vocabulary and purpose, “an art that, once learned, confers on students a genuine practical and ethical ability” (105).

Fleming, with this goal in mind, proposes a richer, teachable theory of the topics that includes five broad categories of rhetorical knowledge: 1. circumstantial knowledge; 2. verbal formulae, 3. common sense; 4. models of textual development; and 5. logical norms.

Notes and Quotes

“The topics we organize this way shuold be infinitely malleable, capable of being adapted and used in multiple ways in different situations. What I am after, in other words, is a theory that can accomodate diverse kinds of resources, one that is focused on situated practice in particular communities, and one that sees the words and things of those communities as practically plastic in the hands of its speakers, hearers, writers, and readers” (104).

rhetoric can’t be taught in one course – it needs to be infused into an entire curriculum

“Where classical rhetoric took a remarkably precise language and dedicated it to an ambitious political-ethical project, the new rhetoric takes a highly elastic vocabulary and puts it to rather trivial ends” (93).

topics: “an ancient set of pedagogical resources designed to help speakers and writers invent arguments for public debate” (94): “My appraoch will be to see the topics as a species of political knowledge that, through theory and practice, can be made part of the student’s very character” (94)

“Rhetoric is at once overburdened and underburdeded with content” (94) – the challenge is to find a place between particularilty and generality (95)

the topics are commonplaces – places to go to discover arguments, a set of heuristics to help invention

connection between Toulmin’s warrants and Aristotle’s topics.

modern rhetorical theory has taken out the content and context of the original topics in order to create a more universal form of rhetoric.

Problem: “A theory of argument situated at the intersection of politics [specificity] and logic [generality] will always elude us; the best we can do is choose one path or the other and stick to it, hoping that our students, at least, will learn to merge the two in their practical lives” (103)

need something more substantial than the rhetorical triangle

Fleming’s theory of topics:

  • circumstantial knowledge – context, history, people, places, familiarity
  • verbal formulae – discursive resources and languages of the community, through wide reading and listening
  • common sense – values, truths, preferences that exist in that community
  • modes of textual development – the structures of everyday arguments in the community, patterns, modes, things that direct and shape thought in that community
  • logical norms – the norms that authorize arguments, warrants, inference

The problem of the paper cycle in typical freshman composition classes: (110)

  1. they are too long for close work but too short to do real work: “they are neither the kind of discursive chunk that constitutes an utterance, a move in written or spoken discourse, nor the kind of project that results from weeks, months, or even years of active engagement with real intellectual or practical problems.
  2. they aren’t sequenced developmentally, to build off each other
  3. students work on them too slowly, tediously drafting over and over again

Draws on the ideas of the New London Group: inquiry into a specific text or situation, recursive thinking and writing. Gives example of Brown vs Board of Education  sourcebook

May 25, 2011

Toner, Good Teaching and Good Writing

Toner, Lisa  “Good teaching and good writing: Practices in public life and rhetorical ethics.”  In Galin, Jeffrey R.; Carol Peterson Johnson; J. Paul Haviland (Eds.), Teaching/writing in the late age of print; Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2003. 253-263.

Toner argues that students should write about decisions and policies in their local or campus community, as it gives them a position of authority and, if done over a series of smaller assignments, prods students to explore the viewpoints of a variety of stakeholders. By the end of the course, after exploring the issue, students have a deeper, more broad rhetorical authority from which to talk from. The course reflects real practices of research and inquiry and guides students through the process of learning to speak for themselves and for others fairly and ethically – to see legitimacy in critique.

Notes and Quotes

Respecting the dignity of the student, critical thinking: “A good writing teacher respects and facilitates students’ struggles of constructing voice in a constrained agency and helps students avoid the paralysis that comes with recognizing the legitmacy of others’ critique” (253)

Repetition: “Students’ openness to others’ views evolves through writing several assignments, not just through a single research paper or persuasive essay” (253).

Sequence of assignments: 1. identify issue, context, and justify research for it; 2. specualate economic/political/legal/ethical/personal interests of the stakeholders; 3. results of a survey of opinions of a relevant group; 4. write letters to a campus decision maker

At Wheeling Jesuit University

Content in a composition course: “What students and others write for the course is concrete information they take with them at the end of the semester…Writing teachers can create and maximize pedagogical opportunities when both the subject written about and the writing subject concide.” (262)

“Such moments [hypocritical moments – when writers see contradictions in themselves and their beliefs] put a writer at the interface between a self-centered rhetorical ethic and other-oriented public life that begs taking responsibility for one’s assumptions, exclusions, and relatedness to various communities” (262).

