Appendix B

What Postmodern Professors Say

All teaching supposes ideology; there is simply no value-free pedagogy. For these reasons, my paradigm of composition is changing to one of critical literacy, a literacy of political consciousness and social action.*

Teachers need to recognize that methodology alone will not ensure radical visions of the world. An appropriate course content is necessary as well. . . . The teacher must recognize that he or she must influence (perhaps manipulate is the more accurate word) students’ values through charisma or power—he or she must accept his role as manipulator. There it is of course reasonable to try to inculcate into our students the conviction that the dominant order [of American society] is repressive.**

—*James Laditka. “Semiology, Ideology, Praxis: Responsible Authority in the Composition Classroom.” Journal of Advanced Composition. Fall 1990. (361)

—**Charles Paine. “Relativism, Radical Pedagogy, and the Ideology of Paralysis.” College English. October 1989. (563-64)

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Science Studies 432. Science and Parascience. The goal of this course is to examine open-mindedly several “alternate visions” of the nature and origin of human life in light of the attitudes and objectives associated with science. Topics examined: astrology, future-prediction, “harmonies” between entities, ESP, telepathy, the aura, PK, UFO’s, extraterrestrial life, ancient astronauts, and others.

—Catalog description of a course offered at Western Michigan University, 1993-1995. (149)

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Most writing instructors who teach cultural criticism have been taught how to teach writing and examine areas, including the cultural text, critically. A person educated in Marxist theory would likely examine culture through a Marxist perspective. My dissertation is on social constructionism, and I examine society by using elements of social-constructionist thought as heuristics. . . . Many who engage in cultural criticism have been trained to closely examine texts from a theoretical perspective—it is a reasonable leap to examining culture from a theoretical perspective.

—William J. Rouster, Wayne State University. “Reply to Maxine Hairston.” College Composition and Communication. May 1993. (253)

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Women’s Studies 496. Senior Seminar in Women’s Studies. [This course is] a multi-disciplinary, capstone course in Women’s Studies integrating various approaches to feminist theory, methodology, and research. Through this course diverse women’s experiences will be examined.

—Catalog description of a course offered at Central Michigan University, 1993-1995. (82)

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

As every graduate student knows, only a fool would try to think or bear witness to events objectively any more, and only an intellectual crook would claim to have done so. . . . Writers . . . . [should] make themselves their main subject matter, since one’s own self is the only subject one can really know.*

We know now that knowledge is always “biased,” and that the mask of objectivity hides every form of prejudice. The supposedly “disinterested” scholars of the 50’s . . . were in the thrall of state power, whether they knew it or not. They were protecting their own class interests, distorting history for unacknowledged ends, teaching literature in ways that suited their hidden agendas. In short, they wanted to preserve the elitist culture in which they had grown comfortable.**

—*Tracy Kidder, from her introduction to Best American Essays 1994 (cited in Academic Questions, Spring 1995 [48])

—**Professor Jay Parini, Middlebury College (cited in Academic Questions, Spring 1993 [77])

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

We have tremendous power, as teachers, to influence the direction in which this country will move as we approach the twenty-first century. White students need an inclusive curriculum and “oppositional” pedagogy as much as “ethnic” students do. We must not lose sight of the ultimate purpose of “revolutionary” pedagogies: educating students who will work to make this planet a better place to live.

—Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Spelman College (cited in Academic Questions, Spring 1993 [76]).

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

The attacks on the humanities, and in particular on the teaching of culture, literature, and language, that have been launched over this past year have been frightening. . . . Equally appalling for me have been the attacks on our profession by our own colleagues. These relentless attacks on the humanities in general and on the MLA in particular have given comfort to those who desire to downsize and eventually bury our entire system of higher education. Scholars have attacked other scholars as the embodiment of the beast.

—Sander Gilman, President of the Modern Language Association 1995-96. in Publications of the Modern Language Association. May 1996. (391)

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

American Culture 410. Women in Prison: Gender and Crime Among Blacks and Latinas. The papers will be an exploration of life of women in prison. Interviews will be scheduled at the prison. Students will explore a different methodology. This approach for writing papers will be a Human Science perspective. It is a way of becoming more aware of the world. It is the study of everyday experiences of human beings as they participate in their existence. In this approach, abstract categories and scientific constructs of our world are rooted in everyday experiences.

