The WAC Clearinghouse

Reviewing CCCC 2000: Textual Insurrections: Imagining A Literacy Of Resistance (F.22)

By far one of the most riveting and powerful panels at the conference, Andrea Greenbaum, Dale Bauer and Janice Walker all gave excellently informative and thought-provoking presentations on issues of gender and authority in the classroom. They were detailed, concise, insightful and inspiring-the sort of presenters who deserve to be greeted by packed rooms (which, unfortunately, this one wasn't). Here are the great points that many missed.

Andrea Greenbaum claimed that, although many teachers try to teach argumentative skills to all of their students, many female composition instructors are actually modeling timidity. This timidity is fostered by the way they've been raised and by the fact that, since so few of them have tenure, they feel they need to display a nurturing demeanor in their classrooms if they want the high evaluations that will allow them to keep their jobs. Encouraging female teachers to not be afraid to be assertive, she cited studies which found that both men and women see argumentativeness as a positive feature in a female instructor and that women who utilize agonistic discourse empower female students even outside the classroom.

Dale Bauer spoke about the dangers that often plague the assertive female professor because her presence in the public sphere is often seen as threatening and transgressive. Bauer touched on elements as disparate as the way Freud used women to talk about hysteria in his lectures to the films Copycat and The Mirror Has Two Faces. These examples, she asserted, teach us that females in public spaces are seen as acceptable if they are emotionally vulnerable, but are seen as threatening if they are too much or too little in control. To combat this she urged that we focus on activist pedagogy in our classroom, while acknowledging that this is becoming increasingly difficult as universities become populated by consumer-minded students and delivery-minded professors who don't really want to deal with these issues.

Janice Walker focused on issues of technology and power as she pointed out that software developers, not teachers or students, may be the ones who ultimately decide how a classroom is configured and reminded us that if we are not careful the technologies we believe can create social democratic spaces may only end up creating new hierarchies. She asserted that in an electronic classroom a teacher may actually exert more control than in a traditional classroom because collaborative software is designed to enable the teacher to disallow people to speak or act. Walker concluded that teachers need to evaluate the online structures we use to be sure they fit our pedagogies and reminded us that we need to help students learn how to resist any attempt, even our own, to regulate the way they think or impose a way of thinking that is not their own.

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