Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Resolution?

I normally don't make new years' resolutions so I don't feel guilty if I don't keep them. But after this week's events, maybe I should make this one: Not to keep dirty little secrets from family.

A couple of days ago, I was boasting to my dad about the six pack I was forming on my tummy (if I'd made a new year's resolution last year if would have been to work out daily, a resolution that I've faithfully kept!) when he noticed a piercing hole I had in my belly button. I lifted my shirt without thinking because the hole didn't have a ring in it, and with his poor eye sight, I didn't think he'd notice. But he did--oops! He exclaimed, "You've had your belly button pierced! I'm telling Willetta [my mother]!" Little did he know, I'd gotten the piercing over seven years ago, and my mom already knew, but warned me not to tell Pops. I vowed that I'd tell him when I moved away from home or when I'd gotten married, but that happened over five and a half years ago. Needless to say, he was the last one among friends and family to know about it. But hey, kids do stupid stuff when they're 18 or 19. That was my rebellious moment. I still think I turned out okay.

Well, now he knows. Hopefully I'll do better with dirty little secrets in 2009

Friday, December 26, 2008

OSF: Partyin'

One of my favorite party anthems was Zhane's "Hey Mister DJ". I was in 6th grade when this one came out, but remember folks flashin' back and kickin' it to it when I was in college.

Friday, December 19, 2008

OSF Christmas Songs

"This Christmas" by Donny Hathaway. I really hate when people try to cover this song. People need to stop trying to sing this song! :-)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Top 10 Things I Enjoy about School Holiday Breaks

10) Not having to go in to campus

9) Working whenever I feel like it without feeling guilty

8) Having the time to actually watch TV

7) Going to bed early since I'm working less

6) Waking up when I get ready to

5) Web surfing without guilt

4) Holiday baking for a spouse and family who appreciate the cooking

3) Having dad flip the bill for extra groceries I sneak into his cart.

2) Having my mom cook my favorites for me (as opposed to me cooking the meals myself)


1) Being home with mom, dad, and the rest of my family.

Friday, December 12, 2008

OSF: Bands

Remember Jodeci? Whatever happened to them?

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Enough said. Too exhausted to reflect on the grueling dissertation prospectus process now...

Paying for American Accents

I stumbled upon this article from the Washington Post while reading my morning news. Basically, it talks about how Dell will guarantee that the person who answers your customer service call will speak "American" if you're willing to pay $12.95/month or $99/year. It also guarantees that your call wait will be roughly two minutes less if you pay (so much for ending white privilege).

I do understand the difficulties associated with hearing "foreign" accents on customer service lines and have experienced my fair share of misunderstandings; however, I still think this idea is kinda absurd. It may take longer, but if you listen closely enough, I think you will be able to understand the speaker without diverting to any forms of linguistic prejudice if you really want to. It might be inconvenient and frustrating, but many issues of comprehension can be resolved if you really really need are determined and need the help.

I also think that such an issue can potentially pave the way for additional types of linguistic prejudices associated with "American" speakers in the United States. Some customers may eventually complain that they can't understand Ebonics speakers, Appalachian English speakers, those with New York accents, Italian accents, etc. even when the speaker can be understood. This whole Dell biz makes me wonder if there's really an issue with comprehension, or is it the prejudices that are associated with particular accents and speakers that is the real problem.

Not to mention the fact that no one's talking about the fact that American speakers of many different dialects often can't understand each other when traveling from one region to another. So this makes me ask: What type of "American" speaker does the customer get to talk to? One with a Midwestern Accent? Southern? Northeastern? California Valley? Is this "American" speaker White? Black? Native American? Latino? Asian American? Given the linguistic and racial prejudices associated with most ethnic minority groups, it would seem to me the "American" customer service rep would be code for a White speaker with a bland accent. Isn't that racial discrimination?

Like I said, while language barriers do often raise questions of comprehension, I am still left to wonder to what extent the problem is comprehension or just linguistic/racial prejudice.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

My Dance Exercise DVD Addiction

I don't know why, but I'm addicted to cardio dance dvds even though I cannot dance at all! I have perchased probably a good $100 (at roughly $10/dvd) on cardio dance workouts. I've tried Denise Austin's, The firm: Cardio Dance, 10 Minute Solutions Latin Dance, 10 Min. Solutions Dance off Fat Fast, Dancing With the Stars, Dancing With the Stars Latin, etc., etc., and even have more pre-ordered on the way. No matter how hard I try, though, I am still awful, even though I have a dancer's build (all that build gone to waste). When I tell friends and colleagues how awful I am, they can't believe it! And I know what they're probably thinking: How you gon' be black and not have no rhythm? Well I don't.

And if you're still not convinced, I have the testimonies of my mom, sis, dad, and the beloved spouse to attest to my two left feet (although the spouse said I didn't look bad doing the Latin salsa and cautioned me to stay AWAY from hip hop.) Despite try after try showing my family the new steps I learned, all I get is hysterical laughter. They also recommend that I do not dance in public (I wish the parents of the kids who try out for American Idol when they suck would heed the advice like that given by my family to spare humiliation, but I digress.)

Needless to say, isn't it bizzare to have a hobby, do it every day, and be awful at it?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Substantiating the Unsubstantiated

I got a round of final stage (I think--that's what he/she said) recommedations back on a manuscript from an editor before the revised version is resubmitted for another external review. (He/she is an EXTREMELY helpful editor, BTW.) The final revisions concerned substantiating a couple unsubstantiated claims in the intro paragraphs of the manuscript. As I began looking for sources to offer as textual evidence, I found myself reverting back to a couple of practices that us writing teachers often tell our students NOT to do:

  1. Sprinkle "salt and pepper" quotes throughout the draft to sound more academic: Yeah, I found myself trying to find that one quote to insert with the claim and be done with it!
  2. Only find quotes that seem to justify your stance without looking at the overall context of the argument/text. Claims needed to be supported and I needed to find the evidence. Why not use it?
In case your asking, of course I went back through the works to look at the context before finalizing the revisions. I also made some stylistic changes so that the manuscript did not read like a "cover your a** with a citation" document. Nonetheless, I still think that citations practices in relationship to academic "discoursey" language are critical conversations to have not only with undergraduate students, but also graduate students, and need I say, faculty members too? When does a claim become a new concept for the field and not something that has to be substantiated? Seriously. The answer is not as simple as saying, "when no one has written about X." How do you know when no one is written about X? And if you do work with African American women's intellectual traditions in the academy (not outside the academy) you'll probably find yourself substantiating EVERYTHING!

