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).

Meyers, Power, Fear, and the Life of the Junior WPA: Directions for New Conversations

Meyers, Susan. “Power, Fear, and the Life of the Junior WPA: Directions for New Conversations.” WPA: Writing Program Administration 33.1-2 (Fall/Winter 2009): 152-162. Print.

A review of two books:

Dew, Debra Frank and Alice Horning, eds. Untenured Faculty as Writing Program Administrators: Institutional Practices and Politics. West Lafayette: Parlor P, 2007.

Enos, Theresa and Shane Borrowman, eds. The Promise and Perils of Writing Program Administration. West Lafayette: Parlor P, 2008.

In her review of these two collections, which focus on junior (untenured) WPAs, Meyers uses her own perspective (as someone who is about to start a jWPA job) to explore the current conversations around jWPA work. Meyers points out the contradiction apparent in these two collections and in other conversations about jWPA work: many senior scholars in the field (Horning, White, Roen) warn junior faculty against accepting a jWPA position, yet many new faculty take on these positions because of the realities of the job market and because they have administrative coursework and training in their doctoral programs. Meyers explains that there are two repeated (and inextricably related) ideas that come up in conversations about jWPA work: power and tenure. She argues that the fear that saturates the narratives about jWPA work needs to be “managed”: “otherwise,” she points out, “we may become immobilized by fear itself, rather than working to improve our situations” (154).

Meyers names five categories of warnings she saw repeated in the collection: “problems of resources, politics, market forces, job advancement, and job satisfaction” (156). The most often-cited resources that jWPAs lack are time, credibility, and authority.

Meyers makes a distinction between power that emerges from control and power that emerges from authority. She advocates for jWPAs to work towards increasing their power via increasing their authority within their own institution, and she offers five strategies for doing so: 1. Know your context; 2. Be realistic with program design; 3. Do not be alone; 4. Understand your value; and 5. Use your rhetorical tools (160-161).

Notable Notes

The idea of the “fourth dimension” of jWPA work – administration. Make sure that this is visible in tenure and promotion files.

The fear in jWPA scholarship emerges from 1. The idea that WPA work won’t be valued in tenure and promotion and 2. That my administrative work will take up so much time that I won’t be able to do the other things I need to do in order to get tenure.

Central argument of Promise and Perils: “these testimonials and reflections suggest that a central peril of WPA work is the inherent conflict of scholar-administrator identities. In response, they call for more tenure-line positions and more explicit promotion criteria.” (155)

Untenured Faculty as Writing Program Administrators is more theoretically-minded, practical – making an argument against jWPAs but giving recommendations about how to structure these jobs ethically

We can increase our authority by demonstrating our value and the value of our programs, by developing strategies to negotiate for things that are important.

Quotable Quotes

“This sounds indeed like a no-win situation: As jWPAs, we are commissioned to do work that is not valued and that jeopardizes our future. In this context, we are never blessed with power. And that is, indeed, the fear: we are powerless now, and powerless we will remain. Unless, of course, we can find ways both of making ourselves valuable and of managing the obstacles that administrative work always entails” (154).

“The general message of both books is clear: The dangers that jWPAs face are real, and we have not yet done enough to address the situation” (152).

“Without the requisite authority—or even a clear set of objectives—in their work, jWPAs are more prone to becoming involved in a variety of levels of conflict. In large part, this potential for political tensions results from the nature of WPA work itself, as well as jWPAs’ novice stature. Although they are usually members of English departments, writing divisions, or other institutional units, jWPAs typically cross institutional lines, finding themselves involved in—and sometimes at odds with—the interests of both their home departments and their institutions at large.” (157).

“I believe that what WPAs should seek is power-via-authority, rather than power-via-control.” (159). How can we work “within the boundaries our institutions,” knowing that we can’t control them?

“Focus on what you can change in order to improve your job conditions, and resist feeling defeated by what you cannot. Alongside these efforts, we are reminded to keep in mind all of the other facets of our work that we likewise do control. From the rhetorical choices that we make as we strategize program changes to the attitudes that we maintain about our roles and identities in our institutions, we actually do control many aspects related to professional success.” (159-160).

January 14, 2011

Bullock and Trimbur, Preface

Bullock, Richard and John Trimbur, eds. “Preface.” In The Politics of Writing Instruction: Postsecondary. Eds. Bullock and Trimbur. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 1991. xvii-xx. Print.