May 23, 2011

Stenberg, Liberation Theology and Liberatory Pedagogies

Stenberg, Shari J. “Liberation Theology and Liberatory Pedagogies: Renewing the Dialogue.” College English 68.3 (January 2006): 271-290.

In order to pursue the goals of liberatory pedagogy, academics and teachers need to more fully understand its connection to liberation theology and the religious values, traditions, and ideas that underscore the pedagogy. Critical pedagogy, Stenberg contends, has split the connection between faith and politics that forms the foundation of liberatory pedagogy, part of a larger historical trend in US higher education. Students’ religious literacies may serve as points of departure, inquiry, and as resources for their thinking and writing.

Notes and Quotes

 “If we are to truly start where students are, it makes sense to discover ways to value and build upon students’ faith-based knowledge, rather than asking them to overcome these backgrounds.” (272)

Idea (based in Exodus) that God is on the side of the oppressed – taken up by Latin American Catholics who were being colonized by Europeans

“Liberation theologians that humans abide by free will and are responsible to work with God to create a just and equitable world” (273)

“What is the cost of a pedagogy of dismissal?” (283)

Compassion as a root in the prophetic tradition (where liberatory theology comes out of)

Community and solidarity – working together for justice – are themes in liberatory theology, commitment to other people in a God-like love

Liberatory pedagogy requires praxis: action and reflection, no distinction between theory and practice, ongoing, continual work

Need to treat faith as knowledge – not as an impediment for students to “get over” – need to make room for the possibility of religious discourse

How to treat religious belief as inquiry – not as dogma…linking intellectualism and faith

“Too often, missing in the discourse of critical pedagogy is reflection on the effects of our hands. How do we use them not only to challenge, but also to support? Not only to critique, but also to validate? Not only to deconstruct, but also to reconstruct?

The prophetic tradition of liberation theology offers us visions that may not only enrich our understanding of critical pedagogy, but may also help us enact it more fully. To place these traditions back in dialogue is not to espouse theology in the critical classroom, it is to return to roots that might better allow us to realize the goals of liberatory education: valuing student knowledge, enacting a reciprocal teacher-student relationship, enriching critique with both compassion and action, and participating in ongoing reflection and revision. And these goals, to my mind, represent a pedagogy that is truly critical.” (288-289).

June 24, 2009

Harris, A Teaching Subject

Harris, Joseph. A Teaching Subject: Composition Since 1966. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 1997.

Harris traces the history of the teaching of writing and how the teaching of writing was talked about through five key terms: growth, voice, process, error, and community. His account begins with the 1966 Dartmouth Conference, and it relies on published articles, books, and textbooks in the field for historical evidence, debates over the terms, and trends. He does not present an argument for composition as a theoretical field of inquiry; rather, he sees composition’s inherent ties to education and the classroom as important and needing to be asserted and validated. He traces the process movement through the 1960s and 1970s, and then uses community as the key term to organize his history about the social and political turn in composition. The last chapter is a reprint of his CCC article “The Idea of Community in the Study of Writing,” in which he problematizes the term, saying that it posits an ideal, homongenous, warm and happy view of a community. Instead, Harris argues that we need to move even beyond contact zones – which give people fixed cultural identies and affinities – to recognizing the multiple identites and voices that writers and students negotiate at all times.

Notable Notes

Dartmouth Conference: British (K-12) interested in growth and teaching; Americans (university) were interested in professionalization of the field, research, becoming recognized academics

two different ideas of voice: that of the individual writer, emerging from inside (expressivist movement, Elbow, Murray) v. voices that are outside the writer that the writer must learn to orchestrate and control (Barthes, Bakhtin, Derrida, Bartholomae, influenced by Theodore Baird at Amherst)

goal of composition, process: critical thinking, habits of mind, arete (virtues necessary for democracy)

June 19, 2009

Dewey, Democracy and Education

Dewey, John. Democracy and Education. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1961.

In this book, originally published in 1915, Dewey forwards his philosophy of education in a democratic society. Dewey, known as a pragmatist, believes that the purpose of education is growth, and that growth happens as a child interacts with a social environment and continuously reconstructs his or her knowledge through purposeful activities and experiences. He dismisses the binary between the pursuit of pure knowledge and vocational education, arguing that vocations and occupations do not limit a child but rather give them a direction, and organizing principle through which to experience education. Education forms fundamental intellectual and emotional dispositions, which are learned through the social community of school, but no one state should enforce a standard disposition – the strength of democratic societies is intellectual freedom and individual choice. Dewey believes that education within the school should reflect the experiences and learning that takes place outside of school.

