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Nov 25, The Future of Basic Writing, a conversation with Ira Shor and Rebecca Mlynarczyk

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    Andrew Lucchesi

    Dear friends and colleagues,

    The Graduate Center Composition and Rhetoric Community is very excited to invite you to a conversation about the future of Basic Writing between Ira Shor and Rebecca Mlynarczyk– on Monday November 25th from 6:30 to 8:30pm at the GC, Room 5409. Ira and Rebecca will discuss a list of questions which have been submitted by basic writing scholars all across the country. (Thank you all!) The questions are set out below. If all goes well, we’ll have soft drinks and a hummus platter.

    This event follows our Writing Across CUNY visit to Bronx Community College last Tuesday. Thank you to Melissa Coss for hosting us at the beautiful Bronx campus with its new library and Writing Center, and for sharing with us some of the wonderful ways BCC faculty are teaching and supporting their large, diverse student body.

    –Sean Molloy and Andrew Lucchesi

    Questions For Ira and Rebecca

    1. Growing BW?

    “How can we grow the field of scholars of basic writing, especially as basic writing programs wane, disappear, alter, or morph into other programs?” — Hope Parisi, Kingborough Community College. (Also raised by Cheryl Smith, Baruch College in the context of connecting to other “robust areas of inquiry in other fields”.)

    Background: “How can we collaboratively sharpen our scholarly acumen in the interest of addressing the struggles of freshman-year level, or pre-freshman, college writers, to also draw a larger circle of new basic writing scholars among comp/rhet scholars?” (Hope).

    2. Reshaping BW?

    How can basic writing programs be developed to oppose rather than reify socioeconomic discrimination? — Bill Macauley, University of Nevada-Reno (Also raised by Steve Robinson in the context of “mainstreaming” and by Susan Naomi Bernstein, Arizona State University, in the context of “systemic inequalities” and student activism.)

    Background: “Lately, I have been reading basic writing literature that focuses on how basic writers are segregated and isolated on our campuses and in our curricula. By extension, in these arguments, basic writers are necessarily set up for either limited success of failure. For me, that resonated strongly with Ira’s book, Culture Wars: School and Society in the Conservative Restoration, where he makes the argument that the working-class and poor were misled to believe that a two-year degree is equivalent to a four-year degree, in some ways by exploiting both their inexperience with higher education and their cultural systems of valuation ($ for education has to equal a good job)” (Bill).

    Background: “what is the current state of the “mainstreaming” debate of the late 1990s? What has and hasn’t occurred given the predictions and arguments that were flying back and forth in JBW and other places at the time? (specifically, you might ask Ira to revisit/reflect upon his ideas from “Our Apartheid,” which was a major point of discussion when it was published)” (Steve).

    Background: “Recent and ongoing student activism at CUNY (especially at City College and Medgar Evers) has addressed the significance of including students and faculty in campus-wide decision making, especially in times of economic austerity” (Susan).

    3. CUNY and BW?

    “Forty years after Open Admissions and Shaughnessy, what is CUNY’s role in the identity of BW as a field?” –Cheryl Smith, Baruch College.

    4. Multilingual Writers and BW?

    “[What is] the importance of integrating multilingual writers and writing into a framework for understanding basic writing theories/
    pedagogies/administrative practices[?]”– Gail Shuck, Boise State University (Seconded by Galen Leonhardy, Black Hawk College. Also
    raised by Cheryl Smith in the context of “translingualism.”)

    5. Technology and BW?

    “What is the role of technology in BW and the future of teaching BW?” – J. Elizabeth Clark, LaGuardia Community College. (Also raised
    by Cheryl Smith in the context of connecting to digital humanities.)

    Background: “What do you think of the move to adaptive, modular approaches to grammar & writing instruction popularized by textbook
    companies? What effect do you think these will have on continued moves/attacks on BW in the college curriculum?” (Liz).

    6. Private Funding and BW?

    “What impact do you see private foundations having on BW through national initiatives such as Achieving the Dream (AtD), Completion By Design, and similar initiatives? How has private giving by Lumina, Bill & Melinda Gates, etc. impacted BW in positive and negative ways?” — Steve Robinson, University of Michigan-Flint
    (Seconded by Elizabeth Modarelli, Stark State College.)

    7. Accelerated Learning Programs and BW?

    “[What] is the future of basic writing within the ALP model and of BW as a model of excellent, engaged teaching generally for FYW?” — Karen S. Uehling, Boise State University

    As ALP becomes a more popular model, shouldn’t we keep some full Dev. Ed. sections for students with more profound instructional needs? — Kathleen Devore, Minneapolis Community and Technical College (Seconded by Karen Uehling and Liz Clark)

    “Background: “[M]any states, like my own, have or are moving to an ALP type model of teaching first year writing, with BW a special course attached to ENGL 101; this BW course serves a smaller group of students and teaching is directly connected to the work of 101—the ALP model. I believe in this approach because students move faster toward their educational goals, do not go so far into debt, and are less likely to have their ambitions “cooled out,” to use Burton Clark’s term. Yet it seems to me that to make this approach work, the skills and abilities of basic writing specialists are crucial. So how do we connect BW to FYW? In some ways, BW instructors are leaders in effective teaching and should be bringing what they know to bear in 101 and to colleagues without basic writing experience. I look forward to hearing what happens at the discussion.” (Karen)
    Background: “Accelerated pedagogies are meeting needs for highly motivated BW students, [but] Acceleration also looks like the way to end Dev. Ed. that so many administrators and legislators have been pining for, which makes many BW instructors piloting ALP in our home sites nervous. Many of us want to keep some full [Dev. Ed.] sections to address BW students with more profound instructional needs but fear admin may use ALP to end BW/[Dev. Ed.]” (Kathleen).

    Background: “As more campuses move BW to adult and continuing ed or to blended models like ALP, is there any role for BW in the traditional composition curriculum? As a credit-bearing course? Or have we lost ground for that model completely?” (Liz).

    Background: “I am also interested in Kathleen’s question about the future of BW re: students who would originally have enrolled in a basic writing course two levels below 101” (Karen).

    8. Collaborating and Shaping Policy in BW?

    “[How might] CBW and the regional Two-Year College English Associations (TYCAs)… collaborate, particularly around policy issues[?] — Christie Toth, University of Michigan (Seconded by Liz Clark, with reference to CBW, TYCA, WPA and CCCC.)

    “What are the possibilities for coming up with a national statement on outcomes for BW like we have for First Year Comp?”— Liz Clark

    Background: “I know that early conversations on this topic have been taking place at a lot of the TYCA conferences over the last few months” (Christie).

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