In their preface to their edited collection, Bullock and Trimbur explain the history of the collection, which came from the NCTE’s Commission on Composition’s charge to understand the teaching of writing in all American classrooms, K-university. Their collection focuses on the state of the field of composition and rhetoric circa 1990, addressing questions about the identity of the field, the social, cultural, political, and economic implications of teaching writing, the history of teaching writing and its effect on current practices, and how writing instruction can be improved. They explain their own values and what they privilege in writing instruction: collaboration, critical thinking, multidisciplinary writing, democratic values, and making the political in writing overt.

Notes and Quotes

“Writing is value-ful, and all teaching built on and through a set of values is inherently and inevitably political” (xviii)

Their goals for this collection: 1. raise awareness among comp/rhet scholars about some of the political, social, cultural, and economic issues as a way toward working for change 2. provide graduate students with a portrait of the challenges in the field and 3. argue that “politics drives curriculum” and is a necessary part of all institutions, even the academy, and argue that those in comp/rhet need to embrace that fact in order to move ahead and work in the system.

Ohmann, Foreword

Ohmann, Richard. “Foreword.” In The Politics of Writing Instruction Postsecondary. Eds. Bullock and Trimbur. Portsmouth: Heinemann, 1991. ix-xvi. Print.

Through juxtaposing his personal journey as a writing scholar and teacher during the civil rights and anti-war events of the 1960s and the social and political turn in composition in the late 1980s, Ohmann, in this foreword to the edited collection of The Politics of Writing Instruction Postsecondary argues for the politicizing of composition. Ohmann reflects on the essays included in the collection, which include arguments about the economics of writing instruction, the labor practices in college composition, the social justice work done in the writing classroom, and the professionalization of the field within the academy. Ohmann argues that writing is always value-laden and therefore political; what has happened in the field is that scholars have overtly pointed out how it is so. He points out the revolutionary rhetoric in the current comp/rhet literature and asks how such global revolution is possible while comp/rhet and writing instructors are part of a larger and entrenched capitalist, patriarchal, and hierarchal administrative structure in the university. He does contend that keeping the revolutionary spirit and ideas alive is an essential part of being intellectuals and teachers of rhetoric.

Notes and Quotes

In the 1960s, 1970s: “Writing instructors didn’t have to politicize the field, though some did: politics flowed into the classroom, and only then did we begin to ntoice that politics had always been there” (xi)

“Surely the politicization of writing instruction must be in part understood as the insurgency of an underpaid, overworked, and disrespectd occupational group” (xi)

“With professionalization came more organizations, more meetings, more seminars, more journals – an arena within which the writing instructoriate could consolidate its anger as well as share discoveries about rhetoric” (xi)

November 17, 2010

Little and Rose, A Home of Our Own

Little, Sherry Burgus, and Shirley K. Rose. “A Home of Our Own: Establishing a Department of Rhetoric and Writing Studies at San Diego State University.” WPA: Writing Program Administration 18.1-2 (Fall/Winter 1994): 16-28. Print.

Little and Rose describe how the stand-alone Department of Rhetoric and Writing were created at SDSU, explaining the changes that occured in the establishment of the new department, and argue that WPAs need more than good reasons for advocating for a separate writing program; they need to use rhetoric, good reasoning to argue for independence, which comes through an understanding of local institutional constraints, mission, and politics. They stress the importance of knowing university polity (organizational and governance structure); policy (principles and procedures for getting things done); and politics (who has power and sway, who are your allies.)

Notes and Quotes

go beyond the English department to the rest of the institution – get to know others in other departments.

Department of Rhetoric and Writing became independent at San Diego State University in May 1993 (Colgate, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, UT Austin all around the same time)

Little and Rose, rejecting the metaphor of divorce to describe the separation of composition from literature into independent departments, adopt Phelps’ metaphor of describing composition as a ‘grown child’ who needs a ‘home of her own’ as a separate and equal adult.

They give their responses and arguments to the following objections: 1. Writing has always been in English (just not historically or currently true) 2. study and teaching of writing is necessarily linked to the teaching and reading of literature 3. the writing program needs the English department for protection (placing it outside will strenghten it, showing connections to other disciplines besides just English 4. composition is not a legitimate discipline 5. English departments don’t marginalize composition (just look at the pervasive labor problem and assumption that no one wants to teach writing) 6. money isn’t an issue (it always is and composition is a very fiscally efficient and profitable enterprise) 7. loss of graduate TA lines in English 8. if English majors dry up, there won’t be composition classes for English faculty to teach

“Creating a separate writing department does not, then, separate reading from writing, but terminates the exclusive relationship between writing studies and literary studies” (20).

