Reviewing CCCC 2000: Fashion@4Cs2000.Clothing the Pedagogy
There is something about shoes--as if they can't really hide who we really are because they have to function too centrally through the vertical parts of days and nights. To be decorative or only trendy as other clothing fashion often can be is not the shoe's mission. Shoes reveal something visceral in the earthy ways they remind us our human gravity. Soul puns and corns but not pedagogy aside, just what did we see in the marching feet of the conference's attenders? What did we glean in stolen, meditative moments staring past crossed legs and dangling ankles? Yes, despite desires to keenly experience the intellectual panorama of sessions, the occasional eye indeed may have drifted to others sitting quietly--to observe, to notice (or not), before drifting back to the words and presentations of our conference lives.
Why do male writing teachers overwhelmingly wear shoes requiring laces? Mostly brown and utilitarian, the footwear preferences of the male compositionist support the conservative, uptight gravity of our field. I don't think our work always lacks innovation, but I sometimes feel like we working professionals teaching writing are too mundane and careful. Writing is fun and being able to explore one's own writing with professional and peer help is useful and important; not casual and occasional like a slip on moccasin with tassels, useful in the long run and on a daily basis. But why the brown oxford lace up? Why, with a thickish sole and heal, but not too expensive and long wearing please? Why does our profession stand on practical, sensible, not out of style but not exactly stylish shoes?
In every session reported on in this review, brown lace up shoes were the choice of 7-9 out of every 10 male attenders. I took this survey casually of course (Name an English teacher you know who can also do math seriously!), but not without mirthful concern that our field needs to value innovation more, just as good writing employs it. I may be preaching to the choir here, or maybe I'm preaching to myself. I don't always charge into innovation--usually a voice in my head reminds me that my plate is already full. Maybe I'm not an angry enough child to simply push stuff onto the table I don't want, maybe I'm getting cool Miles Davis wise (but not quickly enough), or maybe I'm still being the kid too much just thinking shoes connect us to our pedagogy. Whatever the excuse, the fashion of the conference, if it's a good one, might well be purely and simply, change; from imagining to enactment and anywhere in between, change.
I wrote this review and went to the conference wearing my trusty "Blunnies" which are Australian slip-on boots that the manufacturer guarantees from their plastic sole to their whatever leather tops. They have no laces, and have the red of "oxblood" to not let their browness interfere. But there's a pair of beat up, twice resoled, lace up, brown oxford shoes in my closet. I worked hard in them. They've marched me through countless sections of FY comp and as they now lie rarely used in a dark corner of my closet. I paint them no less respectfully than Van Gogh did his...but it's time...they've got to go.
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