Ten Years Later: Let's Re-Evaluate
In my online travels yesterday, I happened upon a series of position papers from a 1995 issue of JAC titled The Things That Go Without Saying in Composition Studies: A Colloquy. Robert L. Connors collects a series of (some likely caricatured) premises that the group could agree upon in the morning:
1.Our most central task as literacy educators is understanding and acting on issues of the cultural and ideological contexts of writing.
2. The “process” (expressivist/cognitivist) paradigm of teaching and research is naive and outmoded, and we have to move beyond it.
3. Individualism and concepts of personal agency are delusions, and we must avoid being trapped by them as we consider issues of literacy education.
4. All meaning is constructed socially, and our choice as educators involved working to further that construction with or striving to further that construction against the grain of the larger culture’s ideologies.
5. The goals of literacy pedagogies should thus be to assist adaptation to existing academic realities through teaching conventions or to work for social change through analyses of economic and cultural forces.
6. For either of these purposes, the personal essay is a questionable form and is proof of the low status of composition.
7. Being middle class is a somewhat ignoble status and an unsophisticated goal to wish for our students.
8. Most composition teaching is naive if not destructive.
But on the other hand, in the afternoon:
1.Our most central task as literacy educators is teaching students to write more effectively for themselves and for their other classes.
2. Students are genuine individuals who have real needs, desires, and agency. So are we.
3.The process paradigm of teaching is a kind of default setting for us, what we all naturally assume and use, the methodological sine qua non underlying all other pedagogies we try out.
4. Meaning inheres in feelings and emotions, which may be constructed socially but which are felt, acted on, and written about individually.
5.The personal essay is a central genre from which many others can grow.
6.Being middle class is a reasonable thing to want or to propose for our students, and most of us are and always will be inescapably middle class.
7.Most composition teaching does help students, if the teacher truly cares about helping students.
So, everyone, I'd love to hear your thoughts: Ten years later, how has the field of composition changed? Has it changed at all? Are these still the issues? What are the questions? What are the terms of the debate? What are the stakes? What about technology? I can't help but notice it's not addressed in these premises.