Revolution Lullabye

July 6, 2009

Berlin, Rhetoric and Reality

Berlin, James A. Rhetoric and Reality: Writing Instruction in American Colleges, 1900-1985. Carbondale, Southern Illinois UP, 1987.

Berlin traces the history of writing instruction in American colleges through three epistemological categories that have dominated rhetorical theory and practice since 1900: objective, subjective, and transactional. There is no one rhetoric – the rhetoric that informs a particular practice instructs students with a particular epistemology, a way of knowing and understanding the world. He surveys the dominant rhetorics in chapters that span twenty years (1900-1920; 1920-1940; 1940-1960), concluding with two chapters (1960-1975; 1975-1985) that try to capture the state of the emerging field of composition and rhetoric. His last chapter argues that all three epistemologies are present in composition and rhetoric research, but transactional rhetorics – ones that take into consideration the interplay between subject and object, the individual and society – lead the field.

Notable Notes

Objective – reality is in the external world and material objects, positivistic, current-traditional, language distorts truth, Scottish Common Sense realism, arrangement and correctness in writing, science

Subjective – truth exists within the subject and is discovered within, Plato, Emerson, Freud, cognitive psychology, romanticism, idealism, private, peer editing, therapist, voice, personal vision

Transactional – truth is at the intersection of subject and object, mediated by audience and language. Three kinds: classical (concerned with speaker, audience); cognitive (concerned with mind and nature, development); epistemic (concerned with speaker, audience, language, material reality; rhetoric is in all human behavior)

his history is written through articles, texts on rhetorical instruction history, textbooks

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).

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

April 9, 2009

Elbow, Writing Without Teachers

Elbow, Peter. Writing Without Teachers. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford UP, 1998.

First edition 1973.

The book is divided between Elbow’s five practical chapters about how to write more fluidly and construct a teacherless writing class and his appendix, which articulates his theory behind his teacherless pedagogy, a theory about how ideas are found and tested through two different methods: the believing game and the doubting game. Academia favors the doubting game (critiquing writing and arguments to find and weed out errors) over the believing game (coming up with different scenarios and hypothesis to test the validity of a given argument, to suspend disbelief and step in the writer’s shoes.) Elbow argues that there needs to be a balance between the two, and the believing game, so often dismissed, offers a valuable way to productively understand and make meaning through metaphor and relationships.

Elbow explains his pedagogy using two different metaphors: growing and cooking. Good writing grows, beginning with a lot of freewriting, then heading towards chaos, then organizing into centers of gravity, and then reforming through ferocious revision. Good writing also cooks, involving a number of competing and conflicting elements (ideas, arguments, words, metaphors, modes) which are forced to interact with each other. Noninteraction comes from an absence of conflict (static agreement) or from constant, unproductive conflict (deadlock and stalemate.) He advocates multiple, quick drafts, attacking the writing as a whole, not through parts, and unleashing energy and words through constrained, 10-minute frequent freewrites. Writing, Elbow argues, cannot be fully completed unless it is done in interaction with others, and thus he argues for a teacherless writing class, one in which a core number of writers commit to writing and responding to a draft once a week. He sets up guidelines for responding readers and writers in Chapter 4 and 5.

Quotable Quotes

“Make writing a global task, not a piecemeal one.” (72)

“Our conception of intellectual process is so dominated by critical thinking” (xxv)

Notable Notes

2nd edition begins with an introduction in which Elbow calls attention to his appendixed theory (doubting and believing games) and invites further response to it.

Believing game is what Quakers, juries have to do; it is what happens during a paradigm shift (Thomas Kuhn)

many fast drafts instead of one slow one

it’s better in responding to be honestly subjective (share the movie in your mind) than trying to be objective

human beings are most of the time not in communication with each other – people passively listen, nod, agree – that’s why a genuine teacherless writing group is so invigorating

his pedagogy is backed by his theory, specifically of the importance of the believing game to the intellectual enterprise.

the believing game allows for multiple gestalts, multiple meanings, requires waiting, patience, and a commitment to the importance of experience

March 25, 2009

Gouge, Conversation at a Crucial Moment

Gouge, Catherine. “Conversation at a Crucial Moment: Hybrid Courses and the Future of Writing Programs.” College English 71:4 (March 2009) 32-362.

WPAs need to anticipate, not react, to moves to create online courses and curriculum in their writing programs. By anticipating, they will be able to retain control over the design and assessment of the courses, a design and assessment that should reflect the goals of the entire program, not just respond to the constraints of the technology of online teaching. Gouge contests the idea that assessment in hybrid courses is more objective than in face-to-face courses by looking particularly at the hybrid courses offered through Texas Tech in its ICON (Interactive Composition Online Program). Gouge’s article includes a brief section of the origins of online teaching – pointing out that it has its roots in centuries-old correspondance studies – and explains both the advantages and disadvantages of “hybrid” courses.

Quotable Quotes

“There is no such thing as value-free, objective hierarchy of power, even if that power is distributed” (relates to assessment in online courses.) (355).

“In spite of ICON’s best intentions to provide students wiht a fairer assessment process and in spite of its explicit claims of the possibility of objectivity in evaluation, the structure of the evaluating process ultimately undermines these claims and asserts the value of the subjective position of the classroom instructor – the instructor with the knowledge and experience to make him or her a final authority. The result is a program that propagates the myth that ‘fairer grading’ means that students should be evaluated objectively. However, the result is also a hybrid program structure that undermines what it purports to value and values what its structure is claimed to have been designed to prevent” (356).

“We need to be careful not to allow the technology to structure our programs, even if our programs are being restructured to incorporate the best uses of new technologies. Writing programs ought to be designed such that the program structure supports the logic of the rhetorical processes that the program intends to teach students” (342).

Notable Notes

with hybrid courses – lead with the values of the program

WPAs have the responsibility to teach themselves about online teaching to act as the best advocates and designers for their programs

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