College Composition Weekly: Summaries of research for college writing professionals

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Wecker and Wilde. Hybrid Identities in Dual Enrollment. TETYC, Sept. 2020. Posted 11/12/2020.

Wecker, Erin Costello, and Patty Wilde. “Neither Here nor There: A Study of Dual Enrollment Students’ Hybrid Identities in First-Year Composition.” Teaching English in the Two-Year College 48.1 (2020): 16-43. Print.

Erin Costello Wecker and Patty Wilde report on a qualitative study of the challenges faced by students participating in a “come-to-campus” dual-enrollment program in Washington State (17). For Wecker and Wilde, the “hybridity” demanded by such programs presents specific and “undertheorized” issues for these students (17).

The authors developed a twenty-one item survey consisting of multiple choice and short-answer questions (20). Students targeted were among the 27,000 enrolled in “Running Start” in 2017-2018, a come-to-campus program operating in Washington State community and technical colleges as well as in a number of four-year institutions. A sizable majority of the 784 students who responded enrolled at two-year colleges. Running Start is tuition-free but requires students to pay textbook costs and fees. Juniors and seniors who qualify may take all their high-school credits at the colleges or may enroll part-time (17).

The authors review previous scholarship on dual-enrollment programs, noting the “mixed” conclusions about its effectiveness for both the high-school students and the regularly enrolled students, some of whom may feel that the younger students hold the class back (19). The authors describe first-year composition, on which their study focused, as a course that attracts “an astonishing number” of dual enrollments (17). They report that programs in which most of the courses are taught in the high schools have received the most attention but argue that come-to-campus programs like Running Start deserve study (18), in particular as such programs heighten students’ sense of the ‘“and/not’ identity” that emerged as an important factor in students’ survey responses (17).

Extant critiques of programs like Running Start reviewed by the authors note questions about “[c]ognitive readiness” (18), with indications that the most successful students taking classes on campus are “exceptional: academically inclined and highly motivated” (19). Worries about “[a]ge-appropriate content,” for the authors, raise questions about whether younger students really are capable of being introduced to the true college environment that come-to-campus programs promote (19). Younger students’ social skills may also be inappropriate for the campus setting, with complaints about “horseplay,” loud voices, and lack of respect for adults (20)

The authors argue that the student voices in their survey add to these concerns the “gravity of identity,” which, in the case of dual enrollment, is exacerbated by hybrid status (21). Although in Washington State, professors do not know which of their students are participating in Running Start, Wecker and Wilde report that the students themselves are very aware of their vexed identity. In the authors’ view, identity issues raised in the hybrid context can affect students’ academic progress, including their negotiation of a writing classroom (21-22).

Financial challenges such as expenses for books, fees, and transportation, the authors write, emphasize to the students surveyed how they are both like other college students, yet unlike them. High-school students may not have cars or funds for parking meters. Moreover, some may lose eligibility for social services like reduced-cost lunches and now must pay for on-campus meals (23). The authors note that “low-income students comprised fewer than five percent” of the 2016-17 cohort (23).

For Wecker and Wilde, concern about access to “support services” also defines Running Start enrollees as lacking full identity in the college context (23). They write that in secondary contexts, support is liberally provided by the state; for example, disability assessments and accommodations are institutionalized (24). College students must take on a more “proactive” role in obtaining help they need. Students reported trouble finding adequate advising (24) and wished for more comprehensive orientations as they entered the program (25). One wrote that “there are so many resources available that I never even knew were available” (qtd. in Wecker and Wilde 25).

A particular concern for the writing classroom are the impediments to connection and community that the authors discover. Although their status is not revealed to professors and classmates, the students evinced worry about their age being detected and becoming a grounds for unequal treatment, even “ire” (26). Students reported losing the connections they had had with their high school friends and not replacing those connections in the college classroom, feeling, for example, they could not ask other students quick questions as easily when they needed help, nor could they easily find study partners (27). Students commented on their inability to form relationships when they could not share in conversations about children, jobs, or mortgages (28). The authors argue that this lack of connection troubles community-building efforts in writing classrooms.

The survey comments document concerns about the ways in which workloads, pace, and type of instruction also call attention to the Running Start students’ sense of displacement. Students who are accustomed to being able to work toward assignments over an academic year report struggling to fit the same amount of work into a ten- or fifteen-week college term (29), and note the loss of explicit instruction, such as specific formats for essays and step-by-step guidance (30-31). The authors posit that skipping two years of high school instruction, as some students do, leaves a “gap” in their efforts to acquire the skills the college environment demands (30). They suggest that composition instructors can help these students negotiate their hybridity by “better acquaint[ing] themselves with the high school English curriculum” (31).

