Revolution Lullabye

August 1, 2012

Yagelski, “Writing as Praxis”

Yagelski, Robert P. “Writing as Praxis.” English Education 44.2 (January 2012): 188-202.

Yagelski argues for a more humanistic approach to teaching writing, one that emphasizes praxis. The goal of writing education, Yagelski claims, is to introduce students to the transformational experience of writing, giving them assignments that encourage them to use the act of writing as a way to understand themselves and their world more deeply and to live more humanely. The text is not the goal of the act of writing, Yagelski argues: it is sometimes useful and communicates well, but it is the thinking that happens in the very act of writing that matters the most.

Yagelski draws on Freire, Elbow, Emig and others to construct his argument for writing as an ontological act (as a way of being in the world.) He contends that the recent Common Core Standards, and more specifically, the move away from personal writing and narration towards technical form and objective argument shortchanges students because it doesn’t introduce them to how writing can help them live their lives. He points to how people turn to writing to make sense of life, and shows how this kind of writing matters. Students, he argues, do not invest themselves in meaningless writing assignments: the act of writing in these becomes formulaic, a procedure to be followed.

Yagelski questions the assumptions behind the Common Core Standards and standards-driven schooling, aruguing that a primary goal of education is to create a more humane society through asking students to deeply understand their complex selves and complex world. The act of writing encourages slow, deep, and reflective thinking as it shuttles the writer through the past, present, and future. He gives examples of assignments that encourage students to think of writing as praxis – to value the experience as much as the product.

Notable Notes

Yagelski places primary importance on praxis, the writer, the self, the individual writer discovering truth about herself and her world through world. He de-emphasizes the communicative nature of rhetoric – the idea that rhetoric acts within a community.

those who teach teachers – emphasizing the praxis of writing matters because how you teach teachers affects how they teach their students. Ripple effect (202).

Quotable Quotes

“Powerful experiences like Katie’s or Alicia’s students’ are dismissed as somehow tangential or even irrelevant to the real work of schooling – as if schooling should not be about living life, confronting the complexity of life, understanding our experiences in the world, being human.” 201

“Writing should be about seeking happiness. It should be about well-being. It should be a practice of living, a part of what Freire (1994) called the struggle to improve human life. And it can be such a practice – it can be a praxis – if we value the experience of writing as much as we value the text.” 199

“Ask students to write meaningless texts, and writing will be meaningless for them. But let the write in ways that matter to them, and they will embrace the opportunity; they will take advantage of the capacity of writing to help them make sense of their lives.” 195

“When we write, no matter what we are writing about, we call on the past and anticipate the future even as we inhabit the present” 192

“But writing is more than communication. It is a vehicle for sustained inquiry into our experiences, a means of understanding who we are. Ultimately, writing is a deeply human act that can help us better understand what it means to be human” 193

“I am proposing that we understand writing ontologically, as a way of being in the world, as an act of living. IN this regard, the purpose of writing is simply to live more fully. And that can be a step toward living together more peacefully, more humanely.” 190

 

June 10, 2009

Giroux, Ideology, Culture, and the Process of Schooling

Giroux, Henry A. Ideology, Culture, and the Process of Schooling. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1981.

In this collection of essays, Giroux advances his neo-Marxist theory of American education, which is situated as a sort of meso-level, between a micro-level theory of Freirian liberatory pedagogy that places potential change in the hands of individuals and a macro-level theory along the lines of Bourdieu that shows that change is impossible because of inscribed institutional relationships and politics. Giroux rejects one-sided determinism, arguing that schools themselves are sites of action and structure, sites where people negotiate contradictions and forge identities through actions and the effects of actions (curriculum, textbooks, spatial structures, etc.) Giroux calls on educators to take action, not just critique, and reconstruct their schools. His theory is not a student-centered theory of individual education like Freire – it is a call for reflective praxis for educators.

Quotable Quotes

“The entirety of the educational process will have to be analyzed for its normative and ideological meanings. Curriculum, teaching methods, forms of evaluation, textbooks, school organization, and the organization of teachers will have to be seen as componets of the educational process, shaped by the latter’s dialectical role as a representation of a vital human need and as a class-based instrument of the established power structure” (79)

“Schools are social sites whose particularity is characterized by an ongoing struggle between hegemonic and counter-hegemonic forces” (15).

his is a “radical pedagogy that connects critical theory with the need for social action in the interest of both individual freedom and social reconstruction” (8).