Friday, December 5, 2008

OSF: Actors Turned Singers, Singers turned Actors

I have to give it up for Ms. Jackson because she's the prime example of an actress who turned singing, singer turned actress, and yet has lasted! Here are some memorable scenes of her as Penny on Good Times, her performing in the "Rhythm Nation" music video, and her with Tupac in Poetic Justice. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

End of the Semester/Class Reflection

Today marks the last day of class for my WRA 125 course. I must say that I'm EXTREMELY pleased with the smart work my Fall 2008 students have done. If you haven't already done so, I encourage you to check out their blogs before Spring 2009 students' blogs replace theirs.

As many of you know, I am doing an Afracentric teacher-research study on this group of students, so I'll make a few comments about their work and the data I need to begin analyzing. Although this blog initially was started to record my teacher-research notes, observations, reflections, etc., it kinda veered off into multiple directions, with limited attention being paid to specific observations from the class. Here's why:

It's not that I haven't been working at all on the dissertation. I have actually written quite a bit and gotten 3 chapters drafted, none of which are empirical. That means I haven't had sufficient time to spend with my data (which I have been collecting, just not analyzing or writing about as much). This is also complicated by the fact that I had to add an additional chapter explaining what an Afrafeminist teacher-research methodology is. That chapter has proven somewhat challenging. Although I have this chapter drafted and outline, I still have a bit more work to do with it before January.

All in all, I still think I'm on schedule. I can devote the entire next semester to data collection, interviews, analysis and writing for two empirical chapters. Although I wish I'd had the time to work with the data this semester, I did produce the theoretical chapters and will hopefully have them out of the way by next semester. Spending more time with data really isn't a bad thing, and I think we should encourage this more since some dissertations are often rushed. As Bruno Latour would say, we need to slow our research down. (LOL! see Grabill, I can make a Latourian connection!).

Hopefully next semester I won't have as many articles to revise and resubmit. I've revised and resubmitted the 3 I'm currently working on several times, and I hope to be done with them for the most part by next semester. I'll still have the Race(ism) and Assessment chapter to draft and revise, but at least I'll be collaborating on that one and won't have all the burden.

I still accomplished a great deal. Now, I need to take time and sit with the data!

btw, the official dissertation prospectus defense is next week, so I'll need to prepare for that!

Friday, November 28, 2008

OSF Stevie Wonder

This one makes me happy around the holidays...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Purse Snatching Foolishness!!

So, I just witnessed my first purse snatching, which was quite the odd experience. Me and Mr. Clark were heading inside Meijer to get some ingredients to make a pot roast for Thanksgiving. On the way inside we saw a middle-aged woman scuffling with a teenie-bopper looking girl, about 5"3 and barely 100 lbs (I soooo could've taken her had I known she was a crook--more on this in a moment).

We didn't realize the girl was a purse snatcher; we just assumed it was a teenage kid fighting with her mother. At the time I thought to myself that if I were her mother I would beat the living sh** out of her for being so disrespectful. Me and Mr. Clark didn't realized that it was a purse snatcher until we saw a Meijer employee help out as they tried to apprehend the crook. As the girl left the store to make a mad dash for the parking lot, she bumped into me (literally) as I was walking into the store. Me and Mr. Clark stood there (along with other bistanders) for a moment trying to figure out what was going on, and by the time we figured it all out, the lil' heffa was gone. While no one was hurt, it was a shame that no one could catch the suspect, since she was a stupid crook. Here's why:

  1. This girl was easily recognizable. She had black and blond streaks, a beige fur coat and fur ug boots, and she was VERY tiny (yeah, I know I pay way too much attention to what people look like, but in this case, my attention to detail came in handy). Quite easy to give a description, even without surveillance cameras.
  2. This girl tried to rob a women who was at least twice her size. Like I said, I'm not very big (only 5"1 and I could've taken her). No wonder the girl unsuccessfully attempted to snatch the woman's purse. The little girl was no match for the heavy-set woman.
  3. The girl was a very SLOW runner. I'm not sure how many people can make a dash in Ug boots with snow-slippery weather conditions. As she ran I was thinking (before realizing that she was a crook), whether or not this was a joke. I wondered if she was playing around because it seemed like she was running in slow motion!
It's a shame that these things happen around the holidays, but it teaches women to really be aware of their surroundings. In my case it also didn't hurt to have a 6"2 Black man accompanying me to the store. Sometimes those who pose a physical (and psychological) threat to society come in handy.

Friday, November 21, 2008

OSF Jazz Tribute: Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis

The baddest saxophonist IMO.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bringing B(l)ack Back!

While there has been some commentary on what an Obama victory means for mainstream America, some have taken it to another level...

Diary of an Anxious Black Woman has posted Mark Anthony Neal's
interesting commentary ("Is Michelle Obama'sAss Off Limits?") on Michelle Obama's backside. I encourage you to check it out because I think it raises interesting questions about what it means to be fit in America, while still, um, having a big phat/fat ass.