Rather than a “checklist” of specific ideas for action, the authors present “dynamic reflections that can evolve in concert with all of our students” (31; emphasis original). They argue that more attention to the identities dual enrollment students bring to classrooms does not require “bespoke curricula or dilution of academic rigor” in order to improve these students’ experiences; rather, they contend, better understanding of these students aligns with the goal of inclusivity and of recognizing the identities all students bring to classrooms (32). Similarly, regular inclusion of information about support services, in the authors’ view, would be useful to all students. Continued or expanded commitment to community-building in the composition classroom, they write, also enhances the environment for all concerned (32-33).

 The authors urge more active partnerships between secondary and postsecondary institutions, proposing professional development aimed at improving understanding of the identities that dual enrollment fosters in order to change an adaptation they believe these students may perceive as a loss into a “net gain” for all (33).


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Crawford et al. Public Memory, Hope, and Rhetorical Education. CE, Jan. 2020. Posted 03/29/2020.

Crawford, Anne E., Peyton Galloway, and Jane Greer. “Drawing Hope from Difficult History: Public Memory and Rhetorical Education in Kansas City.” College English 82.3 (2020): 255-80. Print.

Anne E. Crawford, Peyton Galloway, and Jane Greer present an upper-level English course, “Rhetorics of Public Memory,” taught at an “urban research university” in Missouri prior to the March 2018 College Composition and Communication convention in Kansas City, Missouri (256). Materials from the course were exhibited at the convention as a series of panels titled Deconstructing the Divide: Rhetorical Activism in Kansas City (264). The exhibit was also displayed at the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center on the authors’ university campus and at other educational venues (256). The resulting article recounting the development of the exhibit has been co-authored by Greer, instructor of the course, and two undergraduates who took part (256). Each author presents her experiences in a dedicated section of the article.

Crawford et al. write that an important exigency for the course and the exhibit was a 2017 NAACP travel advisory citing the need for African Americans to be cautious while in Missouri because of a “series of questionable, race-based incidents occurring statewide recently” (qtd. in Crawford et al. 255). Greer, as the instructor, was moved to ask how a college rhetoric course could address the troubled moment. The resulting course drew on scholarship on public memory and its relationship to “hope” to provide students with opportunities to develop their rhetorical skills while also examining their own situated engagement with their home city (256, 258).

The authors contrast studies of public memory with the study of history by citing Carole Blair’s distinction between history’s “legitimacy based on research norms” and public memory’s “overtly political and emotionally invested” nature (qtd. in Crawford et al. 257). Further review of research in English studies and in college classrooms grounds the authors’ claim that “public memory is a profoundly rhetorical enterprise” and thus a rich topic for rhetorical pedagogy (257).

Drawing on part of Stephen Browne’s definition of public memory as “a shared sense of the past” (qtd. in Crawford et al. (257), the authors note that this shared sense can be “created” for specific purposes (257); they develop a relationship between public memory and “hope” through the work of scholars like Stephen Fishman (drawing on John Dewey) and Paula Mathieu by arguing that despite its attention to the past, public memory serves to remind audiences of their connectedness to others and to engage them in dialogue that often serves as a “provocation” to become involved themselves (258, 261Fr). They cite Fishman’s claim that “for Dewey, hope always arises in the context of anxiety and potential despair” and is inspired by a belief intrinsic to public memory that “things could have been otherwise” and that people have agency to effect change (260). Because of its rhetorical nature, public memory becomes a shared activity that engenders the “fundamentally communal project” of encouraging hope (259).

The course exhibit made use of the relationship between public memory and hope both by reminding viewers of past injustices and also by enhancing public memory of activism that addresses these injustices. The course itself was a reprise in response to the NAACP advisory of one taught over nine years by Greer. As the instructor, she drew on Mathieu’s advice to create a “project orientation” rather than a “problem orientation” because student efforts could not realistically solve the major systemic injustices involved. Rather, the intent of the project reflected the approach advanced in Freeman Tilden’s Interpreting Our Heritage, which Greer identifies as “widely influential” in guiding “public historians, park rangers and tour guides.” Greer writes that Tilden sees the purpose of public memory not as instruction or persuasion but instead as a means of “spur[ring] ongoing engagement between the exhibit’s audience and the material being presented” (263).

The students drew on award-winning exhibits for models. From a 2016/2017 exhibit by university history students came the plan of designing freestanding panels that could be transported to multiple venues. From the curator of interpretation of an exhibit at the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures, with which Greer has partnered, students learned the importance of personal stories to generate immediacy (262). Greer details the multitudinous archives the students searched in order to collect “nearly fifty items/artifacts” relevant to “education, injustice, and activism” in Kansas City’s past (263). She notes that students’ interest expanded from attention to national figures usually associated with activism to “local stories” showing how “resistance,” “resilience,” and “creativity” can be used by lesser-known individuals from their own communities (263).

Students determined that Deconstructing the Divide would create separate sections to address “literacy activism, legal activism, and embodied activism” (264). Smaller groups of students worked on each section. Crawford worked with others on the opening panels (268), while Galloway participated in constructing the closing section (273).

