A RhetNet SnapShot Reply:


David Stacey

Katie Fischer said, on WCENTER:
> True enough, Neal, but is the
> point of the classroom to duplicate life experiences?

Hi Katie,

I'm not sure that your point disqualifies Neal's point, and I'm not sure Neal's point argues against Eric's way of (not)grading, phrased by Neal as

> > our attempts to "distribute authority" by putting the
> > onus for evaluation on our students....

You're both right insofar as Neal's concern for displaced workers in our national economy is an argument for a way of doing what Eric likes to do.

That way would be, of course, a keeping-of-the-eye-upon context. At my institution we are very markedly expressivist in orientation. We put great emphasis upon inviting students in to a community. We talk about and rehearse ways of facilitating non-threatening learning situations. We believe very strongly in collaboration and we take pride in our beliefs and methods. A great deal of what we do is wrapped up in an ongoing practiceal critique of grading which takes the form of experimenting with portfolios and other kinds of assessment.

Then when our students leave our safe sequence (transitional and fyc) they go out into the wider curriculum and get flunked--and flunked hard--by certain madmen in certain departments who will not be persuaded that "writing" is anything we in English say it is: an ongoing learning process that involves so much more than correctness.

There's the point. Insofar as we do not keep an eye on those madmen, nearly all of whom have a great deal more institutional power than a typical writing teacher, our methods are awry. Insofar as our awareness of them "out there" does not affect our teaching--so much of which adds up to "welcoming strategies," we have a problem. Our students do too, needless to say. What ARE we welcoming them to???

This is not to say of course that a writing classroom ought to duplicate life experiences. Writing classrooms are exactly the place, especially in our society I would argue, where experiments with the distribution of authority take place. I very much like the look of Eric's non-linear pedagogy and I am constantly tinkering with the question of grades in every single thing I do, but if I don't allow my awareness of and attitude toward those people with power beyond my classroom to affect my teaching, then I'm doing something wrong.

It's part of my job too, of course, to try to persuade those I've called "madmen," to look at writing differently. I see them as the exact parallels (indeed extensions) of AT&T, the men in power who would fire 40,000 people for the sake of "flexibility" in an economy that seems ever more antagonistic to the dreams of my students for a "better life." There's part of my job wrapped up in all of that too.

Sorry to go on to such length. I just don't see a whole lot of difference among you and Neal and Eric, once the implications of things are spun out a bit into the all-important question of context.


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