—Description of a University of Michigan course taken from Comedy and Tragedy 1996-1997, a survey compiled by Young America’s Foundation.

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

English Language and Literature 417. Weird Science: Warped Images in the 19th and 20th Centuries. This course asks students to analyze some of the ways in which American writers have explored “weird science” to make points about their society and times. From one angle, then, it’s a course on science fiction, from another it’s an examination of a special form of cultural critique. Topics to be explored include spiritualism, mediums, trances, and utopian visions, but also dystopias, technology, and the uncanny world of Edgar Allan Poe. My interests will be in gender images, settled and unsettling; and the ways in which “weird science” lends itself to social commentary, though not on every topic imaginable.

—Description of a University of Michigan course taken from Comedy and Tragedy 1996-1997, a survey compiled by Young America’s Foundation.

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

The orientation along the axis of class privilege is made increasingly systematic by the application of related discursive constraints. Primary interfaces, for example, also generally serve to reproduce the privileged position of standard English as the language of choice or default, and, in this way, contribute to the tendency to ignore, or even erase, the cultures of non-English language background speakers in this country.*

When teaching first-year writing classes, I usually introduce the multicultural approach to student writing style around the mid-point of the term, when I feel that students are beginning to apply to their actual practices a view of writing as a process of re-seeing.**

—*Cynthia L. Selfe and Richard J. Selfe. “The Politics of the Interface: Power and Its Exercise in Electronic Contact Zones.” College Composition and Communication. December 1994. (488)

—**Min-Zhan Lu. “Professing Multiculturalism: The Politics of Style in the Contact Zone.” College Composition and Communication. December 1994. (449)

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

The latter part of the twentieth century has seen an alarming rise of individual acts of hate-violence. While organized hate groups do advocate and promulgate violence, much, if not most, hate-violence is not the work of people associated with organized hate-groups. Singling out individuals for apparently random attack because of their sex, skin color, ethnicity, religion, presumed or known affectational identification is a pattern of both historical and contemporary significance [in the United States]. . . .

While no national data on the incidence of racial, ethnic, anti-gay and lesbian and sexual violence exists, there is a remarkable and generally unchallenged consensus that hate-violence is not only extensive but that it may well be increasing in incidence and brutality.

—Carole Sheffield. “Hate Violence.” In Paula S. Rothenberg (editor). Race, Class, and Gender: An Integrated Study. New York: St. Martins Press. 1995. (433-34) [Widely used in a variety of courses in the state universities of Michigan.]

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

The social transformation of female and male physiology into a condition of inequality is well illustrated by the bathroom problem. Most buildings that have gender-segregated bathrooms have an equal number for women and for men. Where there are crowds, there are always long lines in front of women’s bathrooms but rarely in front of men’s bathrooms. Thus, although an equal number of bathrooms seems fair, equity would mean more women’s bathrooms or allowing women to use men’s bathrooms for a certain amount of time.

The bathroom problem is the outcome of the way gendered bodies are differentially evaluated in Western cultures. . . .

—Judith Lorber. “The Social Construction of Gender.” In Paula S. Rothenberg. Race, Class, and Gender: An Integrated Study. (41)

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

All pedagogic action . . . is, objectively, symbolic violence insofar as it is the imposition of a cultural arbitrary by an arbitrary power . . . [Bourgeois oppression] manifests itself in the tendency to move from particular case to particular case, from illustration to parable, or to shun the bombast of fine words and the turgidity of grand emotions, through banter, rudeness and ribaldry, manners of being and doing characteristic of the severance between objective denotation and subjective connotation.

—Pierre Bourdieu and Jean-Claude Passeron. Reproduction in Education and Society. (199) [Influential source of postmodern thinking in education]

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

The postmodern quest for multiculturalism in recanonization has brought with it the problem of teachers choosing to speak for writers, texts, and students who are—in opposition to the teacher as a raced, classed, and gendered self—Others [sic.]. This opens up the danger that, in making the choice to represent minority literatures, members of the hegemonic order may be perceived as appropriating, rather than representing, those works.