Notable Notes

investigate the hidden curriculum (75)

people can be critically conscious but cannot not, ultimately, escape objective and subjective realities, cultures, ideologies, and histories

radical pedagogy teaches an integration (an investigation) into ideology, hegemony, and culture – both the daily, individual material practices of these and macro relationships and power structures in society….have students think across these two levels

three modes of American educational scholarship (that he sees are problematic): 1. technocratic rationality (scientific, managerial, ahistorical) 2. interpretative rationality (how people use language to make meaning, rejecting positivism, embrace subjectivity and individuality, divorced from institutions) 3. reproductive rationality (institutions shaping society, one-sided determinism)

hopeful

June 9, 2009

Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Trans. Myra Bergman Ramus. New York: Herder and Herder, 1970.

Freire believes that only through liberatory education can the poor and oppressed begin to understand and reflect upon their social position and then take action towards permanent liberation and the restructuring of society. He distinguishes between the antidialogic banking model of education, whose passive, narrative education with content alien to students’ context mirrors oppressive society, and dialogic liberatory pedagogy, an active, praxis-oriented pedagogy that treats students and teachers as joint partners in critically investigating generative themes and problems in society. Dialogic liberatory pedagogy is subjective and humanist, founded in commitment to others through love, humility, faith, and hope.

Quotable Quotes

methodology of liberatory pedagogy: conscientizacao – “learning to perceive social, political, and economic contradictions, and to take action against the oppressive elements of reality” (19).

pedagogy of the oppressed – “makes oppression and its causes objects of reflection by the oppressed, and from that reflection will come their necessary engagement in the struggle for their liberation” (33).

“To exist, humanly, is to name the world, to change it” (76).

“Education as the practice of freedom – as opposed to education as the practice of domination – denies that man is abstract, isolated, independent, and unattached to the world; it also denies that the world exists as a reality apart from men” (69).

Notable Notes

don’t forget the context – 1960s, poor Catholic peasants in Brazil

even with the dialogical model, leadership is necessary and important – connection to administration (167).

February 3, 2009

McComiskey, English Studies

McComiskey, Bruce. English Studies: An Introduction to the Discipline(s). Urbana, Illinois: NCTE, 2006. 12-53.

Through an overview of the history of English studies and its increasing specialization, McComiskey argues against the decisiveness that specialization creates and puts forth a new model, integration, that will transform all the disciplines housed within English studies (rhet/comp, linguistics, English education, literacy criticism, critical theory, and creative writing) through the development of large, common goals created through both identification (Burke) and articulation (Stuart Hall.) He cites four major problems with splintered, specialized English departments: 1. they do not appear coherent to administrators or to students 2. the marginalized disciplines (non-literature) are gaining more attention and financial resources, causing more strife 3. the scholarship that emerges from specialization only speaks to itself, giving up on any attempt to make cross-disciplinary connections and create interdisciplinary methodologies and 4. the faculty pour their energy into upper-division speciality electives, depriving the lower-division courses of resources and relegating them to service status. McComiskey draws on Stephen North’s assessment of the discipline of English and points out the problems with his three proposed solutions (secession, corporate compromise (organize under a new term, like cultural studies or literacy), or fusion (intergrate all disciplines into one major and in all courses.)) McComiskey’s solution, integration, is to reorganize English studies as the discipline that studies the analysis, critique, and production of discourse. His book (this is the introduction to it) features six chapters, each about one of the disciplines housed within English studies: linguistics, rhetoric and composition, English education, creative writing, literature and literacy criticism, and cultural studies and critical theory. His goals are to educate scholars on the other fields so that they might come to identify (Burkean term) with their fellow faculty members in order to collaborate on productive, functional projects and build true relationships by working on common problems, showing that English is a useful, important discipline in society.

Quotable Quotes

“English studies can move from being a set of unrelated subdisciplines to a powerful collection of integrated (structurally separate but fundamentally interrelated) disciplines with a coherent and collective goal that does not compromise each discipline’s unique integrity. I propose that the goal of this integrated English studies should be the analysis, the critique, and the production of discourse in social context” (43).