In my WRA 125 class today, we looked at sample advertisements composed by former students as examples for students design their own multigenre remix projects. With one ad there was a VERY slim African American woman eating a burger, saying, "These burgers be good for my booty." My students were highly critical of this ad because for one, it wasn't clear which burgers/which restaurant was being advertised. Second, the woman in the ad who claimed to be eating the burgers to make her backside larger, obviously had NO BACKSIDE! Not only was her booty slim, but also, her butt was shadowed by the brick background of the ad, and therefore, less visible.

The notion of body parts and fitness is worth discussing (and complicating) at greater length. While I'm less certain whether or not First Lady-Elect Obama's behind should be the target or focus of these conversations, representations of Black female bodies should nonetheless be addressed both critically and intellectually.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Why College Student Needs a Composition Class

This proves why teaching writing courses (and any literacy-related for that matter) is still relevant: So that you don't have to prove that you can read and write even if you do supposedly have a college degree, and even if you are governor of a state. In other words, if you were taught the communicative skills (oral and written) necessary to appear educable to the general public--and if you paid attention, went to class, etc. while taking those courses-- you wouldn't have to ink 7 million big ones to prove that you can read or write. Seriously.

Happy Birthday, Mom! I love you!

Friday, November 14, 2008

OSF Birth Year Song

I've been asked to post a video of a favorite song from my birthday year. My favorite from 1981 has to be Luther Vandross: "Never Too Much."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Need Someone Ask?

Is she racially insensitive or just really dumb? I'm more inclined to think the latter (seriously); however, I wonder why anyone would have to ask whether or not the term "colored" is an acceptable term for African Americans. Based on the images that appear to the left, what do you think? Need someone really ask? Duh! %&^%&%^

Thursday, November 6, 2008

To Do List 2.0

  1. Praise God that we have the victory!
  2. Laugh
  3. Find that inner peace and return back to calm since the anxiety of the election is over
  4. Return to cooking and baking hobbies that have been neglected since dissertating/writing/election
  5. Find something else to do with my Web surfing time now that the presidential election is over, maybe search for new cookie recipes to try?
  6. Be proud of my new balance between work and life (we'll see how long this actually lasts!)
  7. Work on Afrafeminist Teacher-Research Methodology Chapter
  8. Finish Revise/Resubmit article and draft cover letter summarizing the major revisions
  9. Tidy up another book chapter proposal
  10. Work on Race(ism) and Writing Assessment Chapter
  11. Begin planning WRA 125 Spring 2009 course

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Did Anybody Notice the Silent Woman?

I found it quite interesting how silent and stoic Sarah Palin was at McCain's concession speech. Before providing a bit of commentary, a few disclaimers: First, I acknowledge that neither VP candidate vocally addressed the crowd, and second, it's obvious that she'd appear sad since they loss. Nonetheless, it still noteworthy that a person who was so vocal as attack dog would be so silent in defeat. Also worth mention is her silence during McCain's gracious and classy concession speech. From a critical feminist perspective, I'm left to wonder at the significance of her silence. The Republican party got Palin to do their dirty work, but kept her silent while they showed a more gracious side, not such a positive portrayal of women in the party. I could be reading way too much into this, but my gut tells me that I'm not. Just a thought.

From Newsweek:
McCain himself rarely spoke to Palin during the campaign, and aides kept him in the dark about the details of her spending on clothes because they were sure he would be offended. Palin asked to speak along with McCain at his Arizona concession speech Tuesday night, but campaign strategist Steve Schmidt vetoed the request.
This perhaps seems to confirm my suspicions....

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It's still sinking in

Scene One:
I find myself reminiscing on this whole 2008 campaign and thinking back to EARLY 2007 when a colleague (Chicago native) asked if I were voting for Obama:
Colleague: Are you voting for Obama
Me: I don't know; I really don't know much about him. I think I'm leaning Hillary Clinton, but I'm not sure.
Colleague: Have you read his book?
Me: Nope
Colleague: If you do, you'll definitely vote for him!
Me: We'll see.
Scene Two:
December 2007, I'm in the faculty commons room making coffee when one of our department secretaries is also making her coffee
Colleague: We have the chance to make history. Imagine that! A Black man in the White House!
Me: (half-heartened) Yes we do; that would be amazing. (I'm thinking that Obama doesn't stand a chance, but it's good that she's inspired, so I won't burst her bubble).
Scene Three:
Late December 2007/Early January? 2008 An Ohio State Representative invited me to local Ohio caucuses that pick the delegates that would go to the Democratic National Convention. She wanted us to vote for her to serve as one of Hillary Clinton's delegates. At that point I was still undecided, so she insisted that voting on delegates doesn't mean committing to a particular candidate. When I arrived at the center to vote for delegates, I felt so guilty going into the Clinton caucus to vote when I saw all the energetic Obama supporters. I felt like such a traitor, but voted for Clinton's delegates anyway. When I arrived home late that evening, I found out that Obama won the Iowa caucus! At that point, I'd made up my mind, became inspired, and jumped on the Obama wagon.

Needless to say, I'm still inspired!

Friday, October 31, 2008

To Do List

  1. Work on Afrafeminist Teacher-Research Methodology chapter
  2. Work on book chapter/assessment stuff due January 1
  3. Work on a revise/resubmit article
  4. Surf political junkie websites
  5. Eat
  6. Work out
  7. Laugh
It's a shame when laughing is all the way at the bottom of the list. Hmmph. Now that I think of it, I'll probably work out first (move #7 to #1).

