kitchen table math, the sequel: today in College Composition

Saturday, December 8, 2012

today in College Composition

Avoiding the Difference Fixation: Identity Categories, Markers of Difference, and the Teaching of Writing
Stephanie L. Kerschbaum

Abstract: In order to show difference as a dynamic, relational, and emergent construct, this article introduces “markers of difference,” rhetorical cues that signal the presence of difference between one or more interlocutors, and suggests practical means by which teachers can engage this concept to improve their teaching practice.

College Composition and Communication | Vol. 63, No. 4, June 2012
These are the people running college writing programs.

Next Action:

a) teach your child to write before he/she gets to college (Susan S did it! ... I have some ideas; Katharine does, too)
b) check into the freshman composition program at the schools your child is considering
c) if the required freshman writing courses are run by a program called "Composition Studies," or taught by people with degrees in "Composition Studies," considering choosing another school
d) if that's not possible, move heaven and earth to get your child excused from all required writing course(s)
e) if exemption from a required writing course is not possible, make your child promise to visit the college's Writing Center for help with all assignments in the required course
f) also extract a promise from him/her to request frequent meetings with the instructor of the required course
g) plan on seeing a C on the transcript

9 comments:

Student of History/Robin said...

"markers of difference" is a term of art used in systems thinking. They are trying to teach writing not as a body of knowledge but in terms of interaction and recursive loops and feedback.

I have written quite a bit about Peter Senge, Bela Banathy, and Systems Thinking. It is also intimately involved in the Learning Community pushes to force a Common Vision on faculty and students. In my experience this vision is most alluring to the least competent and it compromises the fine teachers.

I wish the news were better. The good news is I am the wrong parent to have in a school or district striving to be cutting edge. I love real time info of Transformational Plans.

Glen said...

I'll be going a little farther. I'll be advising my kids to choose their classes according to this principle: Only take a class if it would be valuable to you to be able to do what the teacher teaches. (It's a principle not a law; sometimes there's no escape.)

For an English composition class, check out the teacher's own writing. If that's the way you wish you could write, and that's what the teacher teaches, you may have a winner. But if the teacher's writing sounds like the gibberish from The Postmodernism Generator, you don't take the class if you can get out of it. Maybe you can find something of actual value, even if it's not a big interest of yours, such as technical writing.

You're paying too much at a university to take classes in hogwash. Topics of uncertain value can be studied elsewhere at an enormous discount--just read books or watch an online course. You pay less, you can decide how far it's worth pursuing, and you are free of coercion by ideologues holding your professional credentials hostage. At school, take classes of proven value.

Katharine Beals said...

The supreme irony here is that the College Composition types who are ruining college composition are part of the broader phenomenon that has ruined K12 writing instruction and made college writing instruction the booming (and ineffective and wasteful) business that it's now become. The people responsible for the problem have put themselves in charge of the "solution."

Catherine Johnson said...

"markers of difference" is a term of art used in systems thinking. They are trying to teach writing not as a body of knowledge but in terms of interaction and recursive loops and feedback.

Are you sure?

When I was in grad school, this language came from Lacan and Derrida ----

Catherine Johnson said...

You're paying too much at a university to take classes in hogwash.

That's for sure.

Thank God we have tuition remission.

I would be severely on the warpath otherwise.

Catherine Johnson said...

The people responsible for the problem have put themselves in charge of the "solution."

The whole K-12 (and beyond...) enterprise is pretty much just cycles of badness, I think.

Badness & the bad solutions badness engenders.

Remember Freud's "neurotic defense mechanisms"?

It's apropos.

K-12 creates a problem, then creates a solution that perpetuates the problem and/or creates a new, bigger problem that now encompasses the original problem.

Then you need smaller class size and MORE RESOURCES to address the bigger, better problem.

Catherine Johnson said...

Is there some way incoming freshmen can vet the adjuncts teaching required composition courses?

I wish I'd thought of that for C.

Of course, the instructors in his program all have to use the same prompts, so .....

Laura in AZ said...

Everything you wrote on here is absolutely true. I speak from experience here. My Freshman Composition class (ENG 101) was my one and only "C" in all my college and university classes. Amazing what one "C" can do to your GPA!

Anyway, I took that class over 15 years ago and looking back on it, it was not what it should have been. I probably didn't emote properly, or use the correct buzz words, or try to save the planet. I dunno...

ChemProf said...

Catherine, many adjuncts are listed on Rate My Professor (not that it is a great site, but some information may be better than none). I'd try that for the required composition course.