Readings, and Related Inspirations

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WPA as Theorist makes my knowledge work

I have officially finished the first book on a list that will eventually be included in my comprehensive exams. Yeay me.

Below, in response to the reading, I will answer some pre-provided questions (provided by a prof) to help me get me head around it.

The text in question:

Rose, Shirley K. and Irwin Weiser. The Writing Program Administrator as Theorist: Making Knowledge Work. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers, 2002.

— Apparently, if you look for this book online, you can see that it is out of print and currently running for about $900. Holy cow! I accidentally walked right out of the library with it and when I went back to check it out, the computers were down. So I officially have this book on honorable loan, which I do intend to uphold.

The Questions:

1. What is the explicit argument(s)?

The best way to sum up the explicit argument is with the following bumper-sticker wisdom I have gleaned from the final essay by Weiser and Rose titled, “Theorizing Writing Program Theorizing”: Practitioners theorize while doing. To get to this bumper-sticker wisdom, I have observed an explicit argument that basically states that there is no one way to be a writing program administrator. There is no one theory to look to, and no one way of carrying a theory off. Another explicit argument that runs throughout the book is that the WPA title is a multi-tiered, rather low-status, social process that must become more pragmatic across the whole community of WPAs.

2. What is the implicit argument(s)?

There are several implicit arguments that run as a theme throughout the text. The first I noticed is that the profession of WPA is broken. Writing programs need fixing, and a lot of it. But because (as of 2002) WPA scholarship is rather new in the whole scheme of academia, no one can really say how to fix it. Another implicit argument involves what I am calling “The GTA problem.” I chose this as an implicit argument because it is a glaring absence in the book. Only two essays, located in the final chapters of the book, even mention GTAs and training. There is some exception to this – in chapter 2, “Breaking Hierarchies”, Popham, Neal, Schendel and Huot say that GTAs should encourage their students to reflect (19). Last, I get a sense of hostility about the WPA field from many of these authors. I can’t pinpoint a why at this moment, before I’ve discussed this more, but this hostility rests just under the surface of the text.

3. Why is the text important to my work/research and trajectory/dissertation?

As this is the very first book in the immense amount of reading I have ahead of me, this question is extra speculative for me. WPA theory as a whole is important for me because it will begin to mold the way I think about thinking about the field of WPA. In fact, I chose this as my first simply because it was the only one readily available at the library. But now that I’ve read it, I’m really glad I started with it. I feel like it is quite foundational. As far as the trajectory of my dissertation goes, I am headed in a New Media pedagogy direction and I find it quite interesting that there is no mention of technology in this book at all. There is a near mention when Kelly-Riley, Johnson-Shull and Condon predict that hierarchies will break down in our new information age based on the way networks are created and disseminated on a flat level, rather than a vertical flow (132-134). I find it interesting that even by 2002, WPAs were not talking about how to work with media (at least not in this book).

4. Why is it useful to the field?

In the GSU English department, I often get a sense that theory is not at the top of everyone’s favorite ‘to learn’ list. I’m not sure what the reason for this is, and perhaps I am very wrong, but that’s the vibe I get from our up-and-coming scholars. I see this work as important to our field as it reminds us that we are theorists, whether we think so or not. We use praxis in everything pedagogical we do.

5. What are the limits of the argument(s)?

One of the biggest limits for my studies is the lack of talk about technology, as I mentioned before. It is almost as though all these authors are trying to ‘fix’ (implicit) the WPA, but are trying to do it in the past. Another limit is that most WPAs work with graduate student teachers. This is a fact of life. GTAs cannot be tossed aside. They are a part of the system as long as first year composition is a requirement at most universities. Ignoring them will not make them go away.

6. What counts as evidence for the author(s)?

All of these authors cite from other authors. That seems to be the larges source of evidence. However, some authors, such as Jeffrey Jablonski in Chapter 14, use case studies to illustrate the issue in question. Still others, such as Roen, Maid, Glau, Ramage, and Schwalm in Chapter 13, use tables and charts to present evidence.

7. What connections can I make to the other texts on my reading list (or others I’ve read)?

This is a rather easy one for me at this stage in the game, as I have never ever read another WPA text. This is my very first. However – as a shot in the dark, I will attempt to relate it to something else I have read… I have read a bit of praxis, though mostly in the form of textbooks. Recently though, I have been reading Now You See It, by Cathy Davidson, and this has influenced some of my thinking about how our writing programs are quite out of date. Davidson’s book talks about the traditional classroom and points to the idea that we are training students for an industrial past that they are not going to be looking for jobs in. If that’s the case, I question the need for the type of writing program this book discusses.

And there you have it. I’ll leave it at that for now – I hope this proves useful to others out there studying WPA.