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).

Bousquet, Composition as Management Science: Toward a University without a WPA

Bousquet, Marc. “Composition as Management Science: Toward a University without a WPA.” JAC 22.3 (2002): 493-526. Print.

Bousquet argues that composition has become complacent in the larger corporate university system, citing scholarship that promotes a “pragmatist” approach to writing program administration and rejects critical theory as “idealist.” Bousquet contends that real institutional change is only possible through collective action, and he points to both history and current union movements for better working conditions and pay for graduate students and adjuncts as evidence that change emerges from the action of collective labor, not by individuals, such as “lower management” WPAs. Bousquet’s argument relies on a Marxist reading of WPA work and current WPA scholarship, and his argument is a response to Porter et al’s Braddock-winning essay about institutional change and critique. Bousquet ultimate argument is that composition (as a field) and composition teachers would be best served if WPAs stepped away from their roles as lower managers, a role in which they support and enact the interests of the managerial university. Bousquet believes that composition should look like other academic disciplines, without a lower-level “manager” (WPA) and with tenure-track faculty lines, not adjunct labor or non-tenure-track instructorships or “parafaculty.”

Notable Notes

Central question: has composition/WPA strayed too far? Has it bought into the rhetoric of university management? And central claim: that organized labor and collection action is the only way to change the status quo and problems of composition labor, not WPAs. He imagines a model without a WPA.

Sections of his argument:

The Heroic WPA

  • Argues that the field has moved away from critical lenses and “toward institutionally focused pragmatism, toward acceptance of market logic, and toward increasing collaboration with a vocational and technical model of education” (495-496).
  • Defines the “heroic WPA” as a new figure in the field, connects it to Marx’s “’special kind of wage-laborer,’” “the members of the working class whose particular labor is to directly administer the labor of other members of their class at the frontline of the extraction of surplus value” (498).
  • Labels WPAs as “lower management,” who have as much in common with workers (or more) than they do with the higher class that they might identify with. Lower management historically has not made changes: “Lower management is particularly vulnerable, highly individuated, and easily replaced” (497). Lower management often is not tracked to upper management advancement.
  • Argues that when someone becomes a member of the lower management, their class does not change (still a member of the labor class), but their loyalties change. (498)
  • Asks who the term “compositionist” (or “we”) refers to – the teachers? The WPAs? Those who teach or those who supervise/theorize? The field writ large? Who does it represent? (499)
  • Ties the emergence of the comp/rhet discipline to shifting structure in undergrad institution in the 1970s: more students with less TT faculty.

The Intricate Evasions of As: How to Be One of the Gang

  • composition is trying to be “one of the gang” in the academic institution, a respected discipline. So there’s two layered legitimacy crises in comp: one among adjunct labor, the other around WPAs/compositionists (502)
  • WPAs/composition have accepted the realities of the corporate university instead of contending them. One example he gives is FT NTT lines, which Bousquet argues is a way to get around tenure and to assert more “managerial control” over composition teaching faculty (505) – he thinkis is a step backwards to remove tenure, not a step forward. Asks why this is happening primarily in comp, not in other fields (lit?) (506-507).
  • WPAs (lower management) do not have a good track record for changing the working conditions of adjunct composition faculty. Unions and collective action do have a good track record for this. (507).
  • WPAs are more vulnerable to academic capitalism, market logic than faculty, who can resist it to some extent (508).

The Hidden Idealism of Managerial ‘Materialism’

  • One piece of evidence he cites as comp/rhet and WPA’s acceptance of managerialism and the corporate university is the emergence of “pragmatism” in WPA scholarship (509), of rejecting “ideals” for “realities” (509).
  • The pragmatist/movement point of view critiques the critical point of view for being “idealist,” but pragmatists are their own breed of idealists, accepting a managerial point of view. (511)
  • Asks why collective action, rhetoric of change by those disenfranchised, is being challenged in the academy (513)? Why has composition accepted pragmatism? Why aren’t we more skeptical? (515)

Toward a New Class Consciousness in Composition: Writing without a WPA

  • argues against the possibility of joining WPA and teacher interests, it’s impossible to combine the interests of management and labor. Sees such rhetoric as undermining collective bargaining
  • why haven’t we made composition real, tenure-track faculty?
  • Argues that WPAs should “shed” their identity as lower management – their role to “control” or administer or supervise – and to join again with their faculty.

