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CCCC 2006 in Review

Chair's Address: "Riding a One-Eyed Horse": Reining In and Fencing Out,
delivered by Judith "Jay" Wooten

This opening session began with brief opening remarks and announcements from 2006 conference program chair, Akua Duku Anoyke, the presentation of the 2006 "Scholars for the Dream" awards and the 2006 memorial scholarship recipients, and the announcement of David Bartholomae as the 2006 Exemplar award. Of his award, Bartholomae noted his career-long focus on students' work in lower-division courses, especially freshman English. In addition to acknowledging those who have influenced his work, notably Jim Slevin, Bartholomae paused to remind those in attendance of the conference's original and primary focus on Freshman English, the "peculiar moment of contact" that Bartholomae still finds to be the centerpiece of undergraduate education. If the field of composition moves too far away from freshman English, Bartholomae believes, then it puts itself in a perilous situation. Bartholomae therefore suggests that the field refocus on the important work of teaching freshman writing.

After additional remarks from members of the local planning committee as well as officers from the National Council of Teachers of English and the Two-Year College Association, Conference on College Composition and Communication Chair Judith "Jay" Wooten opened with the remark, "You will learn a lot about me from this presentation." This learning starts for her with the discipline's name, as Wooten believes that those in the field emphasize different parts of the name, different parts of the discipline's universe. Wooten then suggests that this disciplinary instability, its ongoing attempts at renaming and refocusing itself, is like a "one-eyed horse turned into the fences," a line borrowed from Henry Taylor's poem, "Riding a One-Eyed Horse." By renaming and refocusing the discipline, Wooten believes that we lose part of our discipline's universe. Current emphases such as visual literacy and popular culture, as popular as they are in the research and teaching of composition today, are not current argues Wooten, but areas that have long been the study of other fields, even by our colleagues in English departments.

Wooten then extends this argument to technology and the claims that it, in addition to visual rhetoric, fosters a universality of language. Here, she pauses to recast this movement as just another example of recasting and renaming an aspect of the field, the study of language. Work with language, such as critical reading, is its own-eyed horse turned to the fences, suggests Wooten.

Multi-modal literacy is another renaming and refocusing act, according to Wooten, but she argues against this trend, asking "What about literacy is not multi-modal?" Citing earlier work in the field and extending it back centuries, Wooten expresses her concern over today's approach to multi-modal literacy, especially its focus on technology in the composition classroom. Instead, Wooten suggests that the claims made in support of technology today, whether for workplace preparation or other reasons, is the field's attempt to be "inclusionary," to rename and recast itself to stay current, to stay important, to remain functional in the lives of students and, more importantly, in the discussions of the academy. Wooten then pauses to question: what makes students empowered users of technology? It is not simply assigning multi-modal and visual literacy learning projects, believes Wooten, as composition teachers cannot empower students if they themselves are not empowered users of technology.

Wooten, a former chair of the National Two-Year College English Association (TYCA), has taught in the Kent State University (OH) system for nearly 25 years and continues to maintain her primary interest-enhancing the success of first generation college students, ones that fill our composition classrooms every year. In her opening address to the 2006 conference however, she fears that the field fences out those who do not move in the directions that renew and recast the field. Wooten asks and then comments, "Where is the universe of discourse for them? I would like to see us reign in our horse a little, to make our composition course available to more that teach it." To do so, Wooten suggests a renewed focus on the writer and his or her passions is what should be left, when the field turns its one-eyed horse.

—Randall McClure

CCCC ConventionFor more information on the CCCC 2006 conference,
visit the NCTE Web site at http://www.ncte.org/profdev/conv/cccc/.