New attitude: “English is useful.” (49)

“The history of English is the history of academic specialization” (26).

“For with radical specialization, as English studies has experienced in the last half century, we are no longer able to represent ourselves to university administrators as having coherent goals (other than the material fact that we work side by side)” (30).

Notable Notes

reimagine ourselves as a larger community of English studies – use Burke

great overview and history of the specialization and splintering of English studies from mid-1900s onward.

Cold War grants skipped over the humanities, led to the decrease in importance of humanities. English was “saved” by the service, practical discipline of rhet/comp.

New generation of rhet/comp scholars in 1960s and 1970s embraced composition and made it their object of critical study and rhetoric the foundation.

Dewey calling for the dissolution of knowledge and praxis in The Educational Situation (1901)

Secession leads to small, competing departments that are scruntinized by administration and more likely to be cut in budgets.

Those departments that already had secession happen must reintegrate into one large department.

January 28, 2009

Bramblett and Knoblauch, “What to Expect When You’re Expected to Teach”

Bramblett, Anne and Alison Knoblauch, eds. What to Expect When You’re Expected to Teach: The Anxious Craft of Teaching Composition. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 2002.

This edited collection, with an introduction by Thomas Newkirk, showcases the “silent narratives” of beginning composition instructors and teaching assistants, those stories of resitance and confusion that many new teachers are reluctant to talk about because they fear being deemed failures by their fellow teachers, their supervisors, and their students. The essays included, written by TAs and instructors in the University of New Hampshire composition program, are divided into three sections. The first, about the challenges of the first semester of teaching, includes essays about confronting student mediocracy in a required course and learning to adapt and teach “on the fly” when things don’t go as planned (teaching as a practical art.) The second centers around student and teacher relationships and includes pieces about how much a teacher should care about their students, how the personal lives of students often come up and must be dealt with in the writing classroom, and the difficulty of assigning students (who often aren’t much younger than you) grades as a new teacher. The last section deals specifically with different types of student resistance in the classroom, about students challenging a TA’s authority or expertise, about interpersonal problems with male and female students, and about privileged, intelligent students pressing an instructor to tell them exactly how to “fix” their paper. This collection of testimonials provides a space to tell these stories and air these concerns of new composition teachers, a space which Newkirk argues in his introduction that is needed in composition. In addition to telling failure stories, Newkirk believes composition teachers – both new and experienced – need to share “absurdity” teaching stores, visit the classrooms of their teaching colleagues to get ideas and to start pedagogical conversations, and to, in their research and professional writing, provide a more balanced view of the writing and work that happens in the classroom by using both excellent and not-so-excellent examples of student writing in their scholarship.

Quotable Quotes

“Silences in our narratives as teachers, the things we are reluctant to discuss” (1) what we think is not “normal” – Newkirk’s introduction

Notable Notes

edited by UNH PhD grad students (PhD in English with lit, rhet/comp, or linguistics track)

January 26, 2009

Carpini, “Re-Writing the Humanities”

Carpini, Dominic Delli. “Re-Writing the Humanities: The Writing Major’s Effect upon Undergraduate Studies in English Departments.” Composition Studies 35:1 (Spring 2007) 15-36.

Beginning with a classification of the three main types of undergraduate writing majors – professional, liberal arts, and hybrid – Carpini shows how one writing major, the Professional Writing Major at York College of Pennsylvania, has redefined what writing studies means to students and to the discipline. The major has returned rhetoric to the humanities, informing students’ work in literary studies and philosophy by increasing the topics and discussions they can draw on and write about and making them more careful readers and writers. It also has revitalized and added a new area of inquiry to those students in pre-professional tracks, like English education. This was in the special edition of Composition Studies about the writing major, and Carpini includes several institutions’ own writing major descriptions.

Quotable Quotes

“the potential that writing majors have to influence the disciplines with which we share institutional homes and to introduce undergraduate students to areas of research that, until recently, were reserved for graduate studies” (15)

the writing major is on “a continuum moving from praxis to gnosis.” (16)

Notable Notes

English secondary teachers learning tutoring in the writing center

abolition and Crowley arguments cited

extensive (15 or so) descriptions of writing majors from the college or university’s catalogues

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