Panels on literacy activism featured a Black women’s book club and a student poet at the only high school offering African Americans educational opportunities in 1918 (264). Legal activism encompassed a challenger to segregated graduate studies at the University of Missouri in the 1930s and a teacher who worked with students in their homes rather than at their unsafe school (264). Embodied activism highlighted students who demonstrated during civil unrest following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and Chicano/a students who organized a walkout to underscore the needs of multicultural and multilingual students (265).

Detailing her participation in the creation of the opening panels, Crawford posits that a “sentimental view” of her home city led her to become “perhaps complacent” as she failed to “appreciate the complexity of the history I had inherited” (267). She recounts the impact of images from the 1968 civil unrest, in which students in familiar locations confronted police in gas masks (267-68). She writes that the opening panels were intended to remind viewers of past injustice while pointing toward the activists included in the other panels (270).

Galloway writes of the revisions required to avoid “creat[ing] a false sense of unity among the preceding panels or to oversimplify” Kansas City’s past (273). The group moved from “imperative statements . . . in the second-person singular (you)” to images of a prominent building that they decided presented “too simplistic a story of progress” (273). The panels as finally completed noted “current social justice organizations” and an example of a communal effort that resulted in historical preservation and neighborhood revitalization (274). Galloway recounts responses via social media and in-person conversations that attested to the exhibit’s effects (274).

Both students report finding personal connections to their city’s past and present as well as renewed hope for the future. Citing the many rhetorical skills involved in creating such a complex exhibit, the authors emphasize the importance of public memory work as an act of forward-looking engagement, the goal of which is

not to present a definitive argument about the past, but to provoke and energize ongoing dialogue about what that future might be. (277)


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Wilkinson, Caroline. Collaboration in Dual-Credit Programs. WPA, Spring 2019. Posted 07/14/2019.

Wilkinson, Caroline. “From Dialogue to Collaboration in Dual-Credit Programs.” Journal of the Council of Writing Program Administrators 42.2 (2019): 80-99. Print.

Caroline Wilkinson addresses tensions that arise when universities implement dual-credit courses (credit-bearing college courses taught in a high-school environment). She draws on the experiences of two high-school teachers involved in a dual-credit program at the University of Louisville, a large Midwestern/Southern institution (83).

Wilkinson cites statistics showing that nationally, 1.4 million high-school students take dual-credit courses, with 77% of these courses taught at the high school and 45% of those located at the high school taught by high-school teachers (80). She attributes “a real anxiety” to “[m]any composition educators” with regard to staffing dual-credit courses with secondary teachers (80). Having taught dual-credit courses herself, Wilkinson had “observed the very real differences in the contexts and cultures” that separate high school and college (83). Research indicates that the quality of dual-credit programs varies and that the benefits to students depend on various factors; “nonwhite” and female students seem to gain from the experience (81).

Acknowledging that composition scholarship has begun to consider the roles of the high-school teachers recruited to teach these courses, Wilkinson writes that scholarship specifically dealing with these teachers’ experiences is “limited” (81). Among her goals is to bring teachers’ voices into the discussion.

Students accepted into dual-credit courses at the University of Louisville met a number of criteria, including a 3.0 GPA and minimum entrance scores on standardized tests; they had to be nominated by their English teacher and approved by a counselor (83). “Most” teachers in the program had a Master’s in English or 18 hours of graduate English credit. “Emma” and “Daphne” were the only teachers at their high school to meet these criteria (84).

Instructors also took the university’s “Teaching College Composition” course and to attend the summer orientation. In addition, they taught a standard syllabus and used pedagogical materials, including major assignments, provided by the university (83).

An important question for Wilkinson is “Can dual-credit courses be equivalent without being identical?” (88). She notes scholarship addressing the contextual differences between high school and college. Dual-credit students attend a year-long course with peers they already know rather than a semester-long course requiring them to build community with new acquaintances through the course itself (87-88). Daily class meetings also allow students more contact with instructors (84).

Wilkinson notes ways in which Emma and Daphne’s need to function within the full-time environment of the high-school community contributed to these differences. Differences in academic-year start dates meant that the two high-school teachers could not attend the full summer orientation (83). Similarly, the longer academic year meant that the graduate teaching assistants who attended the practicum course with Daphne and Emma completed the curriculum in less time than they did, a difference that made it hard for Daphne and Emma to make the best use of information covered in the fall semester but applied later in the year (85). The high-school teachers lacked the contact with other instructors teaching the same material and could not fully avail themselves of office hours and other support from the university writing program administrator (86). These teachers found that their workload made it harder for them to give the kinds of individualized responses they felt the college work called for (87). For these reasons, Wilkinson concludes that the courses were not “identical” (88).

