Revolution Lullabye

February 23, 2009

McBeth, Memoranda of Fragile Machinery

McBeth, Mark. “Memoranda of Fragile Machinery: A Portrait of Shaughnessy as Intellectual-Bureaucrat.” WPA: Writing Program Administration 31:1-2, 2007.

McBeth, the WPA for ten years at the City College of New York, reconstructs Shaughnessy’s role as an administrator through both the archived material of the program, containing her published and unpublished administrative documents, and interviews with teachers and administrators who worked with her at CUNY. In this recovery project, McBeth presents an alternate perspective on the work of Shaughnessy, explicitly showing how her administrative work informed her ideas about basic writing, development of writers, and literacy, and how her work in managing a large writing program gave her a place where she could conduct and gather data for her research. McBeth describes the work of WPAs positively, contesting the pessamistic attitude that WPAs are just managers over a large system marked by unfair labor practices. McBeth argues that WPAs are more than just managers: they are intellectual-bureaucrats who use their knowledge and expertise in rhetoric and their understanding of the production of writing to lead effective, educationally sound, and progressive programs.

Quotable Quotes

“The oft-tedious bureaucratic labors we will inevitably face may not deter us from the publish-or-perish work we need to complete, but on the contrary, may lead us to it. Applying our scholarly scrutiny and creativity to the administrative positions we hold may prove to make the WPA’s labors both more fruitful and possibly more rewarding (perhaps even pleasurable.)” (62).

The records “show the intersection between her academic life as a scholar, teacher, and administrator and, additionally, how those roles necessarily coexist and inform one another.” (62).

Notable Notes

shows how Errors and Expectations is more than a pedagogy manual – it is an administrative argument about how to teach basic writing students and structure a program that will meet their needs.

mid-term and end-of-term evaluations were a key resource and research pool for Errors and Expectations

February 10, 2009

L’Eplattenier and Mastrangelo, Historical Studies of Writing Program Administration

L’Eplattenier, Barbara and Lisa Mastrangelo. “Why Administrative Histories?” In Historical Studies of Writing Program Administration: Individuals, Communities, and the Formation of a Discipline. Eds. Barbara L’Eplattenier and Lisa Mastrangelo. West Lafayette, Indiana: Parlor Press, 2004. xvii-xxvi.

This collection of histories of early writing program administrators, their communities, and the fledging WPA discipline and community casts a new light on the history of composition: it places it in a larger, political institutional context and shows how composition programs were developed, run, and seen by the rest of the university. Administrative histories are often lost: administrators, burdened by the pressing immediate day-to-day tasks they must do, often did not publish about their work, and their administrative documents are either stored in an inaccessible place or have been lost/destroyed because they do not seem, at the surface, to have any scholarly value. The collection is divided into three parts. The first, individuals, traces the history of the development of the WPA position through the careers of individual people in the early 20th century who served as de-facto WPAs at their institution. The second, communities, shows how communities of early WPAs and their teaching  communities came together to form support and intellectual networks. The final, discipline, explains how the WPA community worked to professionalize and gain recognition and rewards from the university administration and faculty.

Quotable Quotes

“Recognized or ignored, titled or untitled, appreciated or unappreciated, paid or unpaid – someone classified students, assigned teachers, worried about standards, and did all the other administrative tasks inherent to writing programs. Someone, much earlier than 1976, functioned as a WPA.” (xix)

Notable Notes

many early WPAs were women, untenured, did not have advanced degrees, learned on the job, made significant reforms at their institutions about teacher workload and class sizes

19th and 20th century, Gertrude Buck

February 9, 2009

Rose and Weiser, The WPA as Researcher and Archivist

Rose, Shirley and Irwin Weiser. “The WPA as Researcher and Archivist.” In The Writing Program Administrator’s Resource. Eds. Stuart C. Brown and Theresa Enos. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2002. 275-302.

Writing program administrators need to see archiving the program’s records as an intregral and necessary part of their job, for it provides a rich source for future WPAs to understand the history and development of the specific program, and it invites questions that result in further WPA-led research in the program. Archiving takes more than just scanning documents and saving them or throwing them in a file cabinet; every writing program needs to develop documentation strategies that create systems in which to evaluate, analyze, and store records so that they can be both a usable and accessible archive. It is vital that the WPA oversees the archival process, for only she has the disciplinary knowledge through which to understand the potential rhetorical importance of a document (both currently and for future WPAs.) Futhermore, creating an archive of WPA documents demonstrates that WPA work is important knowledge that should be kept and looked at in the future.

Quotable Quotes

“Records become an archiveand thus a potential resource for research when intellectual control has been exercised over them; that is, they must be organized and accessible to use. Thus, archiving, like research, is a deliberate activity, one requiring the exercise of agency” (277).

“Writing program research and writing program records management are essential and interdependent responsbilities of every WPA” (276).

WPA work “merits documentation, preservation, and subsequent investigation” (284).

Notable Notes

work with professional archivist, but take responsibility of record storage and documentation strategy in your own hands

document-event relationship; shifting significance of a document with different audiences over time

importance of collaboration with document creators to create a dynamic documentation system that retains records as they are being made

the outcome of WPA research (through archiving) is immediate with obvious impact

difficulty of carving out the time with all other more immediate WPA duties to go about creating and maintaining an archive, requires long-range vision for the future of the program

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