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Thought-Provoking Commentary about Violence against Women

Since it is violence against women, and since I am working on my Afrafeminist methodology chapter, I find it useful to share these links:


Things I do now that I didn't do before this economic crisis:
  • Clip Coupons - Yeah, I never did that, but I do it now
  • Buy mostly Kroger brand items - Kroger brand bbq sauce, Kroger water, Kroger Splenda (it's called "Apriva" -- huh?), Kroger iced oatmeal cookies (they're yummy actually!), Kroger turkey bacon, Kroger egg beaters, etc., etc., I still can't bring myself to buy Kroger-brand cereal, so I haven't been buying ANY cereal!
  • Going to campus events for free food - I'll be attending a department reception with a guest speaker since there's free refreshments. Of course, I'm interested in the talk too! I would've went to the free lunch tomorrow too but my schedule conflicts. *sigh
  • Purchase Michelina's Lean Gourmets as opposed to Stouffer's Lean Cuisine - Hey, they're a buck a piece! Can't be that!
  • Grocery shopping once a month - at the end of the month, no food, but I'm survivin'
Things I have cut completely:
  • Smart Ones desserts - They cost WAY too much for a pack of two
  • Manicures and Pedicures - I've been trying to stretch my gel fills from 3 to 4 weeks only to get fussed at by my manicurist; pedis are completely cut from the budget.
  • Random trips to Saphora - Didn't ya know that you can get really cheap mascara at the drug store?
Things I need to Cut:
  • Weekly hair appointments - but I probably won't!
  • Visits to Starbucks - homemade coffee just doesn't taste as good! If you have an easy latte recipe, lemme know!
  • Random visits to Stein Mart - yeah, I know.

My sister sent me this link for pencil skirt spanx. Women, if you've never worn spanx, you should try them! They make all the difference. Will I spend $68? Hmmmmm. *sigh

Friday, October 24, 2008

If Thangs Couldn't Get Mo' Racist/Crazy

The latest mayhem and foolishness...

I'm still tryin' to figure out why this fool thought someone would wan't to fondle her you know what! So sad.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

When Rhetoric as Persuasion is Counterproductive

An interesting post from my dad. Not to piggy-back too much on his post, but, I do think we have the tendency use rhetoric and argument to try to persuade others to see things our way. And I think this is in part the fault of thinking about rhetoric only in terms of persuasion. Seen in this way, rhetoric is only useful if we can use it to strengthen our arguments, hence, persuade people that our argument is correct. When does rhetoric become the art of persuasion and when does it become something else? When does rhetoric become a mere means of stylin' and profilin' for purposes not exclusive to argument? I think rhetoric as persuasion really applies to this election. On one hand, we say the candidates use rhetoric to persuade/strengthen their chances of being elected. But for voters, we use rhetoric to persuade others that our candidate is the best. And we've seen people use rhetoric to persuade a certain campaign that racist tactics are unfair. The moral of the story: Quit tryin to persuade people that racism is wrong. We know that. It's time that we work on ourselves.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Toward an Afrafeminist Teacher-Research Methodology

Last week I met with Grabill to talk about the methodologies I'm trying to use in my dissertation. Grabill always gives me a sense of clarity when I'm trying to flesh out research (and gets REALLY geeked when having any conversation that has to do with methdology. Huge shout-out to him). I say methodologies because I am doing three different teacher-research studies in three different chapters of my diss. One chapter focuses on the literacy histories and linguistic practices of African American students (male and female). Another focuses exclusively on those practices employed by African American female students, and the other focuses on how all students understand Ebonics in Composition Studies. The conversation Grabill and I had about methodology and my proposed chapters went somethin' like this (I'm paraphrasing):

Grabill: Where's your methodology chapter?

Me: what?

Grabill: Your methodology chpater?

Me: I have several -- Each study is a different methodology, therefore I can't just have one methodology chapter.

Grabill: Why is that?

Me: Because how can I describe one methodology with 3 different studies?

Grabill: You're thinking about the methods used in each of these studies. Look at it not in terms of the different studies, but in terms of the methodology under which these 3 studies fall.

Me: Oh?

Grabill: You talk about Afrafeminist methods in your studies, and you define teacher-research a particular way, so that's your methodology.

Me: Oh. Since teacher-research typically (if it is at all) talked about in the context of Afrafeminism, then I need to define what Afrafeminst teacher-research looks like.

Grabill: That's where I see your work contributing to the field.

Me. Now the challenge will be to explain coherently what that looks like.

Grabill: Yep. That's your methodology chapter.

Me: so I have to add a chapter.

Grabill: Yes. You'll have six chapters instead of five.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Today Is Blog Against Poverty Day

Reminding all bloggers: Today is blog against poverty day. This is much needed considering the fact that homelessness is climbing and our economy is in shambles. For those of us bloggers who aren't considered to be in poverty, and for those of us who have technological access to afford posting to our blogs, let's be thankful ( as times could be worse), while yet speaking out for those who aren't as fortunate as we are.


Monday, October 13, 2008

My Dad's Blog :-)

So, my blogging has been a bit contagious. My dad has started a blog and I encourage you to check it out. He plans on attending an Obama rally today and has been offered VIP seating. I'm a bit jealous :-)


Friday, October 10, 2008

The John McCain As a Freshmen Writing Student?

Steve Krause, a former prof of mine at EMU, has an interesting commentary about John McCain using quotes out of context to bolster his claims about Obama as a shady terrorist. Here's an interesting excerpt from his post. I encourage you to read the whole post though:

Besides the obvious and rather desperate smear McCain is trying here, a tactic that seems especially ugly given that the world economy appears to be ending, what bothers me personally is the bad freshman writing mistake that McCain is making here. I’ve seen plenty of students who take this tactic, cherry-picking quotes in order to make a point no matter what the evidence they are quoting really says. In other words, if McCain was a first year composition student and he handed in a paper about how Obama is a terrorist with this claim about Ayers, I’d probably circle that line “Obama lied about him just being my neighbor” and write something like “What is the full context of this quote, John? Do you really think that was the intent of your source? Is this the full story? It sounds like you’re twisting the words here.”

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Me and My Big Fat Gradiose Ideas!