Moreover, the same problematic exists in composition courses where hegemony dictates the voices of minority students and their writings, and must judge the students’ work as valid or flawed. Yet if the teacher, lacking the experience which minority students bring to bear on their discourse, cannot truly speak from that experience as a common ground with the writer, can s/he speak for the writer and the work?

This paper will provide an overview of the current heated debates taking place in the language field over this issue, and provide an outline for a course of ethical self-evaluation that teachers must at all times undergo if they are to avoid continued oppression and appropriation of students and their discourses. . . . We will build upon Peter McLaren’s theory of “enfleshment” and argue for constant awareness of the cultural and moral dangers inherent in postmodernism’s pedagogical freedom.

—Christy Rioshi Minadeo and Larry Juchartz (Departments of English and American Studies, Michigan State University). Abstract of their paper “The Rhetoric of Enfleshment: Teachers as Constructed Selves Engaged in the Discourse of Others.” Michigan Academician. Vol. XXVII, No. 3. May 1995. (362)

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

[Teachers must assist students] to engage in a rhetorical process that can collectively generate [the] knowledge and beliefs [that will] displace the repressive ideologies an unjust social order would prescribe. . . . We must be forthright in avowing the ideologies that motivate our teaching and research. [If] a teacher tells his students he is Marxist but disavows any intention of persuading them to his point of view . . . he might [instead] openly state that [his] course aims to promote values of sexual equality and left-oriented labor-relations and that [his] course will challenge students’ values insofar as they conflict with these aims. [Teachers] should openly exert their authority [and] try to persuade students to agree with their values. . . .

—Patricia Bizzell. “Beyond Anti-Foundationalism to Rhetorical Authenticity: Problems in Defining ‘Cultural Literacy.’” College English. No. 52. (661)

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

If we can convince our students that spelling, punctuation, and usage are less important than content, we have removed a major obstacle in their developing the ability to write.

[Historically,] people from different language and ethnic backgrounds were denied social privileges, legal rights, and economic opportunity, and their inability to manipulate the dialect used by the privileged group was used as an excuse for this denial. . . . With only slight modifications, many of our “rules,” much of the “grammar” we still teach, reflects that history. . . .

—Statement from materials for Central Michigan University’s course English 519, Teaching Composition. [Original source not identified by the instructor-compiler.]

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

When social and economic changes increased social mobility, the members of the “rising middle class,” recently liberated and therefore immediately threatened by the lower class, demanded books of rules telling them how to act in ways that would not betray their background and would solidly establish them in their newly acquired social group. Rules regulating social behavior were compiled in books of etiquette; rules regulating linguistic behavior were compiled in dictionaries and grammar books. Traditional grammar books were unapologetically designed to instill linguistic habits . . . intended to separate those who had “made it” from those who had not, the powerful from the poor.

—Statement from materials for Central Michigan University’s course English 519, Teaching Composition. [Original source not identified by the instructor-compiler.]

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Instructors [of CMU’s Freshman Composition course] should use effective means in dealing with errors of usage and mechanics in student papers. The most convincing research on this subject suggests that time spent addressing the entire class on matters of grammatical terminology and concepts is largely wasted. Instructors are encouraged to deal with student errors on an individual basis, identifying errors for students, keeping records on student progress . . . and using class time for peer editing and proofreading.*

Grammar is prejudicial, oppressive, and elitist.**

—*Master Syllabus for English 101 at Central Michigan University. 1994.

—**From a lecture delivered by a senior writing specialist, Department of English Language and Literature, CMU (from notes taken by a student). 1994.

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

We affirm the students’ right to their own patterns and varieties of language—the dialects of their nurture or whatever dialects in which they find their own identity and style. Language scholars long ago denied that the myth of a standard American dialect has any validity. The claim that any one dialect is unacceptable amounts to an attempt of one social group to exert its dominance over another. Such a claim leads to false advice for speakers and writers, and immoral advice for humans. . . . We affirm strongly that teachers must have the experiences and training that will enable them to respect diversity and uphold the right of students to their own language.

—Resolution of the Executive Committee of the Conference on College Composition and Communication, 1972. In College Composition and Communication. October 1972. (325)