Quotable Quotes

“Despite the evident sincerity of this line of inquiry [Porter et al, Harris, Miller, Murphy, Grimm], I’m profoundly unconvinced that a management theory of agency and what I call the rhetoric of “pleasing the prince” is particularly useful-much less necessary-to the project of transforming institutions. I prefer instead a labor theory of agency and a rhetoric of solidarity, aimed at constituting, nurturing, and empowering collective action by persons in groups.” (494).

“In this context, the ‘heroism’ of the heroic WPA consists precisely in his or her capacity to represent the interests of the ruling class as the interests of the workers (teachers and students) in their charge” (499).

“Understanding this intimacy as a structural relationship requires careful examination of the possibility that the heroic narrative of disciplinary “success” for professional and managerial compositionists has depended in part on the continuing failure of the labor struggle.” (499)

“Clearly, the emergence of rhetoric and composition into some form of (marginal) respectability and (institutional-bureaucratic) validity has a great deal to do with its usefulness to upper management in its legitimating the practice of deploying a revolving labor force of graduate employees and other contingent teachers to teach writing. The discipline’s enormous usefulness to academic capitalism-in delivering cheap teaching, training a supervisory class for the cheap teachers, and producing a group of intellectuals who theorize and legitimate this scene of managed labor-has to be given at least as much credit in this expansion as the heroic efforts that Porter and his coauthors call the WP A’s “strong track record for enacting change” (614)” (500).

“In my view, the problem of composition labor’s felt exteriority to the gang of professors cannot be separated from the problem of composition management’s felt exteriority to the gang of disciplines: the two structures of feeling are inseparably related along the “degree zero” of the material specificity of composition work-which is to say, work conducted in the scene of managed para-faculty labor.” (502)

“Professional composition, in my view, will never feel like “one of the gang” of disciplines until its labor patterns are more like those in other fields. (Of course, this equivalence could easily come about by the frightening but very real possibility-evidenced by clear statistical trends-that labor patterns in other disciplines will become more like those in composition, rather than the other way around.) To put it in blunt terms, so long as composition’s discourse remains a management science– or, alternatively, until history, engineering, and philosophy are management sciences to the same extent-it is likely to fail to enjoy the status it seeks: the status of a discipline among peers.” (502-503).

Contends that WPAs have less power than they think: “However, whether they do so logically, intuitively, or from the experience of essaying numerous “rhetorical strategies” with disappointing results, most also understand that there is little they can do about the labor system, either as individuals or as administrators. Indeed, perhaps the most important realization of the administrative subjectivity is that “having” administrative power is to be subject to administrative imperatives-that is, to be individually powerless before a version of “necessity” originating from some other source.” (507-508).

“The installation of managerialism as the core subjectivity of the discipline of rhetoric and composition is therefore not so much an indicator of the field’s “success” as evidence of its particular susceptibility, the very terms of its intellectual evolution intertwined with the university’s accelerated move toward corporate partnership, executive control, and acceptance of profitability and accumulation as values in decision making.” (508).

“Pragmatist idealizations of the market conceal the human agency in the creation and maintenance of markets” (510) – the idea that people created these economies and institutions, deliberately choosing market/corporate/private sectors over public

“In all of these and most responsible materialist accounts, human agency drives history. But in the pragmatist-managerial version of materialism, collective human agencies are conspicuously absent.” (511)

“In holding our gaze on the managerialism of composition discourse, we ultimately need to ask, cui bono? Who benefits?” (513).

“Furthermore, what a large sector of composition labor (graduate employees and former graduate employees working off the tenure track) “really wants” is not to be treated as colleagues, but instead to be colleagues. Nearly every participant in the composition conversation would like to see writing instructors become “more like” faculty – to have the chance to govern, enjoy an intellectual life, develop as an instructor, and enjoy better pay, benefits, protections, and security. But this hasn’t translated into a consensus among professional and managerial compositionists that writing instructors should actually be faculty. Why not? Isn’t composition work faculty work? Or is composition’s “faculty work” the supervision of parafaculty? “ (516).

Argues for a “new class consciousness” in composition that is grounded in “movement unionism” that unites all faculty “on the common experience of selling one’s labor in order to live and on the desire – widespread in the academy, but also common in many sectors of service work – to “be productive” for society rather than capital” (517).