For my concetration exam, I proposed to submit a potential draft for Chapter 1 of my diss, where I had this big plan to trace the decline in teacher-research publications in Composition Studies in Ch. 1 of my dis. Well, I tried and failed miserably. (I based a large part of my concentration exam on this argument, and my dissertation committee had pity on me and didn't fail me. God bless 'em!) For one thing, this is not an easy thing to prove evidence-wise, since results from databases prove to be quite unreliable. For example, when searching CompPile, one of the largest databases in the discipline, different keywords searches using "teacher-research", "teacher research", "classroom research" etc. don't yield any reliable results (which I expected but didn't anticipate this issue interfering as much as it did), at least not reliable enough to make a strong argument. Now imaging doing this search in multiple databases like ProQuest, JSTOR, Google Scholar, etc., etc. Not a feasible task. Why I didn't see this coming before, I don't know; I just wanted to be theoretical. LOL!

I thought I needed to trace this history and decline in order to make the case for additional Afracentric teacher-research. I thought doing so would establish particular relevance that would make my dissertation appear more theoretically sound, as opposed to a "this is what happened in my small, single, local classroom: ain't it neat?" dissertation.

As I'm revising and rethinking the new arguments I'll make in Chapter 1, with the help of my committee, I've realized that I don't have to trace this history of teacher-research (broadly conceived) to establish a relevance for doing Afracentric teacher-research. As one of my committee members pointed out, tracing this history is perhaps too broad for the scope of my project, and I think (s)he's absolutely right. So, my plan for this Chapter will be to establish the relationships between Afracentric pedagogy and Afrafeminist methodologies (how I define them, what they look like, etc.) and teacher-research. That'll make my argument more focused (I think!)


Monday, October 6, 2008

Second Qualifying Exam Passed!

I passed my second exam. Now on to the dissertation proposal...

Friday, October 3, 2008

Speech Acts, Rhetorical Theory and Verncular Literacy (or a Lack Therof)

A reader of my previous post emailed me a question directed at my assumed criticism of Sarah Palin's use of folksy language/vernacular:
For someone to be such a proponent of African American Verncular [sic] English, how can you criticize Gov. Palin for drawing on a different dialect? Isn't that hypocritical? Isn't it about what you say and not how you say it?
Yes, it is about what you say and how you say it. And while I may seem judgmental or hypocritical in my criticism of her dialect, let me provide readers with my understandings of Palin's speech acts as rhetorical theory.

Here's what Palin did (or attempted to do depending on the audience perception) quite well:
She understood that her use a folksy vernacular could possess pathetic (in the rhetorical sense) appeal (ethical appeals may also be possessed, but IMO the jury is still out on this). Palin wanted audience members to consider the ways that she is no different from them,and therefore, attempted to manipulate speech acts in way that create an "Average Joe" persona. The jury's still out on whether or not voters want an Average Joe Six-Pack assuming the most/second most important office/job in the country though.

But here's why Palin's nonstandard variety of English only gets her so far. If her folksy dialect had been used to directly, critically, and intellectually answer the questions given to her by the moderator, then she probably would have won the debate. But since her folksy vernacular was often used in ways that did not answer many of the questions, for responses that were semi incoherent, and/or for responses for which she relied on cliched terminology (e.g. "energy", "maverick", "corruption")--none of which was defined coherently if at all--her one-liners are not as effective.

Here's the difference between Palin's vernacular use and what I call for in terms of the legitimacy of AAVE: AAVE speakers are often assumed to be unintelligent, not because of what they say, but how they say it. IMO, Palin's responses are less intelligent, not because of how she said them, but because of how she weakly drew on her speech vernacular as rhetorical act. In other words, she used the folksy dialect, but her responses had no substance. Had she used the folksy dialect with substance, she might have won the debate over Biden.

For those less familiar with my work, my research invests an interest in the ways in which AAVE/Ebonics/Black English, etc. is used rhetorically to make an effective intellectual argument. Geneva Smitherman has made this argument decades ago, but linguistic prejudice is still a prevailing attitude in many schools and university classrooms. To illustrate what Smitherman and I mean when we say that Ebonics speakers can speak Ebonics and make exceptional and rhetorcally sound arguments, I leave you with a poem of JB Simple gettin' down intellectually from Smitherman's book, Talkin and Testifyin: The Language of Black America (p. 34):

In the North
The Jim Crow Line
Ain't clear --
But it's here!
From New York to Chicago
Points past and
In between
Jim Crow is mean!
Even though integrated,
With Democracy!
Jim crow is not mated.
Up North Jim Crow
Wears an angels grin --
But still he sin.
I swear he do!
Don't You?

Now, do you understand my position?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

4 VP Debate Questions

1) Who won?

2) Can a candidate win without answering any questions?

3) How does rhetorical theory inform whether or not someone answers the questions?

4) How does vernacular literacy influence rhetorical theory? Is it better to sound folksy or to sound intellectual and offer solutions?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Content-Based Writing Courses vs. Writing-Based Writing Courses

Diary of an Anxious Black Women has an interesting discussion that complicates the concept of safe spaces vs. white male privilege in the classroom. I encourage you to check it out, as I believe her discussion to have interesting implications for rhet/comp pedagogy. Perhaps this can help some of us struggling with the writing as activity (writing courses with content-based themes) vs. writing as the subject of inquiry (writing courses with writing as the subject/content) debate that still plagues may first-year writing programs. With the rise of presidential election/politics/rhetoric, (at least in my mind ) this debate may seem to be resurrecting.

For some less familiar with this debate, there's tension in rhet/comp pedagogical scholarship to determine whether content-based themes (race, class, gender, politics, etc.) should be used in content-based first-year writing courses. Critics of this idea charge that more time is being spent debating these topics, while less time is being spent teaching students how to write. Critics also charge that we shouldn't introduce themed topics like race, class, or gender into the classroom, since writing teachers are not trained sociologists/political scientists/women's studies scholar/critical race theorists, etc.