June 23, 2009

Knoblauch and Brannon, Critical Teaching and the Idea of Literacy

Knoblauch, C.H. and Lil Brannon. Critical Teaching and the Idea of Literacy. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 1993.

Knoblauch and Brannon use stories of critical literacy debates and teaching to illustrate what critical teaching of literacy at the high school and college level entails. The aim of critical teaching is transformation, of teaching students to be self-reflexive about the relationship between language and power, and of foregrounding the politics of representation: how things are named; who names them; the ignored alternatives; and the consequences of the naming act. Critical literacy draws on the theories of postmodernism, feminism, and Marxism and is interested in conscious rasing, in seeing education as part of the larger sociopolitcal world. They argue for critical teachers to unite together and to expand knowledge about the teaching of critical literarcy through a validation of teacher knowledge, inquiry, and research.

Quotable Quotes

“Critical teaching is about the willingness of people to inquire and change and make changes, to accomodate themselves to difference, to read the social world, in its complexity” (49)

Critical teaching “recongizes the political nature of education” (49).

Notable Notes

four different ways literacy is valued over time:

  1. functional literacy
  2. cultural literacy
  3. literacy for personal growth (expressivism)
  4. critical literacy (empowerment and social change)

critical education legitimizes differences in a community, is tolerant of cultural pluralism, rejects the melting pot, characterized by dialogue and negotiation, puts students as critics, not passive consumers

June 19, 2009

Wiley, Gleason, and Phelps, Composition in Four Keys

Wiley, Mark, Barbara Gleason, and Louise Wetherbee Phelps. Composition in Four Keys. Mountain View, California: Mayfield Publishing Company, 1996.

This reader is designed to introduce beginning students and scholars to the field of composition and rhetoric, and unlike other sourcebooks, is organized to create a map through which the readers can begin to draw connections between studies and scholars and begin to understand the field as a whole. The heuristic used is that of keys (drawing on Suzanne Langer) or commonplaces that connect certain strands of research and practice in the field. The four keys used are nature, art, science, and politics, and reflect those strands the editors saw emerging in the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s. The final fifth section of the book offers other ways of mapping and understanding the field. The keys are not exclusionary, and the editors invite readers to question how the keys were constructed and the connections between them. They keys are more than content: they show the readers how people talk about writing, what other disciplines, theories, fields, and values scholars draw on to form their understandings, and how people practice and teach writing.

Notable Notes

the hermeneutical circle – it’s hard to interpret something without a context, but you begin without any sense of position or map. The keys are supposed to help with that.

Nature – natural development of a writer, primacy of the writer, personal power and authority, writer’s voice, romanticisim and transcendental thought, study of students K-U, expressivist, Piaget, Vygotsky, internal expeirnece, self-consciousness, reflection, collaboration, personal responsibility, natural influence of a community on a writer. (Moffett, Britton, Bissex, Berthoff, Murray, Warnock, Elbow, Bruffee, Stewart, Phelps.)

Art – language as central concern, rhetoric, invention, transactional, form, style, craft of writing, choices, imitation, classical rhetoric, formal heuristics, discourse communities, discourse analysis, language can be examined as an artifact, grammar and errors as signifiers, New Rhetoric. (Corbett, Shaughnessy, Winterowd, Williams, Young, Halloran, Ede and Lunsford, Kinneavy, Porter, Coe, Lauer)

Science – inquiry, knowledge, scientific method, disciplinary identity and respect, research methods, protocol analysis, process theory, scientific studies, Cold War, federal funding for language research and education, need for a method for Open Admissions and basic writing, cognitive studies, assessment, empirical studies, ethnographies, rejection of writing products as the object of study – look at writing process instead, influence of computers and technology resaerch, cohesion research, case studies, students v. professionals writing. (Emig, Flower and Hayes, Freedman, Dyson, Hawshier, Hillocks, Haswell, Geisler, Moss, Sternglass)

Politics – a later key influenced by the social turn, postmodern, poststructuralist, neo-Marxist, feminist, literacy research, outside of the classroom, language differences, texts not separated from contexts, cultural studies, critical pedagogy, liberatory pedagogy, ESL, conditions of teaching writing, feminization of composition, liberal, materiality of writing, politics of basic writing, academic discourse as exclusion, no neutral rhetoric and language. (Rouse, Fiore and Elsasser, Rose, Bartholomae, Smitherman, Wyoming Resolution, Miller, Villanueva, Bizzell, Hairston (who critiqued the political turn))

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?