“…perhaps the professional and managerial compositionist can likewise shed the desire for control and embrace the reality of collective agency. Are we so sure after all that what the professional compositionist “really wants” is “more control” over people he or she must creatively “treat as colleagues”? Perhaps what the professional compositionist really wants is to lay down the “requirement” to serve as WPA instead and to become a colleague among colleagues.” (517-518).

“In order to realize the scene of lower management learning to practice “institutional critique” and the “arts of solidarity” from labor, we will eventually have to reconsider the limits to thought imposed by pragmatism and to learn once again to question the “inevitability” of the scene of managed labor to composition. In my view, composition’s best chance to contribute to a better world and to achieve disciplinary status depend on learning to write as colleagues among colleagues-a condition predicated on working toward a university without a WPA.” (518).

November 17, 2014

Odom, Not Just for Writing Anymore: What WAC Can Teach Us about Reading to Learn

Odom, Mary Lou. “Not Just for Writing Anymore: What WAC Can Teach Us about Reading to Learn.” Across the Disciplines 10.4 (11 December 2013). Web.

Odom argues that in order to improve students’ reading skills, faculty should adopt some of the pedagogical practices that have worked in writing-across-the-curriculum initiatives. Odom bases her argument on a three-year study of her institution’s WAC program. She looks at student course feedback and reflections from the WAC faculty (called WAC fellows) to describe pedagogical strategies that did work and that did not work to improve students’ reading skills. She shows that just merely asking students to read does not mean they will read well or learn what the faculty want them to learn from the reading.

Among the pedagogical strategies that worked to improve students’ reading were explaining to students the disciplinary conventions of a discipline-specific reading, asking students to engage with a reading on a personal level, and asking students to make connections between the reading they were assigned to read and either other readings or current events. Odom points out that all these strategies are also principles of effective WAC teaching. Among the strategies that did not work was using writing in the classroom or in electronic discussion boards to merely check that students had done the reading. Faculty complained that students in these forums rarely engaged with the texts beyond a cursory level.

Odom argues that problems in student writing can often be traced to students’ poor reading skills, and points out that reading is rarely taught beyond the elementary level: faculty assume students have the reading skills necessary to succeed in college. Reading in the disciplines is as invisible as writing in the disciplines once was, Odom contends, and she suggests that taking a WAC approach might solve this problem and better equip students with the critical reading skills they need to succeed in college and fully participate in contemporary civic life. In order for this to work, faculty need to be willing to reconsider how they ask students to read and what they ask students to do with the reading that they do.

Quotable Quotes

“It has been my experience that when we talk about student literacy struggles and practices in higher education, writing is talked about more frequently, more specifically, and with greater urgency than reading.”

“Reading instruction can be, particularly for faculty who want to move on and teach other content, unintentionally yet easily ignored.”

“Few and far between are the classes that do not incorporate or depend on reading, although reading skills cease to be taught or assessed.”

“Reading has in many ways become an invisible component of academic literacy” – it is not seen as the problem by faculty or students.

“Indeed perhaps the best reason efforts to rethink student reading should look to writing across the curriculum strategies is the WAC movement’s broad goal of improving not just student writing but student learning.”

“In sum, the issue of student reading is more than just complex; it is characterized by a transparency that renders it too easily and too often overlooked. Explicit reading instruction tapers off precipitously after elementary school, and students, teachers, and testing then tend to focus on the texts being read rather than the strategies used to read them. Just as texts alone do not provide meaning in isolation, the act of assigning texts alone does not guarantee that students will read. It is no surprise, therefore, that faculty dissatisfaction with student reading is vocal and widespread across the disciplines. When looking for ways to address this challenge, WAC, already proven to be a transformative force for teachers when it comes to writing, is a natural place to turn. Just as writing across the curriculum encourages faculty to consider the ways they ask students to write, efforts at improving student reading must begin with a conscious awareness that we ask and expect students to read in particular ways that may not always be familiar to them.”

“Our choices as teachers have very real consequences regarding how or if students read.”

How faculty can encourage better student reading across the disciplines: “First and foremost, faculty must see that they have a role – beyond simply assigning texts – to play in student reading behavior. Second, at the heart of this role must be a clear sense of the goals faculty have for student reading as well as a willingness to share those goals with students. Third, faculty must be willing to provide guidance for students reading complex, discipline-specific texts. Such guidance may come in the form of explicit conversation about disciplinary conventions and practices, but more often than not it can be conveyed in thoughtful, authentic assignments that students can connect to on an either a personal or ‘real world’ level. Adherence to these principles will not solve all the challenges of student reading; they can, however, begin conversations and initiate practices about reading that are long overdue.”