Proponents of introducing content-based themes into first-year writing classes argue that we not ignore the identities students bring into the classroom because our students are raced, classed, and gendered and do bring with them their rich and extensive ideological histories. These proponents would also argue that their research is interdisciplinary enough to account for topics in women studies, sociology, etc., thus making them qualified enough to cover such topics in first-year writing. And finally, many of these proponents charge that in real writing situations, writers write about something. Therefore, why not have them write about topics that affect and influence our everyday practices?

Personally, I think a first-year writing class can do both (that, is cover content-based themes and keep the focus on writing). At my institution, our Tier I Writing Committee has worked quite extensively to make sure that the focus is still on writing, even though we have several content-based first-year writing courses that cover race, gender, class, service learning, technology, law and justice, American thought, radical thought etc. The key is making a shared curriculum with writing-focused/literacy focused assignments that are flexible enough to cover different content-based areas (we've composed a programmatic guidebook that speaks to many of these concerns). For example, the first assignment in our sequence is a literacy autobiography assignment. Some instructors adapt this by assigning linguistic literacy autobiographies using discussions of Ebonics (race, sociolinguistics, rhet/comp scholarship) as a lens. Others construct gendered linguistic literacy autobiographies, asking students to discuss how their language use is influenced by gender norms. For instructors whose courses focus on science and technology, they have students write technological literacy autobiographies that ask students to discuss their literacy acquisition to learning different video game technologies. So it can be done.

I digressed a bit, now back to the Diary of an Anxious Black Women post. I encourage you all to read her post because I don't want writing teachers to use the challenges that she experiences as an excuse to ignore white privilege, race, class, or gender discussions in the classroom. They can be addressed quite productively, while still keeping the focus on writing, since we are teaching a writing course, and not a Women's Studies course.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

OMG: Someone Just Asked Me for Professional Advice

I'm an avid reader of Paul Matsuda's blog (BTW, I've met him briefly and he's a very COOL guy for those unfamiliar with our field). For those of you who are familiar with his blog, you'll find that he gives out a lot of solicited and unsolicited advice on professionalizing academics' work in rhetoric and composition, TESOL, the academy in general, etc.. I'm bringing up Paul's blog here, because I got my first round of professionally solicited advice, where someone emailed me (aside for solicitations from colleagues at my home institution: they don't count! LOL!). A prospective CCCC Scholars for the Dream Award applicant just emailed me wanting advice on how to apply for the award, and asked for my sample application materials (in case you didn't know, I was a recipient of this award last year). I gave them to the applicant, but also requested to see his/her CCCC 2009 abstract to recommend further advice. Now thinking back, I'm not sure if I should have acted so quickly. My materials are so disciplinary specific and focused on my own research (dissertation and beyond), though, that it would be difficult for anyone to use them for purposes that raise issues about academic dishonesty. Not that I am suggesting that the applicant would be academically dishonest and/or plagiarize (it would be kinda stupid since I just won the award and the Dream committee may still be quite familiar with my materials), since I trust that academics practicioners to act more ethically; however, I wonder if sharing materials the relate in some way to competition should be thought about more critically. Thoughts?

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Balancing Act (or Lack Thereof)

I'm having a bit of a challenge lately balancing teaching and other professional work. I've been preparing for teaching quite well, and as far as teaching goes, things are going well and I have a super duper smart class. Other than teaching and office hours, though, I have been home doing nothing. This is in part a deliberate break I promised myself for working 12 months straight with no summer break or vacation. And since I finished the textbook reader, guidebook, 2 exams, 3 articles + one revise/resubmit (I'm still waiting on the reviews for articles, some of which I submitted as early as May!), I thought I really deserved the break. But now, I feel really, really guilty about not doing anything other than teaching (even though I've done tidbits of dissertation writing here and there). Here's why:

  1. I was ill-prepared for a meeting today. A group of us are presenting at the Watson Conference in Louisville, KY later next month. We were supposed to have our power point slides drafted an sent, and for some reason, I just didn't do it.
  2. I've been home, had plenty of time to work, have done no housework, no cooking, no laundry, nothing in the past month even though I have time to do it. One would think that if I'm not working that much, I'd take care of these duties? Thanks to Mr. Clark, he's been doing all the housework lately (he's such a good husband).
  3. I've been sleeping during the day and night . Yeah, I could be more productive but sleep is good.
I've been dealing with this by trying to cut myself some slack; however, I still feel bad when I don't work [enough], so to deal with being nonproductive, I did the following things/will continue to do the following things:

  1. Graded 9 students' papers of 24 (and I just got students' first papers today). I plan the finish the sack by Friday.
  2. Did some revisions to Ch. 2 of the dis and made an outline for Ch. 3.
  3. I've continued a consistent daily workout regimen of yoga. Despite doing nothing around the house, I still managed to do at least 30 minutes of yoga a day.
So, I am making progress. I just need to get motivated to do more around the apartment.
And while I feel bad for not being as prepared for the meeting, I still think that it's not that bad of an idea to take it easy right now. I don't wanna burn out.


PS: I forgot to mention that during my hiatus that I did some preliminary research for the book chapter I'm writing with Nancy DeJoy. I guess I am getting things done; I need to just chill!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Anal Retentive Good Ol' Educated American Citizen

Last week Mr. Clark and I had to call the cops for a disturbance above our apartment. It appeared that the tenants above us have an untrained dog who barks and barks, and stomps and stomps and digs his/her claws into the carpet right above our bedroom at the wee hours in the night. It's so loud that when we audio recorded and played it for the cop, he could hear it very loudly! We didn't want to resort to calling the cops, since I wouldn't describe this as instance an emergency; however, we followed all rules for complaints designated by our complex, wrote letter after letter, etc. and still faced the same disruptions.

Long story short, the issue has sense been resolved and we don't hear much from the dog anymore. But what is really interesting are the things the cop said or implied to us as good ol' law abiding middle-class citizens (while not directly quoted verbatim, here's the gist of what was said):

Officer: I think you guys can settle this with the neighbors since you're obviously educated people

Me: *Raises eyebrows [hmmm. is this because I put on my white people soundin' voice, even though at midnight, I hadn't taken my dew rag off an let my hair down

Mr. Clark: silence...

