Readings, and Related Inspirations

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Exploring Service Learning in Writing Programs

On this leg of my journey toward Doctoral Candidacy, I read two books:

Going Public: What Writing Programs Learn from Engagement by Shirley K. Rose and Irwin Weiser

Taken from Amazon

Taken from Amazon

The Activist WPA: Chanigng Stories and Writing about Writers by Linda Adler-Kassner

Also taken from Amazon

Also taken from Amazon

Both texts deal in service learning, a concept I find quite interesting, though not directly relevant to what I am interested in looking at where writing programs are concerned.

However, one can never know when these incredibly great ideas might come in handy.

Below is a short set of questions and answers relating to these texts:

1. What is/are the explicit argument(s)?

In both texts, the explicit arguments are that we (writing instructors, educators, everyone) need to prepare our students for the 21st century. Sometimes the authors discuss this in terms of civic duty, and sometimes they talk about skills students will take with them to find a job. Going Public specifically suggests that we need to make visible the infrastructures of writing and writing programs so that the students, and the general public can navigate the best ways to obtain what it is they need to know, or be able to perform (do).

2. What is/are the implicit argument(s)?

In Going Public, I got a sense that the collected authors reject the idea that there is a collective consciousness, and thus a viable culture of homogeneity we (the American public) should all be striving for. In The Activist WPA, though Adler-Kassner argues for a student’s ability to understand his or her individual influences, it is not clear where Adler-Kassner stands on the idea of cultural homogeneity as she argues that our speech affects the way the public views writing and the teaching of writing. By the end of the book, I was unsure what theoretical direction Adler-Kassner was coming from.

3. Why are these texts useful to rhetoric and composition?

Going Public is a useful look into service learning and how service learning can make regional writing programs more relevant. The Activist WPA fulfills much the same purpose, though Adler-Kassner’s message seems to be much more basic with suggestions as to how service learning can help fulfill the shift in the way we tell stories about our writers and writing instruction.

– Certainly both texts may be useful to my position in the field in the future if I decide I want to take my work in the direction of service learning.

4. What are the limits of the texts?

Both texts have the same limits I saw in Rose and Weiser’s The Writing Program Administrator as Theorist: Neither of these texts addresses New Media, computers and composition, or GTA training. Also, if we agree with what Rose and Weiser say of theory in the book I just mentioned, the articles in Going Public as well as Adler-Kassner’s book The Activist WPA, are not grounded firmly in any overtly identifiable theories. Further, Adler-Kassner’s book does not answer her introductory questions about assessment to my satisfaction. When I reached the end of her text and re-read her opening questions (also posed in the conclusion), I had to go back and search for her assessment ideas. They exist, but they solve no assessment issues I can identify.

5. What counts as evidence?

As with the 2002 Rose and Weiser text, the authors in Going Public lean on past scholarship and rather heavily on case studies. Adler-Kassner leans rather heavily on stories and story-telling in The Activist WPA.

6. What connections can I make to past texts?

In Going Public, I chose to focus on only a small number of essays: Chapter 5 “A Hybrid Genre Supports Hybrid Roles in Community-University Collaboration” because of my focus on collaborative projects and my interest in materials, Chapter 8 “Students, Faculty, and ‘Sustainable’ WPA work” because of its use of ‘Business as Usual’ metaphorical comparison and Chapter 11 “Coming Down from the Ivory Tower: Writing Program’s Role in Advocating Public Scholarship” because of its use of materialist theory (though not overtly) and its connection to public view.

Interestingly, now that I think about it, Chapter 11 has a lot of overlap with Adler-Kassner’s The Activist WPA in that her main occupation is in changing public perception. Though while I claim the use of materialist theory (which all arguably use), materialist theory is not explicitly discussed, nor thoroughly used. I claim the use of materialist theories because of the ideas all the above authors in question give credence to what Ronald Greene describes in his article “Another Materialist Rhetoric” as “a materialist rhetoric [which] marks how governing institutions represent, mobilize and regulate a population in order to judge their way of life” (27). In all 3 texts I have covered, materialist rhetoric has a place and a sway in the way the authors discuss their decisions in writing program administration and teaching.

I can feel an interest in a deeper/greater understanding of materialist theory(ies) growing in me and taking root. Where to go from here??