Notable Notes

research to look at: Newkirk (2013); Joliffe and Harl (2008); Horning (2007)

When faculty point to a problem in student writing, do they realize that this may be, at its core, a reading problem that is contributing to the lack of student learning?

Reading is an “assumed ability” as writing was in the 1960s and 1970s before composition studies challenged that paradigm (Mina Shaughnessy et al) – writing was shown to be far more complex than what students or faculty assumed.

Research shows that there is big discrepancy between what faculty assume students are doing as they read and what students are actually doing.

faculty have “a rather uncomplicated view of how writing and reading might work together,” such as the belief that merely asking students to write about the readings they read will result in critical engagement with those texts.

problem with assigning writing merely to assess or check that students have completed a reading (“quiz/coercion approach”), “reading compliance”

October 15, 2013

Dadas, Reaching the Profession

Dadas, Caroline. “Reaching the Profession: The Locations of the Rhetoric and Composition Job Market.” College Composition and Communication 65.1 (September 2013): 67-89. Print.

Dadas argues that the discipline and specifically hiring committees need to investigate the locations  in which the composition and rhetoric job market process occurs and work to make hiring practices in these spaces more humane, ethical, and non-discriminatory. Dadas interviews 57 rhetoric and composition scholars who have either gone on the job market and/or have been a member of a hiring committee within the past ten years. She codes the transcripts of her interviews through grounded theory in order to find trends and patterns in the responses. Dadas’ article is organized around three locations of the composition and rhetoric job market: the phone interview, the Internet (including video/Skype interviews and the academic job wiki), and the MLA convention. She notes how each of these locations have embedded discriminatory practices: the phone interview, with its lack of visual cues, relies on the auditory modality and can force candidates to disclose disabilities that they otherwise wouldn’t; video/Skype interviews overemphasize appearances, visual cues, and the use of a sometimes spotty and new technology; the academic job wiki can increase candidate anxiety and spread false information about searches; and the MLA convention is cost prohibitive to many graduate student candidates who wouldn’t have normally attended the conference because it is not a central one to hte field.

Dadas focuses on the MLA convention timeline, asking whether or not it is in the best interest of candidates and search committees to have a coordinated timeline for the job search process. She points out that having a common timeline helps candidates compare and negotiate job offers, but questions whether or not the MLA conference – a conference that can be seen as marginalizing the field of composition and rhetoric – is the appropriate fulcrum for the comp/rhet job search process.

Dadas argues that hiring committees should practice empathy and think from the candidate’s perspective when deciding on the job hiring process and the locations in which they will interview candidates.  Dadas points out that one simple way to do this is for hiring committees to ask candidates what hiring practices could help them perform their best in the job search process, and that fair and ethical hiring practices don’t necessarily mean the same hiring processes for all candidates.

Notable Notes

need to look at timing and structure of job searches (84)

2008 recession led to an increase in phone/internet interviews over MLA convention and a jumping of the job search timeline by many institutions (80).

looks at the literature on the job market – almost all the scholarship focuses on the health of the market, the number of jobs, not the job search itself

relies on theories of location/place/space, both virtual and non-virtual (68)

Quotable Quotes

“We need to educate [equal opportunity offices] that ‘fair’ does not mean ‘the same for all.’ Only in challenging these institutional constraints can we work toward a more flexible process that allows all candidates to perform their best.” (85).

“Based on the dissatisfaction of many of the survey participants and on a decades-long acknowledgement that rhetoric and composition occupies a marginalized position within English studies, I pose a question to our discipline as a whole: is it best that we make MLA the center of our hiring universe?” (83).

“We have to talk about [the job market]. We have to theorize it. We have to give grad students some control over the parts that they can control so that the parts that they can’t control don’t feel so overwhelmingly difficult. And I think we should do that as a discipline, not just program to program” (Survey participant, qtd in Dadas 67).

January 30, 2013

Hayles, How We Read

Hayles, N. Katherine. “How We Read: Close, Hyper, Machine.” ADE Bulletin 150 (2010): 62-79.

Hayles defines three kinds of reading – close, hyper, and human-assisted machine – and argues that all three, used synergistically, can help students and literary studies scholars discover patterns, meaning, and context in and across texts.  Her argument is written in resposne to the widely-held notion that digital, onscreen reading has a lasting detrimental affect on reading comprehension skills, as seen through K-12 testing scores, cognitive research on the brain, and anectodal evidence.