However, she argues that they were “equivalent” (88, 94). The high-school course followed the same syllabus and used the same materials as the university-based version. The teachers received the same training as on-campus graduate assistants and “had a supportive WPA” (88). Both teachers and students recognized the unique features the college course offered, such as many useful materials and a more interactive environment (84, 86). Moreover, the high-school students had access to the university library and writing center and met new requirements, such as the use of outside sources, for their assignments (87).

Wilkinson expresses concern that “equivalence” in these respects does not align with scholarship that urges universities and high-schools to see dual-credit programs as a “partnership” (88). Instead, in Wilkinson’s view, the relationship is “unidirectional,” with the university setting the contexts and terms (89).

Thus, despite administrative support, the two teachers felt “separate from” and “different” from the teaching community embodied by the Teaching College Composition course (90). Operating on a different time schedule, which meant separation into a distinct “mentoring group” (90), was one factor in this sense of isolation; another important factor, for Wilkinson, is that the course addressed issues faced by graduate assistants as first-time teachers, while Daphne and Emma had many years of teaching experience behind them and had very different needs (89). Wilkinson calls for a more explicit “bilateral” partnership in which the expertise of the high-school teachers is recognized and drawn on in the design and implementation of a dual-credit course (91).

Wilkinson considers taking the Teaching College Composition course “formal professionalization” into composition studies for the high-school teachers (92). In her view, this professionalization process creates problems for both the teachers and for composition as a field. Because of their inability to develop community within the university program and their earlier professionalization as high-school English teachers focusing on literature rather than writing, the teachers did not see themselves as true college instructors (91). Wilkinson raises concern that positioning high-school teachers as competent to teach college writing may mean that “the long-fought for professionalization of the field is at risk” (93). First-year enrollments that form the staple of many writing programs may also suffer, resulting in fewer composition jobs. Finally, composition scholarship may cease to address first-year writing if it is delegated to the schools (93-94).

Wilkinson addresses remedies for WPAs dealing with dual-credit pressures. Noting that programs vary in the amount of resources they can devote to developing a successful dual-credit partnership (95), she urges that universities designate specific faculty as point-people for such efforts (96). She writes that mentorships can be more accommodating to the teachers’ schedules, but must be paired with coursework that introduces composition theory (93). Mentorships between new dual-credit teachers and more experienced ones can provide a stronger sense of community (96). Importantly, in her view, the teachers themselves can be included more fully in the development and implementation of these programs. Ideally, “dual credit programs provide an access point where high school and college instructors can work to collaborate on writing pedagogy and professionalization” (97).


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Dubisar, Abby M. Mother-Based “Buffer” Rhetorics. CE, Jan. 2018. Posted 02/11/2018.

Dubisar, Abby M. “Mothers Against Gun Violence and the Activist Buffer.” College English 80.3 (2018): 195-217. Print.

Abby M. Dubisar responds to a call to recognize, value, and study “knowledge production by women” (195). She finds that rhetorical studies has not paid adequate attention to such knowledge production, especially that by African American women (195, 211, 213). In order to show how attention to rhetorical work by African American women can illuminate important strategies to serve the needs of communities and causes, Dubisar provides a case study of the group Mothers Against Gun Violence (MAGV) in Syracuse, New York (195-96).

Dubisar’s focus is “mother-based buffer rhetorics” (212). She defines “buffer rhetorics” as “embodied position[s]” that can appeal to wide audiences; as “a networked tactic” that both allows interaction with audiences and serves as a “unifying” force within communities responding to grief; and as “a stance that ranges from presence to direct action, able to be mediated online as well as in person” (196). She finds these rhetorics at work in a number of contexts, “as activists strategize ways to put themselves between public audiences and perpetrators and their victims and mourners” (196).

Dubisar presents the work of mothers of slain gun-violence victims to demonstrate how buffer rhetorics enable activists to lay claim to effective rhetorical identities and keep issues publically visible (211). Dubisar’s project grew from the 2008 Ray Smith Symposium: Feminist Rhetorics for Social Justice, in Syracuse; she took notes on MAGV speakers and went on to investigate media coverage of MAGV (196-97).

The author connects her study of MAGV with other rhetorical scholarship that examines the use of “maternal activism” (197) to further struggles for social justice. “Public mothering” has been studied for its ability to foster identification across racial and contextual boundaries (199). In Tamika Carey’s words, mothering rhetorics are “rhetorics of healing” (qtd. in Dubisar 198) that can appear in public spaces and in social and public media as well as in fiction and nonfiction (198).

Founded in 2005 by Helen Hudson after her stepson’s death by gun violence, MAGV illustrates how, as a buffer rhetoric, the rhetoric of public mothering functions to intervene with the younger audiences most likely to be affected by gun violence at the same time that it empowers activists as “liaisons” between grieving families, affected communities, and institutions like police and hospitals (200). Public mothering assures young audiences that they are cared for and valued (197), while “[i]dentifications in mothering and expressions of love for children, even grown children” draw in “disengaged white audiences” who may tend to blame family dynamics for violence and crime (201). In Dubisar’s view, risks that the use of motherhood as a persuasive strategy will “essentializ[e] mothers as a monolithic group” (198) can be overcome by careful use of the trope.