Quotable Quotes

“Learning is the accompaniment of continuous activities or occupations which have a social aim and utilize the materials of typical social situations” (360). – continuous readjustment and growth

education = “the continuous reconstruction of experience” (80) and “that reconstruction or reorganization of experience which adds to the meaning of experience, and which increases ability to direct the course of subsequent experience” (76).

Notable Notes

classroom as a social learning community

connection to norms (Green)…acquisition of habits (Newman)

June 11, 2009

O’Neill, Crow, and Burton, Field of Dreams

O’Neill, Peggy, Angela Crow, and Larry W. Burton. A Field of Dreams: Independent Writing Programs and the Future of Composition. Logan: Utah State UP, 2002.

This collection focuses on independent writing programs, writing programs, majors, and graduate programs that have split off from traditonal English literary studies. The various case studies in the book show the challenges of independence: how the new program situates itself theoretically, politically, and institutionally, taking on questions of identity while trying to maintain daily operations. The editors hope that this collection, and the trend of independent writing programs, will help the field begin to define itself positively, by what they do, instead of in opposition to what they don’t do (traditional English studies.) The book is divided into three parts: 1. local case studies and their problems and possibilities 2. connections from local case studies to larger theoretical and ethical issues in the field 3. the future of the discipline and the place of rhetoric and composition in the changing 21st century university.

Quotable Quotes

“The creation of stand-alone writing units – whether programs or departments – provides us with an opportunity to define ourselves in new ways instead of against literature and literary scholarship. It is a chance to begin new and better academic traditions where we can enact what we value instead of spending our energy defending it” (9).

Notable Notes

the challenge of defining a vertical curriculum (a major) when the discipline is still being defined, negotiated

building a program means building a community

variety of ways these independent programs are formed: top-down, bottom-up, slowly, quickly, horizontal v. vertical curriculum

what traditions, values does the independent writing program adopt?

April 15, 2009

Huot, (Re)Articulating Writing Assessment

Huot, Brian. (Re)Articulating Writing Assessment for Teaching and Learning. Logan, Utah: Utah State UP, 2002.

Assessment needs to be rearticulated by composition and rhetoric scholars as an important, necessary part of writing scholarship and teaching. Huot addresses assessment in a different way in each chapter (highlighting its connection to student response, teaching students self-assessment, need to create a field of writing assessment, and a history of writing assessment practices), but all of his studies and discussion point to central principles for his new theory and practice of writing assessment. Assessment must be site-based, locally controlled, context-sensitive, rhetorically-based, and accessible (to students, public, teachers, adminstrators.) Composition and rhetoric scholars and teachers are doing themselves no favors by abdicating assessment to education or to self-appointed writing assessment specialists; assessment is an issue that must be taken up by every WPA and teacher.

Quotable Quotes

“Instead of envisioning assessment as a way to enforce certain culturally positioned standards and refuse entrance to certain people and groups of people, we need to use our assessments to aid the learning environment for both teachers and students” (8).

“People who write well have hte ability to assess their own writing, and if we are to teach students to write successfully, then we have to teach them to assess their own writing” (10)

Notable Notes

assessment is articulating what we value; it marks our identities as teachers, programs, and a field; how do our judgments get articulated into our assessments?

Chapter 2 – need to connect comp/rhet with K-12 assessment to create  a writing assessment subfield, pooling knowledge and methods, talk about validity

Chapter 3 – need to teach students how to assess their own writing; writing as reflective judgment; use portfolios to full advantage

Chapter 4 – history of assessment practices

Chapter 5 – teacher response to student writing (draw on Phelps) and the contraint inherent in the act of reading

Chapter 6 – writing assessment is treated like a technology. It needs to be reimagined as research. This changes the role and activity of the assessors (151)

Chapter 7 – the practice of writing assessment needs to be reflective, conscious, theoretical, and instructive. Assessment can be social action, something that the field claims again, led by WPAs and teachers. (175)

movement away from objective rubric-like assessments, more based on community questions, inquiry, research, and practice

technocentric argument (Hawshier) – the tool of the assessment should not drive the practice

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