Hayles uses her own definition of hyperattention (as opposed to deep attention) to explain how hyperreading is different from close reading, which she argues is one of literary studies’ central values and practices.  Instead of condemning hyperreading, she argues that it is a valuable reading practice, helping students and scholars alike scan and skim large amounts of information quickly, thus identifying the most helpful sources and texts to use. 

Hayles also challenges the idea that human-assisted machine or computer reading (the use of algorithms to detect patterns across a large corpus) is inherently anti-humanistic; she cites Moretti’s application of distant reading principles and argues that the challenge for literary studies scholars is to find useful ways to integrate close, hyper, and machine reading in their interpretive work.

Notable Notes

critiques Carr’s argument that the Internet is changing brain structure (67, 71)

readers scan digital texts differently than print ones (F-shaped scan for digital text, more linear back and forth for print texts, Jakob Nielson) (66)

current students are ‘digitally native’ (62)

close reading defined the discipline of literary studies in the 1970s/1980s- it was a way for the field to congregate around a common value.  Does digital reading change that? Is close reading sufficient? (63)

problem: our classrooms don’t reflect the kinds of reading practices our students engage in – there’s a divide that is probably affecting how much our students learn (63; 65). Connection to Vygotsky’s learning theories.

James Sosonoski (1999) – hyperreading: “Examples include search queries (as in a Google search), filtering by keywords, skimming, hyperlinking, ‘pecking’ (pulling out a few items from a longer text), and fragmenting (163-172)” (66). – Hayles’ update includes juxtaposition (comparing across several open windows) and scanning (66).

what do we make of distraction of hyperreading? clicks, navigating, short bursts of info like tweets, tons of material (67)

hyperreading affects long-term memory (67-68), but is long-term memory a necessary part of the research process? Does every bit of information need to be committed to long-term memory for it to be valuable? (my response)

reference to Moretti as adopting machine reading-like characteristics to literary studies (73-74)

machine reading – relies on visualization, algorithms, mapping, diagramming  (73-75)

definition of a pattern: similarities as well as differences: “I therefore propose the following definition: a pattern consists of regularities that appear through a series of related differences and similarities” (74).

scale (close/hyper/machine) affects pattern, context, meaning (74) – the emphasis changes with the scale (74).

pedagogical examples of teaching hyper/machine reading (75-77): example of the analysis of Time Magazine covers.

Quotable Quotes

“I argue that we cannot do this effectively [convey to students our engagement with complex literary texts] if our teaching does not take place in the zone of proximal development, that is, if we are focused exclusively on print close reading. Before opinion solidifies behind a new version of close reading, I want to argue for a disciplinary shift to a broader sense of reading strategies and their interrelation” (65).

“In digital environments, hyperreading has become a necessity. It enables a reader quickly to construct landscapes of associated research fields and subfields; it shows  range of possibilities; it identifies texts and passages most relevent to a given query; and it easily juxtaposes many different texts and passages” (66).  scholars use these techniques – we need to teach them to students.

“Hyperattention is useful for its flexibility in switching between different information streams, its quick grasp of the gist of the material, and its ability to move rapidly among and between different kinds of texts” (72).

“The problem, as I see it, lies not in hyperattention/hyperreading as such, but rather in the challenges the situation presents for parents and educators to ensure that deep attention and close reading continue to be vibrant components of our reading cultures and interact synergistically with the kind of Web and hyperreading in which our young people are increasingly immersed” (72).

“Indeed, skimming, scanning, and pattern identification are likely to occur with all three reading strategies; their prevalence in one or another is a matter of scale and emphasis rather than clear-cut boundary” (72).

“The large point is that close, hyper, and machine reading each have distinctive advantages and limitations; nevertheless, they also overlap and can be made to interact synergistically with one another” (75).

January 24, 2013

Mueller, Grasping Rhetoric and Composition by Its Long Tail

Mueller, Derek. “Grasping Rhetoric and Composition by Its Long Tail: What Graphs Can Tell Us about the Field’s Changing Shape.” College Composition and Communication 64.1 (Septembter 2012): 195-223.

