CCCC 2006 in Review
Guest presented an accessibly-theorized pedagogical narrative about her experiences teaching a writing course using two recent and important Supreme Court decisions as texts for the course: Bowers vs Hardwick-a decision that upheld sodomy laws-and Lawrence vs. Texas, a decision that overturned those laws. Framing the course with these texts, allowed Guest to set up a connection between legal discourse, rhetoric and civil rights-all of which combined to demonstrate the power of language to control human bodies. This classroom work also brought to the surface, for her students, the understanding that the business of the law is culture: the rights, protections, and lives of people. Guest emphasized how important it is that we understand legal discourse and laws as telling a story about our culture, citing Jonathan Alexander's recent CCC essay on sexuality and gender, when Alexander asks "What is the story we are telling about gender?" Guest ended her presentation by asking the audience to consider these questions about legal discourse and the cultural context of legislation:
Morrissette, capitalizing on the legalization of gay marriage in his state, brought that particular piece of legislation into the classroom as a text: Goodrich vs. the Dept. of Public Health. Drawing on the elements of Rogerian argument, Morrissette explained how he implemented Rogerian notions of conflict reduction and finding common ground into his coursework on argument and writing. Using Nancy Woods' argument text, The Essentials of Argument, Morrissette initiated a curriculum that began by asking students to define key terms such as: marriage, family, and love, and to unpack how those terms connect to assumptions of cultural ideas of marriage, family, and love. In addition, Morrissette emphasized for his students that Rogerian argument begins with a kind of Elbovian believing game-that the opposition's position is right and might very well be valid, enabling the students to begin their arguments from a place of reflexivity and empathy.
Most of Morrissette's presentation, following his framing of the curriculum, focused on telling the story of particular students and the papers they wrote in response to the course goals and outcomes; most of the papers mentioned were used as examples of students working out their own beliefs about marriage (gay or not), and finding some sort of common ground with this legal and cultural issue. Unfortunately, Morrissette had far too much interesting information about his students' progress and their papers.
Rogers was not able to follow his own presentation plan because of Morrissette's presentation. Noting the short amount of time left in the session, Rogers chose instead to briefly outline his own concerns and hopes for queering the composition classroom by examining the problem of gendered pronouns connecting to teacherly discussions about his own partner as telling a particular heteronormative story to his students, as well as the problem of wanting students to feel safe in the classroom, and how that desire often reifies the discourse of heteronormativity that is already circulating. Following this short framing, Rogers asked how we might enact disruptions of heteronormativity, pointing out that one way of addressing the hegemony of heteronormativity is by talking about other normativities. At this point, Rogers graciously opened the discussion up to the audience, which enabled a lively discussion to take place about such concerns as coming out in the classroom versus ambiguous identity representations, and the ethics of both of those possible pedagogical moves.
— Candace Stewart
For more information on the CCCC 2006 conference,
visit the NCTE Web site at http://www.ncte.org/profdev/conv/cccc/.