Revolution Lullabye

February 4, 2013

Scholes, The Transition to College Reading

Scholes, Robert J. “The Transition to College Reading.” Pedagogy 2.2 (Spring 2002): 165-172. Print.

In this essay, which is a revised version of a talk Scholes delivered at the 2001 NCTE conference in Baltimore, Scholes argues that teachers of English need to spend more time teaching students how to read more critically, which he defines as two related activities: 1. being able to accurately focus on the words, the language of the text and 2. understanding the author as outside the reader (as an other.) (166)

Scholes argues that this reading problem he sees as an educator is symptomatic of a larger problem of American culture: the inability of people to imagine the other – being able to listen to a person’s arguments and reasons without instantly critiquing or dismissing that argument. He contends that rhetoric depends on hearing the other, and a society that can’t understand perspectives other than their own cannot function as a true democracy.

Scholes believes that incorporating more literary criticism in the literature/English curriculum will address this reading problem becuase he believes criticism can model to students how to read and write for differences, how to interpret the other.  Scholes also notes that the task of imagining the other is rooted in rhetorical education: he cites McGuffey’s Reader (5th ed 1879) as explaining the purpose of reading as hearing the “ideas and feelings of the writer” (qtd. 167).

Notable Notes

solution must start in secondary schools, in the curriculum

importance of asking students to read things that they might not agree with – practicing listening to the arguments and reasons of the writer, not themselves.

Quotable Quotes

“The reading problems of our students can themselves be read as a symptom of a larger cultural problem.  We are not good, as a culture, at imagining the other” (167).

“I want to say that a good person, in our time, needs to have the rhetorical capacity to imagine the other’s thought, feeling, and sentiments. That is, though not all rhetoricians are good people, all good citizens must be rhetoricians to the extent that they can imagine themselves in the place of another and understand views different from their own. It is our responsibility as English teachers to help our students develop this form of textual power, in which strength comes, paradoxically, from subordinating one’s own thoughts temporarily to the views and values of another person” (168).

“If rhetoric is a schooling in textual virtue as well as in textual power, as I believe it is, this virtue consists largely in our being able to assume another person’s point of view before criticizing it and resuming our own” (169).

“The basis of an education for citizens of a democracy lies in that apparently simple but actually difficult act of reading so as to grasp and evaluate the thoughts and feelings of that mysterious other person: the writer” (171).


June 19, 2009

Berlin and Vivion, Cultural Studies in the English Classroom

Berlin, James A. and Michael J. Vivion. Cultural Studies in the English Classroom. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 1992.

This collection aims to show those in English studies (composition and literature) how the cultural studies movement, begun in England through the Birmingham Center for Contemporary Cultural Studies, has affected the teaching of writing and literature in American college classrooms. The book is divided into two sections. The first discusses cultural studies programs, how cultural studies has affected the large-scale programmatic work of English studies, especially that of composition. The second section explains specific cultural studies courses, pedagogies, and practices that have been developed in English studies. Cultural studies helped drive the “social turn” in composition, and it studies how social practices, imbedded with history, politics, ideology, and culture, have affected the formation of meaning and langauge. Cultural studies affected the study and practice of writing in a number of ways: it is based on a poststructural idea of multiple identities and subjectivities; it positions writing as a negotiation and a culturally-coded act; it treats all acts of language, private and public, as interested and affected by cultures and situations; and it sees writing as a meaning-making act of compliance or resistance to the cultural hegemony, not just as transcribing information or knowledge. Cultural studies, the editors claim, is not a content to teach in English studies but rather a method defined by a diversity of pedagogies and practices, but students and teachers who engage in cultural studies often critique culture and explore how meaning is made, understood, and distributed.

Quotable Quotes

cultural studies is not a content but a method “of making meaning and exploring how meaning is made.” (xiv)

Notable Notes

goal: critical readers and understand notion of subjectivity

Zebroski’s critique of the Syracuse Writing studios that privilege development (of teachers, students, writing ability) without connecting it to larger social and economic forces that drive, shape, or prevent that development. The Syracuse writing curriculum, he contends, forwards individual, a-cultural notions of writing that don’t critique the ends of particular kinds of writing instruction. He warns, though, that cultural studies cannot turn into another way to indoctrinate students, a throwback to the banking model. How students are positioned in the classroom – as producers or recievers of knowledge (93) – is of key importance

See Maxine Hairston’s critique of cultural studies in composition (in Composition in Four Keys)

Delores K. Schriner: explains the Northern Arizona University composition curriculum informed by cultural studies: “one person, many worlds” (98) – can’t simplify experiences into one group; Native American. Challenge of teaching the TAs and instructors how to implement this curriculum and why it’s important

Christine Farris “Giving Religion, Taking Gold” – talks about cultural studies in the context of disciplinary cultures. Too often WAC programs try to colonize other departments by enforcing our ideas of writing and inquiry on them. Need for more discussion, see other classrooms in other disciplines as specific cultural and interpretative communities

Linda Brodkey “Writing about Difference” UT Austin course that got so much flack; using law cases to talk about issues of difference, looking at the rhetoric and argument in these legal decisions

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