Mueller investigates 25 years of citations from the journal College Composition and Communication (1987-2011) to explore the discipline’s citation practices and changing shape.  He uses graphs, lists, and tables (an application of distant reading methods drawn from Franco Moretti’s work) to demonstrate the field’s growing specialization, as shown by the diminishing frequency of top-cited scholars among the data set of citations.  He uses Chris Anderson’s concept of the long tail to describe what he sees in the shifting citation practices of CCC articles: not only have the top-cited authors changed over 25 years (the scholars most frequently cited in 1987-1991 are not those most frequently cited in 2007-2011), but also there has been a growing number of once- or twice-cited authors or scholars, which shows the expansion and increasingly specialization of composition and rhetoric.  Mueller offers his study as a way to query the field and ask how our graduate education curriculum and professional development prepare future scholars for the field of the future.

Notable Notes

Chris Anderson – Wired magazine 2004: the long tail.  Anderson used the long tail to describe market practices, showing how online retailers are able to capitalize on less-popular niche markets (Amazon v. Borders.)  Pareto distribution/power law

contains a series of graphs – some looking at the aggregate data, others split into five-year subsets

distant reading – systematic, quantitative approach to data, a different scale than close reading, and this larger scale helps us recognize patterns and developments that are not always apparent at close range. Table of contents, article abstracts as an example of distant reading.  They enable decision making: “Readers rely on these devices to make quick decisions about whether to read a particular article or not, but reading the journal through these devices alone is not quite the same as reading a scholarly article in the common sense of the activity” (198).  (Mueller cites Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink in his endnote.)

the usefulness of graphs and distant reading – they encourage new questions

His graphs/lists/tables:

  • Figure 1- page count and citation count over 25 years (both have increased)
  • Figure 2- 102 most frequently cited authors in CCC from 1987-2011
  • Figure 3 – top ten most frequently cited authors in CCC from 1987-2011, divided into 5-year intervals
  • Figure 4 – Chris Anderson’s “Anatomy of the Long Tail”
  • Figure 5 – the long tail, references to unique names in CCC works cited 1987-2011
  • Figures 6-10 – the long tail, references to unique names in CCC works cited 1987-2011, split into 5-year intervals

there is no one stable field.  Growing specialization isn’t a problem to solve; it is something to query and base our actions on (215-217)

more research in the dataset – how does an author’s citation practices change over time? Are citation practices from graduates of certain programs similar? (214)

the problem of keeping up with scholarship in the field.  How can one read the whole long tail?  How has the field changed because of increasing specialization? (214)

our understanding of the field is based on our own vantage point (217)

extension of study done by Phillips, Greenberg, and Gibson in 1993

16,726 citations in 491 journal articles published in CCC from 1987-2011 (25 years) (197)

Who was central when? What does that say about our field? (203)

problem: “citation listings lack dimension” – the works cited does not indicate the importance or general impact of a citation on the work as a whole

dappled field (206)

Quotable Quotes

“From graphs, then, come new insights, new provocations, and new questions: what has changed, over time, in the relationship between the head of the curve and the long tail?” (215)

“A deliberate adjustment in the level of detail at which we ordinarily experience texts: this is a key motive when producing graphs as a distant reading method, and it is a common tactic for mediating large datasets, including scholarly corpora” (197-198).

“Certainly the figures at the top tell us something about citation practices and centrality in the journal’s scholarly conversation; however, the larger number of figures at the bottom indicates something more. It is, after all, in this long, flat expanse of unduplicated references that we can begin to assess just how broad-based the conversations (in a given journal) have grown – and just how much the centered, coherent, and familiar locus of conversation, based on citation practices, has slid” (210).

“Burke’s parlor is nowadays full and teeming, more crowded than ever before” (214).

“A changing disciplinary density: this is not a condition for us to solve; nonetheless, it demands a certain reckoning, particularly for graduate education and professional development” (219).

January 4, 2013

Adler-Kassner, The Companies We Keep

Adler-Kassner, Linda. “The Companies We Keep or The Companies We Would Like to Keep: Strategies and Tactics in Challenging Times.” WPA 36.1 (Fall/Winter 2012): 119-140.

In this article, based off of the author’s 2012 CWPA conference keynote address, Adler-Kassner calls on WPAs and writing studies scholars to be more proactive in the national conversations about what “college preparation” means (specifically what it means in terms of writing) and how that can and should be assessed.  WPAs need to articulate what it is that writing studies does (why the content of writing studies matters) and offer curricular and assessment strategies based on those basic writing studies principles.

