Social Class Reproduction

Four Rules for Teaching Writing:
Image result for image: joy of writing
Always give writing assignments that

1. you will enjoy reading;
2. students will enjoy writing;
3. students will enjoy reading what others in the class have written
4. you will enjoy writing.

If any one of these conditions were not true, then it probably wasn't a very good assignment.

Advice I give to my students: When your words surprise you, you know you are writing.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Personal Writing in the Classroom: Guns, Premature Ejaculations, and Poisoned Apples

Personal Writing in the Classroom: Guns, Premature Ejaculations, and Poisoned Apples

Guns, Premature Ejaculations, and Poisoned Apples


I have a Trumpeteer friend who may have prematurely ejaculated when I asked whether he had heard Wayne LaPierre’s speech to CPAC. “He nailed it,” I wrote.

I didn’t fully explain my euphoria over hearing the truth: “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” As the day unfolded, LaPierre and President Trump worked like Ax and Smash to promote more guns is good guns, primarily by arming teachers.

But neither LaPierre nor President Trump went far enough, intimidated perhaps by their fear of political correctivism. For inexplicable reasons, they argued that teachers should carry concealed weapons—and, Trump explained, receive additional pay for carrying.

I don’t see why the weapons should be concealed. These weapons should be openly displayed, advertising the depth of “hardening” specific schools. Schools should display pictures of their teachers, lecturing, a Glock, or more significantly, a Colt 45, riding on their hips. (see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zw-jTCNZSmY)

Not only would such an open display intimidate school shooters, who in President Trump’s words, are “cowards,” it would also solve one of the more pervasive problems in our schools: discipline. Only teachers like myself understand how wonderful it would be to be carrying when faced with thirty libidinous teenagers who insist on chatting with or txting each other or watching videos while we are trying to explain the social implications of the subjunctive. Many of us would like to haul out our Colt 45s and say, “Shut the F#$@ up! There’s a new sheriff in town!” That gun brandished in the wild air would speak much louder than the pale threat of detention.

But even the open display of a handgun seems insufficient, particularly if we are trying to intimidate school shooters. Teachers should receive and be trained in the use of AR-15s. Think of it: the pictures advertising the “hardened” school: teachers with AR-15s slung over their shoulders while explaining the periodic table. This proposal would clearly scare away psychopathic school shooters and affirm discipline.

I can think of only one objection, to which LaPierre alluded in his CPAC address. Perhaps it applies only to colleges and universities—but my prematurely ejaculating friend claims the same is true of all teachers in California. The problem is that most of our teachers are socialists. “On college campuses, The Communist Manifesto,” LaPierre explains, “is one of the most frequently assigned texts. Karl Marx is the most assigned economist.”

I’ll have to take LaPierre’s word for these claims, although as someone with a B.S., B.Ed., M.A., and PhD, I have never read TCM or Das Capital. Truthfully, I know about them, and I have read people who have written about them, but I have never read them. I guess I slipped through the cracks in the floor.

But still: I’m worried that the European styled socialist educators might use their guns to intimidate students. So our policy will have to have filter teachers who have the wrong political orientations. I can imagine a simple test to sort the bad apples from the good.


Now that I think of it, we also know that Blacks are more inclined than Anglos to violence—witness the crime and prison rates of the Blank/Anglo populations. Consequently, we should automatically not let Blacks get AR-15s. I know that not all Blacks are criminals, but to continue my apple metaphor, as someone like LaPierre commented: you have ten apples; two are poisoned; are you willing to chance eating one of them????

Actually, since most Hispanics are criminals and rapists, we should exclude them, too. Well, that’s easy to do. We don’t even need tests to tell who’s Black or Hispanic.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Thinking about Age

I have 7 more years before I’m 80. Now there’s a thought!

At the end, you simply think differently about things. You notice that a lot of your friends are dead or dying and you may be in the next wave. This puts a different cast on life than when you are beginning and can’t imagine death. 

Toward the end, your experiences help you get ready to die. The real object is to have made your life count, to have contributed to the collective experience. That contribution plays back to you. All this seems obvious. Even such a seemingly small thing as rescuing a dog is important.


There are actually two vectors: self-realization and social contribution. In the richest lives, these two merge (think Carter); in the poorest, they split (think Trump).

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Evidence-based Writing

The Trump administration has banned evidence- and research-based terminology from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Apparently, the CDC is supposed to imagine science in dialogue with local community conventions. If you are talking to a community of flat-earthers, you need to exercise caution if you claim the earth is round, even if you started east from Raleigh, NC and continued dead east until you came back to Raleigh. Perhaps the compass was compromised.

I suspect that most people who were not beguiled into voting for Trump think that we should ground our opinions in research and the evidence research has uncovered. On the opposite end of the teeter-totter lies reasoning based on what your friends told you was true. One kind of reasoning seems based on information passed on through writing; the other, through oral discourse.

I side with evidence- and research-based reasoning.  I know that rhetoric can bend facts until they turn back on themselves, but still, if we didn’t honor the basic enlightenment period move from myth to science, we would still be sending messages by smoke-signals or horseback. I view with incredulity any governmental or educational system that decided to says “It is so, because I say it is so.”

The discussion about the banned phrases (and reasoning) took on WPA-l a different turn, some teachers with secondary school experience noting the reductive consequences of genuflects to evidence-based writing linked to testing, formulas, and argumentative genres. The mis-educative consequences of testing, formulas, and argumentative genres have shaped secondary and post-secondary instruction since the late 40s. David Coleman, the chief architect of the English Language Arts section of Common Core, in his assault on personal writing (“Bringing the Common Core to Life,” 2011) is largely responsible for the negative turn of “evidence-based” discourse, leading to some confusion about its merits.

In his address, Coleman ironically cites the lack of evidence-based, argumentative genres in primary and secondary schools. In fact, Appleby and Langer in their most recent study (“A Snapshot of Writing Instruction at Middle Schools and High Schools,” 2011) show precisely the opposite, the dearth of expressive forms of writing and dominance of argumentative genres, notably of the five-paragraph sort. Teachers in secondary schools are consequently aware of the testing game and the destructive rhetoric of “evidence-based” writing. Post-secondary teachers concomitantly know that “evidence-based” and argument sells well to administrators and colleagues.

Consequently, the phrase has taken on multiple meanings, leading to confusion and often counter-productive teaching practices. Certainly most educators would agree that when people makes claims, those claims should be based on facts rather than mythology. In our dreams, political discourse would be grounded in evidence and research—in our dreams. But as educators, we should also pay attention to the full range of discourse—and to our students’ attitudes toward what we teach. Certainly, we want our students to experience a rich array of rhetorical situations and genres. But we don’t want to fixate on evidence-based arguments to the exclusion of the many other genres that can draw our students into the rich world of writing.

We always need to ask at the end of our courses, have our students (and have we) enjoyed the experiences of writing (and reading). If not, something’s wrong—probably too much of Coleman.