Dangerous Writing: Understanding the Political Economy of Composition

By Tony Scott | Go to book overview

1
PROFESSIONALS AND BUREAUCRATS

The state didn 't send out the secret police to transform higher education
into an entrepreneurial sector; we have done that all by ourselves by tak-
ing on the ethic of managerialism as the practice of institutional life.

Stuart Hall

I recently became the head of a first-year writing program that is in a situation that I very deliberately call a “crisis.” The character of this crisis, however, is all too familiar to many who have done program administration work at large, public, “second-tier” institutions. Prior to my becoming director, there was little general knowledge among tenure-track faculty of what goes on in the first-year writing program—who is teaching what under what conditions. I consider promoting awareness of the terms of labor in the writing program a fundamental part of my job as head of the program, and an essential piece of any strategy of transformation. Starting from the premise that what we do is powerfully shaped by how we do it, I am trying to move the program away from a rather deeply entrenched “new formalism” and toward a more social approach to writing. I am also trying to dramatically curtail the program's use of part-time teachers. These two factors—pedagogical philosophy and terms of work—are connected within a broader economic and institutional dynamic. The shift in teaching philosophy cannot (and should not) be enacted without a concurrent shift in the terms of labor for teachers in the program.

My university is in a high-growth urban region, and its enrollment grows steadily year by year. The university projects continued steady annual growth over at least the next decade. The writing requirement is currently two sections—typically taken in fall and spring of the first year. To accommodate steady annual growth in enrollment, the writing program has expanded by an average of ten sections per year over the past ten years. During the year in which I began directing the program, it staffed and fully enrolled almost three hundred sections.

This rapid annual expansion in sections has been covered entirely by contingent teachers. This year, over 50 percent of our first-year

-36-

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Dangerous Writing: Understanding the Political Economy of Composition
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction - Embodying the Social in Writing Education 1
  • 1: Professionals and Bureaucrats 36
  • 2: Writing the Program - The Genre Function of the Writing Textbook 60
  • 3: How “social” Is Social Class Identification? 108
  • 4: Students Working 131
  • 5: Writing Dangerously 180
  • Appendix A - Initial Questions 191
  • Appendix B - Code List 192
  • References 193
  • Index 200
  • About the Author 203
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