Adler-Kassner points out that the conversations are already happening, and she describes five corporate organizations who are central in the drafting of education legislation and the construction and assessment of the Common Core State Standards.  These organizations are more powerful politically and financially than NCTE, MLA, and CWPA.  However, Adler-Kassner contends that this fact is not a reason why WPAs should give up. Rather, this is the time – while the Common Core is in its initial implementation – that WPAs need to work with K-12 educators to take ownership of writing curriculum and assessment.

Adler-Kassner points to the specific outcomes outlined by the DQP (the Degree Qualification Profile, developed by Lumina) to show that writing is cast as merely a skill – students are asked to produce forms of writing.  If writing is only seen as a tool, Adler-Kassner argues, then the discipline of writing studies is erased.  Adler-Kassner argues that WPAs need to emphasize the disciplinarity of writing studies in all writing classes, especially first-year writing classes, teaching students and other stakeholders the value of the central inquiries of the field.

Notable Notes

5 organizations that Adler-Kassner describes:

  • ALEC (American Legislative Executive Council)
  • VSA (Voluntary System of Accountability)
  • Lumina Foundation
  • DQP (Degree Qualification Profile)
  • Common Core State Standards

shift in the purpose of education to “college and career readiness,” a readiness achieved through emphasis of liberal-arts like skills (writing, communication, critical thinking.)  The ultimate purpose of 21st century education, as seen through these national discussions, is economic competition for employment (127-128).  Uses David Larabee’s analyses of public and higher education.

Her major three suggestions:

  1. “no vampires” – make writing courses focused on writing
  2. define what we think is college readiness (through documents like the Framework)
  3. build alliances with K-12 educators, even if we’re not thrilled with the standards they now must work with.

Quotable Quotes

Definition of writing studies:  “Writing Studies focuses on three things: 1. The roles that writers and writing perform in particular contexts; 2. The values reflected in writing and in those roles, and 3. The implications extending from relationships between roles, writing, and values” (131).

“This is because from a content-vacant, skills-oriented perspective, our discipline of Writing Studies is erased. Until we develop and act from principles about the meaning of what composition and writing studies is as a discipline, and then link what happens in composition courses – which exist within our discipline – to those principles, we are at the mercy of the companies seeking to keep our company. And to me, that’s a problem” (130).

“No vampires policy” – “Writing classes, especially first year classes, must absolutely and always be grounded in Writing Studies, must always be about the study of writing” (132).

“The key is to frame the study of writing wtihin the larger principle: that writing classes focus on the study of writing within particular contexts, the values reflected in that writing, and the implications of relationships between writing and values. Not vampires” (134).

“We must build alliances with colleagues who are immersed in efforts to implement the Common Core State Standards in Writing, especially K-12 colleagues, no matter how problematic we find those standards to be” (135). – if we don’t, there’s no chance of our voice being heard.  That’s the price we pay.

“I’ll begin, then, by updating the narrative that I’ve contended extends from documents like the Spellings Report. This narrative says that the purpose of postsecondary education is to prepare students for participation in the 21st century economy, but that faculty aren’t doing a good job with this preparation because we don’t understand what’s necessary for success.

“As I’ve said, answers to two key questions – what is meant by ‘preparation?’ And how should ‘how well’ be indicated? – are critical, because the responses provided to these questiosn will shape curriculum (and assessments)” (120).

December 9, 2010

DeVoss et al, Distance Education

DeVoss, Danielle, et al. “Distance Education: Political and Professional Agency for Adjunct and Part-Time Faculty, and GTAs.” In Moving a Mountain. Eds. Schell and Stock. Urbana: NCTE, 2000.

Statistics show that nontenured and adjunct instructors are far more likely to staff complex, time-consuming distance-education courses than tenured faculty because they are more willing to take on a pedagogical risk (needing the pay) and often have more up-to-date technological skills. The authors argue that these distance education courses need to be move from the sidelines and there needs to be adequate training, support, and compensation for those teaching them. The challenges of distance education raise questions for teachers, programs, universities, and the discipline at large: what effects come from distance education? How do we respond to them? Who is repsonsible?

Notes and Quotes

rise in distance education course offerings reflects the changing demographics of the American college student.

her distance education course reached over 50 students at 23 sites; her classes were video and audio-taped

December 7, 2010

Schell and Stock, Moving a Mountain

Schell, Eileen E. and Patricia L. Stock. Moving a Mountain: Transforming the Role of Contingent Faculty in Composition Studies and Higher Education. Urbana: NCTE, 2000.