Noting Jacqueline Jones Royster and Gesa E. Kirsch’s understanding of rhetoric as “embodied social experience” (qtd. in Dubisar 200), Dubisar explores the embodiment inherent in MAGV’s activism. She illustrates this embodiment with the example of vigils that reclaim spaces where violence has occurred, pictures of people holding hands as “physical touches of care,” and an image of Hudson hugging another grieving mother, an action that “protect[s] people from the camera’s gaze and exposure to others” (202).

Dubisar sees such “invitation[s] to grieve” as encouraging more embodied action as community members, especially young people, are moved to speak up when they see signs of imminent violence (202). Members of MAGV also interject their physical presences into events and make themselves visible through speeches and videos. Dubisar provides the example of Lepa Jones, president of MAGV, who was featured in a 2015 news story and video in Syracuse and again in a video interview in 2016 (203). Dubisar argues that Jones is able to translate her presence into an appeal for solidarity, casting community members as “family” who have shared embodied experiences (203-04) and standing in for young people who may be cast as the cause of violence by white audiences (205). These efforts, Dubisar writes, allow MAGV participants to “make a mourning stance an activist role” (204), one that can remain visible beyond specific moments and events (211).

Dubisar further discusses how MAGV action creates networks, both to share comfort and to reach young people “who need support and to hear the message that they are loved and appreciated” (206). This networking extends to public office and to participation in other service organizations such as the Trauma Response Team, which calls on MAGV to step in between the many actors involved in a violent event, like families, hospital personnel, police and sources of financial support (206).

Involvement in these networks as mother-based rhetors generates authority and expertise as well intervention that contrasts with that of officials and social workers (207). Noting that such action cannot completely combat the extant “systemic racism and pro-gun legislation,” Dubisar contends that the group’s rhetorics of care provide “essential” connections among diverse groups who are working to limit gun violence (207).

The work of MAGV, Dubisar states, is also “mediated” in that it expands through media and mediates in that it actively enters spaces where young people are likely to congregate to assure them that they are loved (208). She illustrates the media influence that derives from the group’s mother-based rhetoric with a public-service video narrated by Hudson and other members. This 38-second video, “Dead is Forever,” which was shown widely in the area in venues where young people would see it, spoke directly to youths, urging them to see themselves as the children of mothers who would suffer if they were killed. The public-service announcement, which claimed space between “a police-produced antiviolence PSA and a news report about gun violence,” urges young people “to identify with their moms in a new way” by imagining themselves as capable of “pleas[ing] their mothers and mak[ing] them proud” (210).

Dubisar cites the embodied, networked, and mediated work of maternal spokeswomen like the mothers of Emmett Till, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, and Michael Brown to illustrate specific examples of the “range of strategies African American women invent and adapt, both when asked to respond to violence and to sustain attention to an issue” (213). These strategies, in Dubisar’s view, deserve increased attention from rhetorical studies as forms of knowledge production by women.


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Detweiler et al. Feminist-Sophistic Leadership. CE, May 2017. Posted 05/21/2017.

Detweiler, Jane, Margaret LaWare, and Patti Wojahn. “Academic Leadership and Advocacy: On Not Leaning In.” College English 79.5 (2017): 451-65. Print.

Contributing to a special issue of College English on “English and Leadership Studies,” Jane Detweiler, Margaret LaWare, and Patti Wojahn examine current models of leadership in academia and advocate resisting these models in order to re-envision how leadership can enable a more inclusive, collaborative institutional structure. In particular, they take a “feminist-sophistic” approach to consider how a feminist lens enables critique of current models and points to possible alternatives (460, 463).

They find this feminist approach important because of the degree to which decades of critique have not led to a re-valuation of the kinds of service and relationship-building largely undertaken in the academy by women (454). Re-envisioning what leadership can look like and what it can do differently, they contend, will require attention to “intersectionlity,” which they define, drawing on bell hooks, as “the intersections of gender, race, sexual identity, and class that shape the embodiment and enactment of leadership” (453).

The authors note that scholars in the humanities may be inclined to see the devaluation of women as less egregious than it is in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) areas, but the article presents statistics to support a claim that, in fact, for women, “recruitment in the more advanced ranks in our field” is as problematic as in STEM fields (452). Although humanities faculty may be reassured by the finding from a 2009 MLA study that “women make up 67 percent of associate professors” in English and foreign language departments, as compared to only 42 percent across institutions, women in the humanities account for just “43% of full professors—the rank that is a prerequisite for many leadership positions” (452).