Officer: *uncomfortably. Well, you know what I mean; it's obvious that you're model tenants (citizens?) and you're the type of people this complex what to keep -- I mean, look at this apartment. It's immaculate ....

Me: *proud. Thank you.

Officer: Just try to work it out with the neighbors and let me know if this still isn't settled. If we have to take this to court, it could take weeks.

Me and Mr. Clark: We'll try. Thanks.
While this post is not attempt to play any race or class cards (although both may be embedded in this discourse), or fault the officer in any way -- since I do believe he's really a nice guy and pretty much talked to us for roughly a half hour, as he tried to establish his rapport with our community. It does remind me of some issues that Lynn Bloom discussed over a decade earlier in her essay,"Freshman Composition as a Middle-Class Enterprise." For readers less familiar with this essay (although a common one in rhet/comp circles), Bloom identifies major elements of the middle class and how they are appropriated in freshman composition courses:

  • Self-reliance, responsibility
  • Respectability ("middle-class morality")
  • Decorum, propriety
  • Moderation and temperance
  • Thrift
  • Efficiency
  • Order
  • Cleanliness
  • Punctuality
  • Critical Thinking

While I'm sure tens of readers might associate any of these with the good, law abiding citizens, I will highlight how a few of these apply. Order and cleanliness are obvious ones as they both pertain to the officer's remarks regarding my apartment. And critical thinking (writing formal letters, problem solving with the officer, etc.) is also an obvious one that comes to mind. But self-reliance, respectability, and decorum are also implicated. Self reliance suggests that citizens be responsible for their own actions, and this was in part my and Mr. Clark's frustrations with the dog. We both assumed that because of the dog's tantrums, he/she was untrained, and that it was the responsibility of the owners to train their dog. And it may be assumed that when people don't train their dogs, they are not following decorum or ettiquette. Similarly to the freshmen comp class, "Teachers, implicitly equating propriety with good character as well as good manner" (660), and such was the case in my situation. When people don't follow appropriate decorum, issues of respect may also arise. We felt we were disrespected by the complex for not responding quickly enough (punctuality) to our complaints, even though we followed their procedures. And we also felt disrespected by our neighbors who were familiar with our complaints (at least according to the leasing office), but took too long to change their behaviors.

Suffice it to say, I'm well aware of critiques on the cultural biases associated with these middle-class attributes. What's more important, though, are the ways in which it is surprising when people of color subscribe or appropriate these same attributes that proponents of the white middle class often impose chastise people of color for not subscribing. This too, reminds me of the surprise at Barack Obama being articulate. And while I did attempt to resist some of these cultural imposations by wearing my head scarf (which many Black women wear to protect their hair), and although my apartment contains several paintings and sculptures of African American art (I even got a Black Jesus up in there too!), it was only noticed verbally the ways that my ideology attempted or was assumed to subscribe to the white middle-class.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

My Birthday: Why I am Not as Excited

I usually love birthdays and am giddy like a 5 year old when they do come. But these year, tho I'm happy, my birthday seems more like a normal day. Prior to this year, it seemed more like a holiday, or something that, in my narcissistic mind, should have been a holiday. This year is different. I'm not as geeked. I really don't know why. I am throwing a big birthday bash at Cici's Pizza Buffet with a bunch of colleagues and friends tonight, which should be fun. But other than that, today's an ordinary day. I'm a bit older and wiser, maybe not old or wise enough to help creat the blackberry. LOL.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Why Don't They Comment on Our Blogs: An Issue of Audience

In today's class we talked about how we use language differently for different writing situations. For the first paper my students are asked to compose a linguistic literacy autobiography in which they analyze the differences between their home and school languages. In today's discussion we talked about the language of our blogs. Some students felt that because their class blogs discuss literacy and academic issues, most of them felt compelled to use some variety of Standard English in order to prove their credibility and ability to respond "intelligently" to academic arguments (we complicate this notion of a Standard and issues of intelligence, correctness, etc. in class discussions). Others attempted to draw on other varieties of English, including texting or digital language because of the genre that they're using. Since it's a blog, and since blogs are digital, they argue that digital language should be acceptable.

We then discussed the consequences for choosing a specific language variety. From this conversation we turned to issues of audience and what judgments our blog audiences may make based on what and how we write. I then informed my students that they are writing for a real audience and some of my colleagues even read their blogs. After revealing this (in case some students hadn't yet viewed comments on my own blog that respond to their blog postings), one of my students asked why viewers outside of the class didn't leave comments on their blogs. "Hmmmmm. I dunno," I told him/her. I also said that sometimes people take a while to familiarize themselves with the blog before they leave comments, and that it took readers some time before they even began posting comments on my blog. We then began commenting on each others' blogs in class to bounce off additional ideas for trying out new Invention, Arrangement and Revision strategies. Maybe if we create a stronger community of scholars and begin to comment on each others' blogs, those outside of our class may comment too? I also suggested that studentsm might view their profile views on their blogs to get an indication of how many people are checking out the blogger's profile, hence checking out the blog to see if people are reading. That's what I did before I started receiving comments.

What do you think? Why don't people leave comment on blogs? Isn't silence a language choice too?


