The Activist WPA

The Activist WPA: Changing Stories About Writing and Writers

LINDA ADLER-KASSNER
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 208
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt4cgqss
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Activist WPA
    Book Description:

    One wonders if there is any academic field that doesn't suffer from the way it is portrayed by the media, by politicians, by pundits and other publics. How well scholars in a discipline articulate their own definition can influence not only issues of image but the very success of the discipline in serving students and its other constituencies. The Activist WPA is an effort to address this range of issues for the field of English composition in the age of the Spellings Commission and the No Child Left Behind Act. Drawing on recent developments in framing theory and the resurgent traditions of progressive organizers, Linda Adler-Kassner calls upon composition teachers and administrators to develop strategic programs of collective action that do justice to composition's best principles. Adler-Kassner argues that the "story" of college composition can be changed only when writing scholars bring the wonders down, to articulate a theory framework that is pragmatic and intelligible to those outside the field--and then create messages that reference that framework. In The Activist WPA, she makes a case for developing a more integrated vision of outreach, English education, and writing program administration.

    eISBN: 978-0-87421-700-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. vii-xiv)
  4. 1 WORKING FROM A POINT OF PRINCIPLE
    (pp. 1-35)

    Alarmist stories about student writers or college-level writing that run counter to the ones that circulate among writing teachers on disciplinary listservs or in discussions in professional research are easy to find. Using the search terms “writing skills and college students” in a database like Lexis Nexis Academic reveals news items headed by such titles as “Grammar Is Making a Comeback; Poor Writing Skills Among Teens and a New Section of SAT Fuel Return to Language Basics” (DeVise 2006) and “Students Fall Short on ‘Information Literacy,’ Educational Testing Service’s Study Finds” (Foster 2006). Ask people on the street about student...

  5. 2 LOOKING BACKWARD
    (pp. 36-58)

    Stories serve a variety of purposes. Most compelling for the immediate purposes of this book, they shape our own and others’ understandings of the work of writing instruction, especially concerning three questions that are central to that work:

    How should students’ literacies be defined when they come into composition classes?

    What literacies should composition classes develop, how, and for what purpose?

    How should the development of students’ literacies be assessed at the end of these classes?

    In chapter 1, I suggested that actions taken based on responses to these questions reflect tropes, “movement[s] from one notion of the way things...

  6. 3 FRAMING THE PUBLIC IMAGINATION
    (pp. 59-84)

    The column from which this excerpt is drawn illustrates the ways that elements of the progressive pragmatic jeremiad contribute to a frame surrounding discussions of education (and writing) in widely read documents, like news stories and policy reports (which are often cited in news stories). In that jeremiad, the purpose of education is to cultivate individuals’ critical intelligence so that they can contribute to the development of methods and processes used to overcome obstacles, which will in turn ensure the continued progress of the nation toward the achievement of a virtuous democracy. Code words in this column, though—”[parents of]...

  7. 4 CHANGING CONVERSATIONS ABOUT WRITING AND WRITERS: Working through a Process
    (pp. 85-127)

    Justine, a tenured WPA at a small, religiously affiliated university, has a dilemma.¹

    At the last minute the chair decides to move a faculty member from first-year composition to a course in the major. As WPA I have to scurry and find a replacement instructor. The dean won’t allow either of the two single course adjuncts that we have to teach another section because it will make them “full time” so I have to hire someone new on short notice. Our pay falls in the middle range of the many colleges in the area—higher than most state schools but...

  8. 5 TAKING ACTION TO CHANGE STORIES
    (pp. 128-163)

    This anecdote from Larissa, the writing director at a large private university, illustrates a point made by the Bay Area Organizing Coalition (BAOC) organizer Eleanor Milroy: “There’s a gazillion problems and a gazillion issues” (Milroy 2006). Issues here might include lack of support for WI courses, reliance on one faculty member to provide support for these courses, the perception of writing instruction by “content” faculty, and so on. Using any of the approaches to organizing described in chapter 4, it’s easy to imagine how these issues might come to the fore in discussions with writing program staff, in Larissa’s (or...

  9. 6 WORKING FROM MY OWN POINTS OF PRINCIPLE: Tikkun Olam, Prophetic Pragmatism, and Writing Program Administration
    (pp. 164-185)

    We all know this story: “I was chatting with someone in/on , and the conversation turned to what we did for a living. When I said that I taught writing, the person said .”

    We’ve heard this tale (at conferences, in professional...

  10. APPENDIX: Contact Information for Community Organizations/Media Strategists
    (pp. 186-186)
  11. NOTES
    (pp. 187-189)
  12. REFERENCES
    (pp. 190-203)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 204-208)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 209-209)