In the authors’ view, current models of leadership do not accord with the realities of women’s positions within academic institutions. According to Detweiler et al., the kinds of contributions made by women within the academy are not seen as “leadership” and do not earn access to “decision-making” processes related to governance (455)). These contributions involve mentoring of students and faculty, running programs, and developing relationships and collaborations across institutions (454-55).

On the whole, the authors contend, the expertise required to perform these important tasks is not recognized, with such vital contributions relegated to “maintenance” rather than “leadership” (455). Women, often non-tenure-track, “are disproportionately pressed into service” (455), where “service” is considered secondary to “the ‘real work’ of research” (457).

In addition to devaluing the essential roles women tend to play within institutions, Detweiler et al. argue, current conceptions of leadership do not mesh with the reality of women’s lives both within the institution and in their roles beyond their careers. They note studies showing that women report more time on service and teaching than men, even though men tend to perceive the time investment in these activities as equal (456). The MLA Commission on the Status of Women in the Profession reports that women far exceed men in the amount of caregiving they perform (457); as a result of such discrepancies, women are “not just less likely to advance to full professor levels but also do so more slowly—advancing, in fact, 24 percent more slowly” (454). In another study, “women with children were 38 percent less likely to procure tenure than were their male counterparts with children” (457).

A feminist response to such conditions, in the authors’ view, involves rejecting the call from writers like Sheryl Sandberg to “lean in” to existing leadership structures that feminist scholars “want neither to enter nor accept” (452). Extant leadership roles focus on individual achievement and on maintaining current exclusionary hierarchies that continue to denigrate much of what women are called on to do as service (459). The authors contend that traditional advice about advancement within institutions is “rhetorically savvy but ethically suspect” (459), urging as it does that one exploit one’s opponents and consider advancement as a competitive victory (459), with leadership “as a birthright or as mastery to be achieved by conquest or coercion” (456). Detweiler et al. argue that simply increasing the numbers of women in advanced positions within departments will not suffice (459); instead, women who achieve these levels in governance structures must act on an “ambivalence” about those structures that fuels change (463).

Such change, the authors urge, should embrace collaboration and inclusion meant to create “well-being for all” (461). They advocate Krista Ratcliffe’s “rhetorical listening” as a means to develop “responsive leadership” that acts on the needs of teachers, students, and the community (456). In their view, such leadership will recognize and reward the skills women bring to academic institutions, such as the ability build relationships across diverse communities and to form coalitions (457). In such an environment, service will no longer be seen as a “necessary evil” but rather understood as vital work that keeps programs and institutions running (456-57).

The authors note the difficulty experienced by members of marginalized populations as they use their “considerable rhetorical skill” in the cause of their communities yet risk “being subsumed into the polity and losing identifications with their own constituencies” (459). This risk associated with “leaning in,” they suggest, is related to a “public turn” in composition; in response, curriculum design can encourage students to see themselves as actors, in the words of Mark Gellis, in “polis-like organizations” so that “the teaching of rhetoric becomes, to an extent, the teaching of leadership” (qtd. in Detweiler et al. (459).

For Detweiler et al., such leadership through teaching meshes with Ernest Boyer’s “scholarship of engagement” in which “applied research, the scholarship of teaching and service in leadership” emphasizes the “integral relations” among these activities (461). Adopting this view of leadership will, the authors contend, advance the goal articulated in the MLA Commission on the Status of Women in the Profession by bringing academic advancement “directly into line with the numerous, essential, and vitalizing activities that sustain day-to-day life in colleges and universities” (qtd. in Detweiler et al. 461).


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Kuebrich, Ben. Community Organizing for Change. CCC, June 2015. Posted 07/02/2015.

Kuebrich, Ben. “‘White Guys Who Send My Uncle to Prison’: Going Public within Asymmetrical Power.” College Composition and Communication 66.4 (2015): 566-90. Print.

Ben Kuebrich writes about the limits of civil rhetoric in the efforts of communities to bring about true social change; he urges compositionists to take a more direct but cautious role in the kind of locally driven community organizing that he believes can address power inequities.

To develop his position, he recounts a case history of efforts in the Near Westside neighborhood in Syracuse to address police behavior. These efforts consisted of a collaboration between Syracuse University and the community, resulting in the creation of the Westside Residents Coalition (WRC) and the Gifford Street Community Press. During Kuebrich’s involvement with the community, the press published I Witness: Perspectives on Policing in the Near Westside, a collection of citizen voices. The activism that led to the book resulted most immediately from the proposed installation of surveillance cameras in the Westside neighborhood without consultation with the residents (571, 588n4). Residents felt that the decision to mount the cameras epitomized the disdain with which the police regarded the neighborhood and served as a call for residents to confront the existing power relations (571). The police responded by agreeing to meet with the WRC in conjunction with the Westside Police Delegation (571). Kuebrich became involved through a graduate course with Steve Parks; he was enlisted to help develop the book, which would make the perspectives of the citizens visible and possibly result in “greater communication and accountability” (572). He collected interviews beginning in 2011 and served as editor until the book’s publication in 2012 (567).

