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).

April 29, 2009

Williamson, The Worship of Efficiency

Williamson, Michael. “The Worship of Efficiency: Untangling Theoretical and Practical Considerations in Writing Assessment.” Assessing Writing 1(1994): 147-174. In Assessing Writing. Eds. Huot and O’Neill. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. 57-80.

Williamson argues that educators must adopt a different educational model – that of the craft workshop – in order to create an assessment theory and practice that breaks the hold of the god-terms of efficiency, fairness, and reliability. Williamson traces how the concept of efficiency led assessment and educational practices during much of the 20th century, resulting in invalid assessments only based on one data point, assessments grounded in standardized tests that allowed for the development and dominance of factory and bureaucratic educational models. He points to other assessment practices, like those in France, rely on interviews and non-standardized assessments given by the teacher, who knows the curriculum and students best. If teachers are to be treated as the professoinals that they are, Williamson argues, they should be given the right and the responsibility to develop and give assessments to their students.

Quotable Quotes

“we will need to begin to trust teachers” (78).

“the privilege of true professionalism” (79).

“For the most part, students are assessed, labeled, and placed in school curricula on the basis of their scores on succeeding standardized tests…these tests remain one of the single most important indicators of a child’s future” (67).

“efficiency has governed both the theoretical and practical developments in assessment” (69).

Notable Notes

development of psychometrics to allow for an objective, outside scorer – this is reversed in the craft workshop model with teacher in charge

child-centered assessment v. system-centered assessment

libertarian assessment

history of shift from oral exams to written exams to multiple-choice testing (Arthur Otis)

efficiency is a key American cultural and social force

craft workshop model (Shedd and Bacharach; Schon’s reflective practicioner)

assessment as a contextual, dynamic, continuous, reflective process

assessments with multiple data points converging = valid

March 9, 2009

Wysocki, The Sticky Embrace of Beauty

Wysocki, Anne Frances. “The Sticky Embrace of Beauty: On Some Formal Problems in Teaching about the Visual Aspects of Texts.” In Writing New Media. Eds. Anne Frances Wysocki, et al. Logan, UT: Utah State UP, 2004. 147-198.

Wyscoki argues for an alternative understanding of beauty, aesthetic, and form that is grounded in the local and the particular rather than universal generalities and maxims that visual designers use for composing images and texts, universal rules that were developed first through Kant’s philosophy. Kant believed that the judgment of beauty is inherent and universal, happening when a person sees and appreciates its structure in terms of its formal relations. This allows the object (or body) deemed beautiful to be made abstract and distanced, a dangerous ethical situation. Wysocki, seeing this tension, argues that composition teachers, instead of just teaching students about design by instructing them in general, accepted rules for visual arrangment, should question the social and cultural practices that deem something efficient, pleasing, or visual, analyzing and creating to make what we take for granted unfamiliar to us so that we might appreciate and understand its particularities. In this way, she shows how form is rhetorical, informed and mediated by choices grounded in history and cultural context.

Quotable Quotes

How can we teach visual communication in such a way “That form does not override content, so that form is, in fact, understood as itself part of content, so that, finally, I better understand how to support students (and myself) be generously and questioningly recipricoal in our designings” (144)

“Form is itself always a set of structuring principles, with different forms growing out of and reproducing different but specific values” (159).

“If we believe that to be human is to be tied to place and time and messiness and complexity, then, by so abstracting us, this desire dehumanizes us and our work and how we see each other. This is dangerous.” (169)

“The web of social and cultural practices in which we move give us the words and concepts, as well as the tastes, for understanding what we sense” (171).

Notable Notes

Kant Critique of Judgment

The New Yorker Peek advertisement – woman’s body

design elements aren’t neutral – design values can’t just be looked at analytically….ours are grounded in industrializaiton, standardization, linear, order, efficiency (Nazi memos)

assignments ask students to learn design principles deductively by gathering designs. Also, redesigning web sites and textbooks

reciprocal relationship – we need “approaches that see form as this kind of recognition, tying us to others and to our times and places” (170)

January 1, 2009

Samara, Making and Breaking the Grid

Samara, Timothy. Making and Breaking the Grid. Gloucester, MA: Rockport Publishers, 2002.

The typographic grid – “an orthogonal planning system that parcels information into managable chunks,” creating meaningful relationships through the placement and scale of its informational elements – is considered by some graphic designers the foundation of good graphic design, and by others, a “stifling cage” that must be deconstructed or thrown away (9). Samara’s text is divided into two sections, “Making the Grid,” which contains a historical essay about the evolution of the modern design grid in the 19th-century industrial revolution, and “Breaking the Grid,” which begins with another historical essay that documents the movement against grids and rationalist design starting with Dada and other post-WWI reactive movements. Each section also has an exhibit section, where Samara displays examples of the different kinds of grid and non-grid layouts. Samara does not argue one school of thought – making or breaking – over another (though his deconstructed grid design of an MPH admissions flyer is in the “Breaking” exhibit section); rather, his balanced explanation and description of each camp calls upon graphic designers to make a conciencious choice whether to use grids in their design, not to rely on them as a default organizational tool.

 In “Making the Grid,” Samara dissects the fundamental elements of a grid and uses these elements to describe how grids in both the Making exhibit and the Breaking exhibit function. The elements include columns, modules (individual spaces), margins, flowlines (horizontal lines that form rows and guide the eye across the page), markers (consistent placement of running text, like headers or page numbers), and spatial zones (groups of modules serving a distinct purpose as a field.) He highlights four grid-based designs- manuscript (used in book publishing), column, modular, and hierarchal (used in Web design) – and five non-grid-based designs – grid deconstruction, linguistic deconstruction (altering type to echo spoken rhythm), spontaneous optical composition (form-based placement), conceptual/pictorial illusion (a concept forms the governing structure), and chance operation (controlled random placement.)

Quotable Quotes

“All design work involves problem solving on both visula and organizational levels” (22).

The benefits of grids include “clarity, efficiency, economy, and continuity” (22).

“Sometimes that content has its own internal structure that a grid won’t necessarily clarify; sometimes the content needs to ignore structure altogether to create specific kinds of emotional reactions in the intended audience; sometimes a designer simply envisions a more complex intellectual involvement on teh part of the audience as part of their experience of the piece” (120).

Notable Notes

Interesting historical context for Making the Grid – ancient belief of the grid as an organizing structure following the axis of the intersection of sky and earth, Arts and Crafts movement in 19th century Britain favored design that had form follow function (continued by Frank Lloyd Wright in the US), the industrial revolution drove a need to order the world, International Style, 20th century modernism favored simplicity, corporations liked grids because they introduced continuity of design in which many workers could collaborate on the content of a project, redesign of the National Parks Services brochures in the 1970s with consistent bars and grids.

Interesting historical context of Breaking the Grid – Dadaism, Cubism, collage and montage, using Saussure and Pierce semiotics to see text as signs (semiotics), WWI reaction, WWII reaction, opposition to the status quo, rationalism, order, reaction to the horrors of the wars, Civil Rights movement, hippie movement, underground culture, 1984 Apple computer gave amateurs the tools to be designers (without having the formal grid-design training graphic designers had, so these new designers relied on intiution and felt-sense), look-at typography  (not look-through)

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