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, March 22, 2014

In response to a conversation on WPA-l about writing assessment, I made an off-topic remark:

I do wonder why people still grade essays.

One forgiving list member asked me:
Professor Peckham:

Could you explain what you mean by the above statement?

Thank you.
I responded: 
Hi, Michael

Rather quickly since I'm heavily into a project: we know (abundant research) that grades are counterproductive (and in fact, a residue of our having been persuaded by a capitalist culture that discourse and identity are individualistic with grades being a stand-in for dollars) if we want to help students with their writing. Far more productive is the practice of responding to student writing as an authentic reader and constructing writing situations in which students are writing seriously to and seriously responding to one another as readers (i.e., creating authentic writing situations rather than "school" writing situations. We have ourselves too often been persuaded (and I think, falsely) that grades are a necessity (they are not) and we in turn persuade our students (who later become us) that they need grades. Let's call that a false perception of objective reality (Freire). If you need grades, have students construct portfolios at midsemester and at the end of the semester & assign them then. I recommend telling all students that they will receive As if they are always present and do all the work & work downward from there, if you must. Here's an example of how you can have students construct portfolios:

I apologize for my somewhat flippant remarks.  Can't help myself.

Friday, March 21, 2014

In spite of the format of the post below, we do a lot of personal writing in my required writing class at LSU.  Students love it--and that alone is good reason for promoting personal writing in the classroom. Now they are willing to investigate an issue of interest to them (like the effects of urban architecture (my architect student) or the rules of attraction (one of my funniest writers who is wondering about this sort of thing) or the reality of reality tv shows (the writer was depressed when she discovered one of her favorite reality tv shows had false sets) and write essays explaining to the other students what they have discovered in their research. We keep track of our daily research by posting on our research blogs. I modeled for them how they might do it. I did a quick search and discovered in a few minutes David Coleman's astonishingly ignorant stance on student writing and posted for my students an example of how they might keep track of their information on the blog. I did check out Coleman's statement--Bauerline (another of my nominees for MisEducator of the Year) accurately reported it.

Here were my directions to my students:

Write up a report on at least one hour's of research you have done so far.  Give links to your sources, what kind of information you found there, and what you thought about that information.

Bauerline, Mark. "Teaching Writing Through Personal Reflection: Bad Idea." The Chronicle of Higher Education.  March 18, 2014.

 Coleman basically says it's a load of shit (almost direct quote). No one in the workplace is going to ask you about your personal opinion.  They want claims backed up by evidence and reasons tying that evidence to your claims.  "The only problem, forgive me for saying this so bluntly, the only problem with those two forms of writing is as you grow up in this world you realize people really don’t give a sheet about what you feel or what you think. What they instead care about is can you make an argument with evidence, is there something verifiable behind what you’re saying or what you think or feel that you can demonstrate to me. It is rare in a working environment that someone says, “Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood.” That is rare. It is equally rare in college by the way.."

Coleman's stance has since been widely reported. Critics (educators) have noted that this stance is evidence of how estranged from the classroom Common Core standards are.  Bauerline, an English professor, says here's the problem with the complaints: Coleman was right.  Cites Sandra Stowsky's (did she really do that? Has Bauerline or Coleman heard of Applebee and Langer?) study that claims high school teachers teach mostly personal response to literature--which is why students need to be remediated. Students don't know how to interpret complex texts. That is rare. It is equally rare in college by the way.  Bauer... goes on to rant about how students who write this touch-feely stuff are being seriously disadvantaged.  This isn't the real world. It's time to get rid of personal writing in the classroom.
This kind of thinking is getting a lot of press. There's no sophistication by Coleman/Bauer about how students learn to write, the research many others have done about voice, commitment, style, engagement and so on. The question is why are these people who are ignorant of writing studies dictating how writing is taught. I've been somewhat supporting Common Core, but if Coleman is running it: this is just dead wrong and counter to tons of theory and research on how students learn to write (the affect of writing studies).  This makes me sick. I'm going to write about this on my blog:

Thursday, March 6, 2014

They Weren't Alive Then

I just had one of those  moments in my Studies in Composition course.

One of my students wrote in response to another student's post on Ronald Strickland's "Confrontational Pedagogy" (wonderful article to have students in composition theory read):

"You brought up some very interesting points. I would love to discuss this kind of topic out-loud between people because understanding Strickland's views on 'Individuality' and 'Confrontation' really need some informal discussion, as well as formal. I think that Strickland is really just trying to point out how sacred 'Individuality' is in our learning and how it is really just an ideology from our culture and that it enforces roles on teachers, students, authors, and audiences that can inhibit learning because of the restrictive point of view - if you assume that your work and your understanding are all inherently individual you are also taking for granted a host of other concepts and social/intellectual norms that can, and often should, be questioned and rethought because of the interesting paths that line of thinking will lead too and the new concepts that can be discovered. I also was resistant at first, but in the same way that a patriarchal society is resistant to feminism, or capitalism is to communist ideals.

As you might imagine, M's comment on K's comment led to some interesting whole class discussions, which more or less began with my announcing that the Marlboro Man recently died. 

I saw their blank stares.

Me: You know who the Marlboro Man was, don't you?

Blank stares, shaking heads (another of those stupid teacher comments, they're thinking).

It got worse.

When we got to the "patriarchal society is resistant to feminism" comment, I said something about the degree to which we have lived in a patriarchal society (getting in a plug for Hillary Clinton--noting that we have not yet had a woman president).

Me: Just ask your parents. If you think we're patriarchal now, ask your parents about what it was like in the sixties. 

The blank stares again. I'm getting used them.

Me: What? What?

Kayla (I think), snickering (i think): They weren't alive then.