Central to Kuebrich’s concerns is the role that activist composition scholars have taken in promoting effective civic interventions. Drawing on Edward P. J. Corbett’s terms (568), he contrasts calls for rhetoric’s “open hand” as an effective means of influencing power asymmetries with situations in which the “closed fist” has emerged “tactically” (577) as a tool for promoting change. To analyze this distinction, Kuebrich draws on anthropologist James C. Scott’s work on “public” and “hidden transcripts” developed in Domination and the Arts of Resistance (569). The public transcript is the discourse created and “policed” (573) by the elites and the entities in power, generating a “self-portrait of dominant elites as they would have themselves seen” (Scott, qrd. in Kuebrich 569; emphasis original). In contrast, the hidden transcript expresses the actual perceptions and responses of the less powerful, “beyond direct observation by power holders” (Scott, qtd. in Kuebrich 569-70). Kuebrich enlists the work of Parks and Christopher Wilkey to contend that the “notions of civility and propriety” promoted by organizations like the Community Literacy Center (CLC) in Pittsburgh,, designed to move oppressed groups from what Linda Flower calls “a rhetoric of complaint and blame” (qtd. in Kuebrich 576) to a rhetoric more suited to public discourse, fail to empower citizens to make effective use of public channels (575-76).

This is so, Kuebrich argues, because the demands that the hidden transcript be made public by citizens “speaking out” entail serious risks for individual speakers and ultimately are dismissed within the extant power structures (574). The silence of oppressed groups, Kuebrich contends, is not “false consciousness,” in which the oppressed blindly subscribe to the conditions that oppress them, but rather a true critical awareness of the conditions under which they live. In contrast, rhetorical actions that elicit a response to the hidden transcript and gain power are those in which the speakers contribute to a collective voice (572, 574). Civil rhetoric and the “community think-tank” model (576) only earn such a response when they operate hand in hand with collective effort that “presents a credible threat to established power” (575). Kuebrich cites Nancy Welch’s exhortation to study effective social movements to understand why they succeed (569) and advocates assessing rhetorical strategies based on how well they actually produce results (576). Kuebrich’s case study of the WRC and I Witness explores how anger and resentment can be remodeled into effective collective action as the residents of the Near Westside developed strategies for engaging with the police (577). Important to this process, Kuebrich argues, is the progress toward concrete action (578).

Kuebrich explores the relationship between the public and hidden transcripts and their effects on action by analyzing two rhetorical engagements between the Near Westside residents and the police: the release event for the book attended by about a dozen officers and forty residents, and the book itself. The release gathering featured readings from the book, small group discussions over lunch, and a full-group discussion afterward. Kuebrich argues that this event did not become the kind of event at which the hidden transcript took center stage for active, open analysis (583); rather, it revolved around “loose terms like ‘dialogue,’ ‘communication,’ and ‘respect'” (581). The burden for effecting change fell upon the residents rather than on the police, who did not acknowledge the need to correct their own behavior; most issues on the table were the concerns of the police, not of the residents (582). However, Kuebrich writes, the engagement did leave the police “unsettled”: he believes the meeting “pushed the boundaries of public speech . . . without taking too many risks” (583). He argues that in such situations, activists hoping for a more confrontational moment should defer to citizens’ own assessment of the risks and benefits involved in speaking out (579-80).

I Witness, in contrast, makes public the specific concerns and perspectives of the residents in explicit language. Kuebrich illustrates, however, how one resident author acknowledged audience by softening his claims with an added introduction that focused not so much on the validity of “horror stories,” though some were aired, but rather on the importance for police to understand how their actions made people feel (584). Again, the emphasis is on the importance of the book as a collective statement, not as an example of a single heroic individual going public (587). Kuebrich closes with two small incidents where the police modified the public transcript to show deference they might not have shown before the book and the meeting; he argues for the existence of a “slowly shifting dynamic” that disrupts the carefully scripted public transcript that might otherwise pertain (587). Kuebrich urges composition scholars to study such events to better understand how to follow the lead of communities working as collectives to initiate change (587-88).


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Feigenbaum, Paul. Coalition between Math and Rhetoric. CE, Spring 2015. Posted 06/09/15.

Feigenbaum, Paul. “Rhetoric, Mathematics, and the Pedagogies We Want: Empowering Youth Access to Twenty-First Century Literacies.” College English 72.5 (2015): 429-49. Print.

