CCCC 2001 in Review: I.18 Rhetoric and Composition at Teacher Education Institutions: Composing Teachers' Work

Presenters: Beth Ann Rothermel, Kathryn Fitzgerald, Susan Romano

This session looked at historical records of composition and rhetoric in teacher education programs.

Rothermel: Westfield State College, MA

This teachers' college educated future teachers of both genders. Teacher preparation included rhetoric studies. When first opened in the 1830s, it included mixed genders; by 1899 the student population consisted entirely of women. Professional training ground: child's psyche takes precedence over emphasis on written private and public discourses (at first these two conflicting goals co-existed). In the 1840s, the Westfield Lyceum was started for students to debate and recite. In the Lyceum, women's roles were negotiated and re-negotiated. The Lyceum delineated spheres for genders: debates = men, recitations = women. In the 1880s, debating with other women began; offices for women were begun, and participants were mainly women. Oral performance was highly valued. By the 1900s, entirely professional and skills-based teacher training (no longer mainly rhetorical or civic minded), but this goal still persisted in the Lyceum. 1920's continued to cultivate voices on civic concerns.

Fitzgerald: Plattesville Normal School, WI

1890s: Fitzgerald looked at 48 papers written in celebration of 50th anniversary of Wisconsin statehood. This normal school was both a co-educational and democratic teacher training school. The papers were of two main types: 1) written research papers, 2) epideictic and celebratory treatises. In many of the papers, the student authors tried to link their geneology to earlier settlers--establish kinship and eye witness credibility. 7 or 8 of the papers are biographical, making explicit those oral history and kinship ties and stressing that white settlers lacked dissension, but women's lives were not included--histories were male, even if spoken through women. The normal schools were mixed gender for all courses, even though by the turn of the century the students were mostly women and half of the faculty were women. The papers revealed a noticeable omission of women's presence in the community. Fitzgerald speculated that perhaps the assignments themselves tended to be "male coded" because they focused on economic, legal and political spheres. She suggested that we reflect on our school assignments today and be more mindful of the social potential.

Romano: Juarez Lincoln University, TX

Juarez Lincoln University was a teacher training institution in the late 1960s-1970s located in the American southland (south Texas). When talking about marginalized students, we need to acknowledge a Mexico-centered tradition that is in contrast to the European tradition. The school was founded as anti-Anglo and anti-assimilation. It granted Master's of Education degrees during its 9 years of operation. The curriculum reflected the social will of the founders--who were students themselves. The moral and ethical imperative for rhetoric is clear from the school's charter. The founders argued for separation based on lack of access for Hispanics. Its very existence reinforces the historically dysfunctional relationship between Mexican Americans and higher education. Children were very often segregated in the public schools at this time. Even though Mexican Americans were 1/6 of the population, only 1/60th of them graduated from high school during the 60s. This graduate school was founded by students who were disenchanted with what was available and grew out of the Mayo student movement. The founders wanted a practical solution to the educational problem of Hispanics. The students were working on master's degrees, at the same time worked with high school students, training them to pass the GED. The curriculum was bario-centered with bilingualism as bedrock. Typically, oral Spanish and written English were stressed. The school felt that graduate writing should be civic involvement writing: power, media, language and the people (rhetoric). The brief flowering and then dissipation of this school shows the deeply flawed relationship with Anglo-centered higher education in this country as well as the roots and endurance of identity politics among Mexican Americans. [CH]

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