This collection studies the role of contingent faculty in composition instruction, investigating local and disciplinary perspectives from a variety of stakeholders: administrators, faculty, part-time instructors, and policymakers. It includes a bibliography of scholarship on contingent labor both in composition specifically and in higher education more generally.

Introduction: Schell and Stock, “Working Contingent Faculty in[to] Higher Education.” 1-44

Schell and Stock, seeing the complextiy of the issue of contingent faculty labor, hope that this book will spark conversations among compositionists and others in higher education about the increasing use of contingent faculty to teach the vast majority of lower-division courses at American colleges and universities. Their hope is that these conversations will lead into changes in policies and practices surrounding contingent labor, which they believe is important for both the faculty and the students that they teach. Their introduction to the collection includes an extensive literature review of scholarship on contingent labor beyond composition, from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. The collection is a response to the call in the CCCC Statement on Professional Standards for research and case studies on contingent labor conditions and solutions that could serve as guidelines to others in the field and in higher education. Their introduction explains the three sections of the book: 1. a series of personal and institutional case studies about contingent faculty and their working conditions and place in writing programs; 2. chapters that explain the move by contingent faculty toward collective bargaining and coalition building; and 3. a section that argues that it is often the non-tenure-track, contingent faculty that lead the way for innovative teaching practices in higher education (technology, service learning, distance education.)

Notes and Quotes

Increasing student enrollment between 1970 and 1985 (huge rise in underserved and minority populations) led to universities increasingly relying on part-time, contingent faculty to staff lower-division required courses. Why did this work? Also an increase in the number of master’s degree and PhD candidates who were looking for jobs, so universities had plenty of qualified candidates to fill non-tenure-track jobs, which were cheaper (no benefits, no tenure, no long-term contracts.)

Ernst Benjamin, Secretary of the AAUP, wrote in his 1997 paper that non-tenure-track faculty (not including graduate TAs) account for over half the teaching faculty in American colleges and universities (4-5).

The labor problem is an ethical problem. What are responsible and ethical solutions? Are you waiting for a Rosa Parks?

“The growing reliance on contingent employment is not unrelated to what many predict will be the erosion of the tenure and faculty governance system of higher education, the virtual absence of tenure-line faculty in lower-division teaching, and the transformation of a system of higher education that is generally regarded as the finest in the world into one which the long-term benefits of quality education will have been sacrificed for short-term economic gains” (6). 

composition is a good field to start this discussion – there have been contingent faculty working in composition for decades, it offers the most widely offered first-year required course, and the field has been working to improve the working conditions of its contingent faculty.

scholarship on contingent faculty isn’t just from composition; draws on higher education, social science, policy, economics, education, demography, sociology.

part-time faculty are a diverse bunch: those who have full-time careers and teach like consultants, those who want part-time positions, those who are trying to piece together several part-time positions and wait for a tenure-track job to open up, those without the PhD credentials who are still trying to scrap by a living, etc. Women are more often tracked into part-time positions.

scholarship draws a lot on personal narrative, statistics, broad institutional surveys and studies.

Wyoming Resolution: drafted in 1986 by full-time and contingent faculty at the summer Wyoming Conference in English Studies

contingent faculty tied into rising corporatization of the university

moves, rhetoric of unionization and coalition-building in the 1990s, questioning of the purpose of university faculty (where Boyer’s work comes out of)

Wallace, A One-Time Part-Timer’s Response

Wallace, M. Elizabeth. “A One-Time Part-Timer’s Response to the CCCC Statement of Professional Standards.” College Composition and Communication 42.3 (Oct. 1991): 350-354.

Wallace argues for the legitimacy of part-time faculty positions as a viable alternative to the traditional (male-centered) full-time academic model. Part-time positions, she argues, are good for the academy because they allow for positions for those people who cannot work full-time (due to child care or family structure obligations) or who are professionals in another field and have expertise to lend, part-time, to building writing programs. She also suggests three appendices to the statement: 1. a list of books that hinted at the broad range of theory and research regarding writing and writing pedagogy (what the field is); 2. a plea to part-time faculty to carefully consider the political implications of accepting low-paying adjunct jobs; 3. a ballad (the “I’m Just a Poor Part-timin'”) – the statement, she argues, lacks affect.

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