Paul Feigenbaum advocates for the development of a “Rhetoric Project” similar to and in conjunction with the “Algebra Project” created in the 1980s by civil-rights leader Robert Moses and described in Radical Equations, by Moses and Charles Cobb Jr. For Feigenbaum, composition and mathematics can productively partner because both are targets of the ongoing standardization movement, in which the practices of repetitive drill and subsequent high-stakes testing work to diminish the chance of college and career success for less-privileged students. According to Feigenbaum, the Algebra Project seeks to instill a sense of efficacy in underprivileged students by making visible the role of mathematics in everyday activities, making the math knowledge to analyze that role accessible, and showing how mathematical knowledge can strengthen communal struggles for social justice. Feigenbaum draws on Joanna Wolfe’s essay “Rhetorical Numbers: A Case for Quantitative Writing in the Composition Classroom” to further argue that mathematics are used rhetorically in civic life and policy-making and that an understanding of rhetoric can energize students’ ability to think critically about how mathematics are being deployed as well as how to use them to further progressive causes (430). An important focus in both the Algebra Project and Feigenbaum’s proposed Rhetoric Project is the shift from a view of education as a competitive, “market-driven” venue “in which everything depends on individual success and failure” to a view in which individual success and common welfare become interdependent, complementary goals (435).

Feigenbaum recounts the growth of the Algebra Project from a K-8 school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Moses established a program to teach his daughter and her classmates algebra during regular class hours even though the subject was not officially part of the curriculum. The AP grew to a national nonprofit that develops “Math Literacy Workers” who spread enthusiasm for math among younger students. The article provides examples of how the Algebra Project uses “experiential learning” to make math meaningful—for example, by generating equations to denote physical community locations. Similarly, facility with math allowed students in Baltimore to analyze a school district’s budget and exact fairer funding practices (437-38).

In Feigenbaum’s view, there are “clear areas of overlap” between such efforts and what rhetorical education can offer (438). Mathematical knowledge can combine with rhetorical knowledge, for example, to further understanding of how standardized tests are constructed and how they are used as vehicles for ideologically driven policy (438). Further, he argues in support of “logomechanics” (438; emphasis original), a curriculum espoused by Jenny Edbauer Rice that emphasizes multimodal communication in which students become increasingly proficient at managing and even designing “the means of production” (438) in order to exploit the burgeoning power of new rhetorical forms. Students with such facility, Rice contends, can take on the role of “potential inventors of actions and ideas, rather than the invented products” (Rice, qtd. in Feigenbaum 439; emphasis original). Feigenbaum compares logomechanics to a University of Illinois project, Writing with Video, that gives students the tools to produce multimodal messages. These expanded skills, which Feigenbaum argues would be enhanced by a coalition between mathematics curriculum and rhetorical education, encourage student collaboration as students and teachers jointly become both experts and learners. For advocates of these projects, students not only learn to see video and film as rhetorical; they also acquire the capabilities that allow them to become more effective rhetors in the multimodal public sphere (439-40).

Feigenbaum’s discussion of a Rhetoric Project pilot site in an underserved community points to the promise he sees in the venture and the challenges to be addressed. The project paired Florida International University graduate students who wanted to extend their learning in Feigenbaum’s “Community Writing” course with ongoing AP activities in Miami-Dade County public schools. Transportation issues required the Project to function as an extracurricular activity rather than as part of the regular class day; the need for participating students to remain after school required revision of the intended rhetorical curriculum from one in which theoretical concepts such as ethos, kairos, and exigency could be explicitly foregrounded into a curriculum of “theory-through-play” activities that would energize students after their long day (442). An example of “theory-through-play” is a board game modeled on an AP game, Flagways, designed by Moses. The AP game allows students to apply mathematical concepts to sports to engage students in a “culture of mathematical literacy” (Moses and Cobb, qtd. in Feigenbaum 443). The RP game, Circumstances: The Game of Rhetorical Situations, was invented by Feigenbaum and graduate-student collaborators; players used avatars to progress through school to career and beyond. Feigenbaum reports that the high-school participants enjoyed the game, although some planned components had to be curtailed for lack of time.

Funding and coordination problems deferred continuation of the pilot, but Feigenbaum hopes to re-establish it through a writing studies master’s degree at FIU, which will attract public-school language arts teachers. Feigenbaum hopes these teachers will strengthen the presence of the AP/RP collaboration across more area educational settings (445).

Efforts like the RP, Feigenbaum emphasizes, may not lead to a formal research agenda, but he endorses the view of Jeffrey Grabill that establishing relationships within communities in and of itself is a vital form of research, essential to the “community building” needed to empower local communities to resist the negative effects of standardization (444). Feigenbaum proposes that advocates for activities like the RP take seriously the need within public schools for tools to raise standardized test scores; he suggests that research projects growing out of the RP could address the ways in which the Project and other pedagogical endeavors like it can contribute to recognized measures of student success like high-school completion and college attendance (444). Ultimately, Feigenbaum sees in the Rhetoric Project an answer to calls from scholars like David Fleming and Wayne Booth for expanded rhetorical education, both in undergraduate and public school settings. He envisions the joint community-serving efforts of the Rhetoric and Algebra projects as enhancing “young people’s power to stand up for their interests against the harms wrought by standardization” (445).