In composition and rhetoric, the scholarship and accompanying textbooks have developed and improved over the years, quite in advance of any putative tests in critical thinking (CLA), composition, design, or rhetoric. Compare Downs and Wardle’s Writing about Writing or Palmquist’s Joining the Conversation with traditional modes textbooks that are still with us. There have been advances in understanding of transfer learning, academic “mutt genres,” Genre Theory, Activity Theory, and the institutional place of comp-rhet outside the orbit of English Lit, which I think drives someone like Elizabeth Wardle to talk about re-orienting comp-rhet as an introduction to Writing Studies, rather than have it be a quixotic course on remediating all linguistic surface errors and creating disciplined critical readers with careful professional academic standards in sixteen weeks.
What keeps the old textbook approaches in circulation? 1) There are certainly some instructors whose professional opinion is that these approaches serve their purpose (there is nothing if not a diversity of approaches to writing pedagogy). 2) Textbook publishers keep producing what textbook committees want. 3) A majority contingent labor force doesn’t get involved in textbook selection, isn’t paid to develop opinions on the matter, and receives little or no professional development to pursue an investigation of the scholarship wherein they might have time in between shuttling from campus A parking lot to campus B parking lot to develop a variety of interesting and substantial opinions about writing studies, its research areas and pedagogy. 4) That leaves a department of full-time faculty, reduced in number, but still with full-time academic and institutional obligations, to keep up with the scholarship and available approaches, and to do that independent of the tender mercies of the textbook publishers who are eager to offer their opinions about the right textbooks for that college or university’s local conditions. 5) In some, probably suspect institutions, administrators, or even faculty outside the discipline, who may have little actual familiarity with the scholarship, but with full power to decide what gets taught and how, might take upon themselves some sort of say in the matter. These factors all give weight to people’s received initial graduate training and perceptions about writing that may be decades old in terms of ever having any familiarity with issues in writing studies.
The miracle is that any innovative pedagogy and textbooks informed by current research get out in front of the institutional and economic inertia.
That is a nice comment (http://chronicle.com/article/A-Rescue-Plan-for-College/47452/). I thought I had exorcised this 2009 anti-academic demon in comment 19. The irony of Michael Prince’s pitch is that I woke up to learning as a freshman via the Bartholomae and Petrosky approach he denigrates and definitely not from worksheets or grammar skill and drill, or from the primitive and limited ideas about writing that brushed me in other disciplines. Prince wants some kind of Writing Across the Disciplines, but my English classes had much more sophisticated and self-conscious ideas about writing than anything I found in my biology, math, political science, or history classes.
We’ve got much of Michael Prince’s same sort of put-outness very recently from Jeffrey Zorn, whose essay against the field of rhetoric and composition was posted on the National Association of Scholars website a few weeks ago. Maybe you saw my tweet:
“English Compositionism as Fraud and Failure” | Jeffrey Zorn’s stimulating, frustrating misplaced jeremiad: ow.ly/ouFjV
The waves of reaction on the Wirting Program Administrator-List were interesting: outrage against this conservative reactionary Classics professor, mellowing to the recognition that this is how the public sees us to we need to write pieces that educate people like Zorn about the richness of the field. Much like Prince’s simple distrust of teaching rhetorical analysis, Zorn sees no value in Sondra Perl’s work, yet her close observational studies of basic writers in college have been huge in the writing process movement. So I don’t know if Zorn believes students should draft and revise or reflect on their writing processes or engage in peer editing, or if he believes these things and uses them but doesn’t know why they are such standard pedagogical moves in the field.
The HEOA recognizes right off how making complete textbook information available to students treads close to the terrain of academic freedom, making that an academic department’s likeliest first line of discussion with any administration interested in being sure that the law is well followed. As far as I can tell, the spirit (and the letter) of the law merely require that students get timely and full disclosure on textbook content and availability. There’s no requirement that faculty have to compromise their best pedagogical judgment about how and what to teach in their academic courses. In fact, far from mandating any uniformity of approach in a given discipline, the law is sensitive to academic quality, freedom, and faculty judgment while making textbook content and availability as transparent as possible for students. I think we already, as a department, are in compliance with the law. Our textbook orders are typically submitted well in advance of any given semester those textbooks are required for classes. Note too, in the last sentence quoted below, that this section of the HEOA will not be enforced but merely “monitored” for the time being.
HEOA section 112 HEA section 133
Effective date: July 1, 2010
The HEOA supports the academic freedom of faculty to select high quality course
materials for their students while imposing several new provisions to ensure that students
have timely access to affordable course materials at postsecondary institutions receiving
Federal financial assistance. These provisions support that effort and include the
• When textbook publishers provide information on a college textbook or supplemental
material to faculty in charge of selecting course materials at postsecondary
institutions, that information must be in writing (including electronic communication)
and must include
– the price of the textbook;
– the copyright dates of the three previous editions (if any);
– a description of substantial content revisions;
– whether the textbook is available in other formats and if so, the price to the
institution and to the general public;
– the separate prices of textbooks unbundled from supplemental material; and
– to the maximum extent possible, the same information for custom textbooks.
• To the maximum extent practicable, an institution must include on its Internet course
schedule for required and recommended textbooks and supplemental material
– the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) and retail price;
– if the ISBN is not available, the author, title, publisher, and copyright date; or
– if such disclosure is not practicable, the designation “To Be Determined.”
If applicable, the institution must include on its written course schedule a reference to
the textbook information available on its Internet schedule and the Internet address
for that schedule.
• A postsecondary institution must provide the following information to its college
bookstores upon request by such college bookstore:
– the institution’s course schedule for the subsequent academic period; and
– for each course or class offered, the information it must include on its Internet
course schedule for required and recommended textbooks and supplemental
material, the number of students enrolled, and the maximum student enrollment.
• Institutions disclosing the information they must include on their Internet course
schedules for required and recommended textbooks and supplemental material are
encouraged to provide information on
– renting textbooks;
– purchasing used textbooks;
– textbook buy-back programs; and
– alternative content delivery programs.
The Secretary is prohibited from regulating on this section of the HEA, but will monitor
institutions and review student complaints relating to these provisions.