Friday, April 27, 2007

"Paradigm Clashes Among Basic Writing Teachers: Sources of Conflict and a Call for Change."

Above is the article I am recommending.

The title pretty much says it all but, basically, this article looks at sources of paradigm clashes (i.e. the linear narrative of writing ability, basic writers aren't basic thinkers) among BW teachers, discusses sites of resistance, the BW teacher's role, and suggests breaking down walls between different belief systems for the benefit of BW students.

Del Principe, Ann. "Paradigm Clashes Among Basic Writing Teachers: Sources of Conflict and a Call for Change." Journal of Basic Writing 23.1 (2004): 64-81.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Something Apropos, I Don't Know

In "Literacies and Deficits Revisited," Jerrie Cobb Scott offers her definition of literacy as "ways of knowing, accessing, creating, and using information" (207). Though this is a rather broad definition—perhaps to the point of being nebulous—I find it valuable nonetheless in that it allows for the notion that all students come to the classroom already literate. Granted, many students are not literate in any ostensibly traditional or academic sense; but it is relatively safe to assume that every student has and employs ways of knowing, accessing, creating, and using information in his/her daily existence (per Scott’s definition), and is thereby literate. Understanding literacy thusly, Scott seems to suggest that the challenge—or at least one challenge—is to develop a pedagogy that not only acknowledges these kinds of literacies but also utilizes them as a means to academic literacy. This reminds me of an article by Gerald Graff ("Hidden Intellectualism") wherein he describes a similar scenario but with slightly different terms. Graff doesn’t speak to literacy or its various definitions per se, but rather argues that the root of the problem is the pervasive tendency of educators who, operating from positions of traditional pedagogy, fail to utilize or even acknowledge the implicit intellectualism their students have already developed as a consequence of their participation in non-academic, or vernacular, culture. In other words the problem is one of pedagogical theory and application since he believes that "inside every steet-smart student (which is to say, every student) there is a latent intellectual trying to break out" (23; emphasis mine). Thus the burden of responsibility rests firmly on the shoulders of educators to develop teaching methods that take advantage of "the extent to which adolescent lives are already often ‘steeped in argument’ and ‘critical theory’" by virtue of discussion and debate about so-called "philistine pursuits" (i.e. music, sports, film, fashion, etc.) (22). By using students’ vernacular knowledge as a vehicle for their acquisition of academic knowledge, Graff suggests that education will better facilitate the development of student voices that are both recognizable and effective within the public domain. Similarly, Jeffrey Duncan-Andrade advocates what Lawrence Grossberg refers to as a "pedagogy of articulation and risk" (334). This is a multi-cultural teaching approach that "values and learns from the cultural literacies students bring to the classroom and assists them as they expand those literacies and develop new ones" (334). In fact, Duncan-Andrade’s is a more comprehensive approach to solving Scott’s complaint about "the recycling of deficit pedagogy in basic writing," if only because it "believes that a rigorous multicultural curriculum should be a marriage of the student’s culture and canonical culture" (Duncan-Andrade 331-2), as opposed to Graff’s, i.e. merely flirting with the student’s culture as a means of seducing him or her into the canonical bed. I would encourage anyone interested in this subject to take a look at either or both of these articles, though both have their flaws.

Duncan-Andrade, Jeffrey M. R. "Your Best Friend or Your Worst Enemy: Youth Popular Culture, Pedagogy, and Curriculum in Urban Classrooms." The Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies 26 (2004): 313-337.

Graff, Gerald. "Hidden Intellectualism." Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition, and Culture 1.2 (2001): 21-36.

Scott, Jerrie Cobb. "Literacies and Deficits Revisited." Landmark Essays on Basic Writing. Mahwah: Erlbaum, 2001.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Mountaineering *(and a picture for TW's delight)

After reading Mlynarczyk’s "Personal and Academic Writing: Revisiting the Debate," the question I found myself asking was: Poetic, Expressive, Transactional—what difference does it really make to the basic writer? I don’t mean to sound condescending or glib (ala Matt Lauer to Tom Cruise), but ultimately isn’t it engendering a familiarity with the conventions and practice of writing that is the underlying purpose of the basic writing classroom? If it is, then any or all of the above kinds of writing are not only relevant but important, too. As someone who has toiled quite a bit in all three categories of writing throughout my college tenure, I’ve found that though each of them presents certain unique challenges in terms of structure, style, tone, and etc., the writing skills one develops in the process of any one them are not mutually exclusive of the others. That is, becoming more familiar with the composition of, say, more prosaic forms of writing (i.e. fiction, memoir, etc.) will in all likelihood positively inform one’s ability to compose transactional/academic writing—if only in that it enables the writer to recognize when s/he strays from the intended style. I mean, how many of us have read and/or written essays that come across as more prosaic than academic, when the latter is the goal? Probably all of us have at some point or other been a reader/writer of this kind of essay. So then a reasonable question to ask in a case like that is: Is this a consequence of the writer’s inability to construct academic prose, whether due to a lack of experience and/or training? Or could it just as well be the consequence of the writer’s inability to distinguish between what constitutes academic versus prosaic styles of writing? The answer, at least in part, is probably a combination of both. Thus I agree with Sarah (who modestly refers to herself in the blogosphere as "Creation’s Crowning Glory") when she advocates instilling an appreciation of the entire mountain range rather than only one or two of its peaks. After all, it may be that memoir assignment or that poetry exercise that sparks a more passionate interest in mountaineering, generally. As any climber or mountaineer worth his/her salt knows, you must be practiced in many terrains to excel in the one terrain you prefer above all others. (Okay, I carried the metaphor too far, perhaps, but you get what I’m saying.)

*(TW: How'd you know?! -->
You were right, ol' boy.
It was a dragon. And St. George, knowing that time
machines are not only implausible but also quite unreliable, simply used
a wormhole conjured by simple 4th Century sorcery
about a year prior to his persecution and subsequent decapitation. I wanted to warn him but I was too busy
admiring my new beard, to say nothing of my concern that doing so could initiate a time paradox and the whatnot. I thanked him, though, and encouraged him not to watch the end of Braveheart while he was here.)