Wysocki, The Multiple Media of Texts

Wysocki, Anne Frances. “The Multiple Media of Texts: How Onscreen and Paper Texts Incorporate Words, Images, and Other Media.” In What Writing Does and How It Does It. Eds. Bazerman and Prior. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2004. 123-161.

Wysocki’s chapter addresses students and has three main parts: first, she lays out her basic argument for the visual, rhetorical nature of all texts, printed and onscreen; second, she introduces elements of visual texts that students can identify (typography, shapes, pictures, video, animation, and sound) and gives an outline about how a student might analyze a visual text; and third, she uses extended examples of visual textual analyses to argue that composing with images and visual features shouldn’t just anticipate and provide for easy audience reading. Rather, the visual nature and elements of onscreen and paper texts should be used rhetorically and deliberately to make points and challenge readers to consider the cultural and historical frameworks through which they read and interpret texts.

Quotable Quotes

move from making user-friendly, predictable texts that serve the audience’s purpose to “making visual and interactive compositions that ask audiences to question, first, how they came to have their expectations, and, then, the limitations and constraints of those expectations” (157).

learning to compose visually is “learning to observe well” (159).

Notable Notes

analysis: identify elements, name their relationships, and then expand to consider how those relationships and element connect to larger contexts and arguements

basic points: 1. all texts are visual in nature 2. a text’s visual nature gives a clue to its genre 3. a text’s visual components perform important rhetorical and persuasive work 4. cultural attitudes to visual elements change over time 5. choices in visual presentation have to be seen through cultural frameworks 6. composing a text means making deliberate choices for how to shape the page or screen to direct the audience. (123-126)

move from analyzing what’s on the page or screen to asking how that elicts readers’ responses, the cultural frames through which readers respond, why some texts are more accessible than others, the politics and economics of text production and circulation – who we are and who we will become

June 8, 2009

Logie, Peers, Pirates, and Persuasion

Logie, John. Peers, Pirates, and Persuasion: Rhetoric in the Peer-to-Peer Debates. West Lafayette: Parlor Press, 2006.

Logie addresses through rhetorical historicism five terms used to describe sharing in the peer-to-peer debates (hacking, theft, piracy, sharing, and war), arguing that in order to understand the basis of the arguments on both sides of the debate, we must throughly investigate the language through which those arguments are being made. He believes that current copyright restrictions, including DMCA and the TEACH Act, are limiting the potential of people to create new culture and ideas. Logie argues that the composition classroom, where students are taught about the social nature of composition, plagiarism, individual authorship, and intellectual property, is an important place to talk with students about the rhetoric, language, and arguments behind these debates and to teach them how they might argue for a copyright law that allows for the creative potential the Internet promises.

Quotable Quotes

“And while the stakes of intellectual property debates ultimately devolve to who gets paid how much and when, the mechanism for assuring fair compensation—a limited monopoly right—has profound consequences for the circulation and availability of cultural artifacts.”(8)

“Digital media offer opportunities to efficiently archive and access the bulk of artistic and intellectual work created since the dawn of humanity.

This is not an overstatement. The potential intellectual and social utility of these now-hypothetical archives is staggering. Our challenge is to engage in a principled argument about how best to achieve this goal. ” (21)

“[RIAA and other big media corporations] had persuaded most Americans that the act of downloading copyrighted material from the Internet—whatever the context and purpose—was illegal. This victory was achieved in large part because of the successful rhetorical strategies of the content industries. And once these industries had persuaded Americans that downloading was criminal, the logical next step was to ensure that it was perceived as

violent crime.” (66)

“The past decade’s major legislative amendments to copyright—in particular the Copyright Term Extension Act, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the No Electronic Theft Act, and the TEACH Act—collectively constitute a disastrous appropriation of rights, privileges, and opportunities formerly understood to belong to the public at large. At the very moment that the most powerful cultural tool in human history—the networked personal computer—has become both widely available and largely affordable, the U.S. is busily drafting laws that reinforce a copyright model optimized long ago for the circulation of print-based media.” (141)

Notable Notes

how ethos and pathos play into both sides of the debate, Burkean identification

no statistical significance on the economic effect of P2P sharing on record companies…Napster failed to show how most of its activity was not the theft of protected commercial property, but rather sharing of free culture for the public good

piracy = theft by force, kidnapping, murdering, violence

Napster, P2P file sharers aren’t targetted for downloading but for uploading – for distribution

sound quality of MP3 and CD – two different purposes

limits ability of cut and pasting with purchased Adobe e-books

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