Edited Inksheds on


Ann Beer and Jane Ledwell-Brown

There is an inevitable integration between what is taught and how it is taught. The split between curriculum and instruction has always been artificial. So I guess if someone doesn't like how you teach then they don't really want what you teach! The slightly twisted corollary is, you can't teach what you don't really like without being miserable.

Well maybe my first reaction is to say that I don't believe the stuff about boys and girls play anymore now that I've had a son: I see boys' play very differently that I used to. For instance, a pick-up roller hockey game involving a 5year old who can't skate, an 11year old with asthma, 3 ten-year olds and an 8 year old is a VERY co-operative venture, involving lots of compromise and generosity all around. I no longer believe that boys don't care about relationships but instead care about competition when they play.

I wonder how many other oppositions or conundrums depend on false dichotomies. Maybe all of them. Maybe the presence of a conundrum means that the questions is phrased wrong.. Maybe some conundrums simply don't go away.

What would happen if the individual students could no longer be a focus, if I had to start Bell-Curving and refusing a 5-minute -late paper? How do you teach to an ideology that is repugnant? How do you keep teaching STUDENTS? -- Kenna

Very interesting and stimulating analogies. But we're still being asked to think in terms of duality, even if there's a compromise or negotiation involved. What are the shared goals and values of the two worlds?

Streaming. We don't do it yet (or don't acknowledge that we do it without recognizing or designing for it). But it seems to me that something like streaming (or more precisely what in England they call "setting") is appropriate and quite ethical, providing we're willing to face the extra costs and extra effort involved. -- Lynn

"Situational Grading" I'm not sure what this really means, or how far it could/should be taken. E.g. of raising a student from a B+ to A- isn't hard to swallow, but is the boost/jump ever greater? What are the limits? And do you ever mark DOWN situationally? -- Brock

So Ann is in a place where she can feel some power within the engineering board meetings, and that means what? She's influencing the culture? Or do they imagine the time with her (and by extension her writing courses) as "down" time or somehow not as "serious" as "real" courses? But isn't Loyola's prescription for the act of prayer? Just the form over and over might have an effect.

When things go well, it's usually because personal relationships override professional absolutes. You become one of the Good Old Boys and protect colleagues you secretly deplore. You justify this by protesting it's an imperfect world and no one asked you to set it up. The older the system, the more rigid, the more subtle, the more it commands respect and exasperation. The Army, the Church, the Law . . .

I'm getting requests from different faculties, not to teach writing but to design workshops that address specific needs of students from their faculties . . . . This seems to be fueled by the large number of ESL students . . . They want me to facilitate graduate students so they can do the teaching. . . . Mutual "relationship" is in the new engineering ethic, but how do we empower students with our understanding of these mutual differences? Perhaps engineers have to learn to exist in both cultures. There may be rule-bound areas where they must respond in a lock-step manner. Unsuccessful engineers are those who don't understand how to respond when cultural assumptions change. -- Theresa

. . . The tensions here between these cultures are issues academic women face daily in or out of writing centres. First (using Audre Lorde's argument) you can't dismantle the master's house using the master's tools. . . emerging organizations are resisting the "old boy" values (not because they believe in them of course but because they may reap more profit) . Lorri

Ann's dream is perfect. Once, the CSTW people would never have fled from the room "I've got the wrong clothes" because they'd have been the right clothes for the "growing" (farming/developmental) work involved. The dream would have been sadder, if Ann had been there in pinstripes and buttondowns and not been aware of the oddness of it. There is something lurking in my head here which I can't formulate about authenticity and genre and writing in the disciplines and about how much I fundamentally distrust "authenticity" as a standard of judgment. -- Susan

One of the problems, it seems to me, is the sense they have that we're "outsiders" -- we're ineluctably other, to use the trendier term. It sounds like you've managed to achieve a measure of success in breaking out of that pattern at Engineering, but not yet at Management. -- Brock

How's this for a perfect metaphor! The Emperor/ess may have no clothes, but the real tragedy is the fact that his/her subjects are worried about dress codes. The metaphor cuts deeper as well: good grammar & usage = being dressed right.

There is a common belief that we two groups see the world differently. I'm not sure if that belief isn't founded largely on fears and assumptions and old history. Neither group is purely one way or another, though behaviors do tend to cluster.

This year the Univ of Alta. Asked for applications for a position in Rhetoric and Composition. Out of the 10 applications received, none were given interviews; I was told that part of the reason was that none had PhDs in Composition, but the largest reason was that the department had no idea what such a specialist would do in the department. I think applicants will have to sell not only themselves but sell a kind of position the dept. would like them to fill. We need to offer a concept of the system and how it could adapt to fit us. I think it is a good exercise for teachers of writing to have their idealism and methods of nurture challenged by practical & political pressures. It makes us realize that our task must involve compromise and collaboration with people and ideologies that seem very "Other." -- Tania Smith

It seems that some departmental cultures have a clear notion of what they want & some students are comfortable working under clear directions. While I might want the student discover what he/she wants to say, and help him/her say it effectively, I feel the irony in my desire to know what it is the professors really expect from a writing tutor.

Why should we be surprised that our educational goals don't match those of management when our literature colleagues missed that boat and still haven't bought their steamship ticket?

Do these spheres overlap? I suspect that much/most of what happens in the faculty of _____ (Engineering, education, social work, medicine, agriculture) do not match the workplace (that is, what people do in engineering firms, or in Elementary schools, or with a social serviece sgency, etc., etc. Academia does not allow for co-authoring, collaboration, teamwork -- not really an "ethics of competition" unless there is an "ethics of competition" between "our" team and "their" team.

Ira Shor (at the CCTE conference) the last time it was in Montreal, suggested that discipline-based literacy is best taught through a partnership (team?) Between a content specialist and a literacy specialist -- in the same course.

My feeling is that often those who look at writing centres etc for specific help with program requirements often don't understand the complexity of language acquisition & are reductionist in their thinking. This is even more so in business world -- i.e., delivering communication courses to clients. The literacy problem is often seen only as one of "grammar, punctuation & spelling difficulties" only.

I'm really interested in Mary's question about power. Perhaps we would not have to bend so much to demands if we had funding that would prevent us from having to scramble for "clients" -- students.

Just for a change, let's work backwards from product to process, to understand why those 2 groups have the expectations they do of their students. How does an oral presentation sale pitch differ from a formal tender for a bridge or an electrical sub-contract? What Ann and Jane were (I think) talking about was all the unspoken tensions our students have to deal with. [marginalium] [I took it they were talking about unspoken institutional tension & the ethical conundrums they engender. The effects of these institutional tensions on our students is another but fascinating matter.]

What I think we heard here was not a conflict between male and female models of behavior, but between corporate-commercial models and educational ones. And in larger terms what I think Jane and Ann described was the subjugation, from outside, of the latter to the former. [marginalia] -- Russ Hunt

Local parallels? My university is becoming more and more bottom-line driven, & in fairness its survival depends on it. We are continually being asked to do things in an academic context that are incongruous with learning and with teaching, at least as we cranky faculty members see it. Yet we collaborate with our administrators. We have to, or no real change would take place. Why do we do this? Some of our collaboration is, of course, this unequal power relationships. If untenured, we fear not being renewed; if tenured we fear not being promoted, losing face, or perks or whatever. But there is more: in a culture in which value is located first in economics, in material gain, it is difficult to resist it all the time. I find myself choosing, or trying to choose, where to pick fights or resistance, trying to trust a consultative process I suspect is flawed, and repressing a feeling that I am failing to grasp the larger issues that are driving the whole discourse. -- Thom

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