Monday, September 8, 2008

Why Students Assume Scholarly Texts Are Written by Men

In today's class my WRA 125 students discussed a chapter from Smitherman's Talkin and Testifyin ("It Bees That Way Sometime") in order to understand the linguistic features of Black English. We also discussed chapters 1 and 2 from Teresa Redd and Karen Schuster Webb's book, A Teacher's Introduction to African American English in order to analyze the invention, arrangment, and revision (IAR) choices employed by each of the authors (for an extended discussion of IAR see Nancy DeJoy's Process This: Undergraduate Writing in Composition Studies, Utah State Press, 2004). Based on my students' analysis of these chapters, they assumed and/or concluded the following:

  • That the authors were men. During class I had to correct some students who'd say, "I think he__," because he is really a she (based on the assigned readings for today's class). I then asked why they assumed the authors were men, some pointed to the academic writing style employed by the texts. Others weren't sure, and one students said that his/her English teacher instructed him/her to use he when they didn't know the author's gender. So much for gender neutral style guidelines for editors and writers in the academy. LOL!
  • That academic texts should cite people in order to be credible. Some students questioned Smitherman's lack of citations (in the traditional sense -- parenthetical citation, etc.). While this is not a new criticism of Talkin and Testifyin, as many have pointed out with her supposed lack of empirical work, my students were intially wary of the fact that no citations from secondary sources from sociolinguists were referenced in this chapter (this doesn't mean there weren't any citations in the rest of the book; they just don't appear in this chapter). Many students thought initially that Redd and Schuster Webb would be more credible since there are tons of citations. But one of my students brought up the idea of who Smitherman would cite, since most of her research in this chapter was original: In fact, Redd and Schuster Webb cite Smitherman's work just like er'body else and they momma doing work on Ebonics.
  • That a text can be academic, yet draw on different IAR strategies from those typically found in academic discourse. For example, in "It Bees that Way Sometime," students pointed to the idea that Smitherman includes a poem and comic about the ways in which people miss the point of an argument by focusing on whether or not the argument was presented correctly in Standard English. They concluded that comic was arranged in the middle of the text (right after the dense analysis of the grammatical features of Black English) in order to help explain the analysis visually, or to help the reader recover from the dense nature of the previous analysis. They concluded that the poem was arranged at the end of the text to help audiences members change their own attitudes about BE and linguistic prejudice (revision), as a lesson readers can take away
The moral of the story: Women are academics too who are capable of exhaustive and rich analyses of language, and all academics (including women) need not be limited in their ability to exercise more flexible IAR strategies than those typically offered in academic writing. Throughout the rest of the semester we'll see how writing can be Afracentric, and yet, fulfill the requirements designated for academic writing at the same time.

BTW: My students' analysis of the IAR strategies they see in Smitherman's or Redd's/Schuster Webb's text can be found on the side of this blog where links to their blog responses appear. Check them out if you want a better understanding of IAR.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Folks Have the Nerve to Talk about Sexism and Double-standards?

I usually do NOT blog about politics out of respect for my students whose views may differ from mine (I don't care about my colleagues views though! LOL!), BUT I'm fed up with hypocritical evangelical church folk (and YES, I am a Christian and a child of God). I've sat by fairly quietly and watched the media have their heyday on Sara Palin, all while knowing that she's probably not as intelligent as me, and thus not qualified to be president or vice president yadayadayada... I get that. But what really makes me angry is when those on the right try to justify they own wrongs but are ready to crucify other folks for doin' the same dang thang!

Now, I applaud Obama for taking the high road in stating that the media should leave candidates' families out of political spectacles; however, we have to hold politicians accountable when they excuse their own families and enforce policies by which their own families cannot abide. As Diary of an Anxious Black Woman pointed out, other folks' unwed teenage mothers are considered welfare queens, but Bristol is to be applauded for not getting an abortion. Huh? What about the "welfare queens" who kept they babies too? And how does one preach abstinence in the schools when it obviously didn't work for her own daughter? I'm sick of folk glorifying the "sins" of privileged women who happen to be fair-skinned, while calling our Black women hypersexed, gold diggin', hot mammas who can't keep their skirts pulled down. Maybe we should leave Bristol out of politics, BUT, let's not glorify/justify her or her family. It is what it is: an unwed teenage baby mamma.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Clarification: JSTOR DOES House Essays that Aren't Peer Reviewed

In the last post, I stated that Google Scholar will include things that aren't peer-reviewed, while JSTOR will not. Thanks to my colleague K8, an informational librarian, this is not necessarily accurate. I never knew that JSTOR housed essays and articles that weren't peer-reviewed, perhaps, because I only look there for things that are peer-reviewed. Thanks K8 for clarifying and reading my blog :0)

I also forgot to mention that while Google Scholar may have a ton of things that are not peer-reviewed, it is more recent than JSTOR. This I also informed my students, so there's a trade off: Students have to weight whether it's more important to look in places where the most recent scholarship exists, or if they should look in places where it is easiest to filter for peer-reviewed publications. Thanks for pointing this out too K8.


My Students Want to Know What Afrocentricity Is

Yesterday in my WRA 125 course, I asked students to conduct a search on the term Afrocentricity. Students were then asked to come to class prepared to discuss their results. Although I did not specify which results they were to discuss, most students chose to record results that gave a working definition for Afrocentricity, so for our class discussion on the search results I asked students to identify 1) what Afrocentricity means, 2) where they searched for the term, and 3) why they chose to search in that particular place. Based on students’ searches, they found the following definitions for Afrocentricity:

  • an intellectual perspective of African people
  • a way to show Africans’ contributions to Western culture
  • something that seeks to discover and interpret info through a diff filter from Eurocentric scholarship
  • a worldview that emphasizes the importance of A people and culture.

The majority of students chose to search in the following electronic locations:

When students were asked why the majority of them chose to search in these locations, they identified the following reasons:
  • Google is easy to use
  • Wikipedia was the first result that came up on Google
  • Wikipedia is a good place to find factual information

After addressing the students’ decisions based on their responses to the previous questions, we had a discussion about how different search engines and databases yield different results, and how some search engines and databases may be more reliable than other engines. For example, after discussing the results students came to class with, I had students conduct a search again for Afrocentricity using Google, Google Scholar, and JSTOR. I then explained how Google Scholar is more reliable than Google because it provides results for academic papers written about Afrocentricity, while Google displays a broad range of results that may or may not be reliably or evaluated by researchers. I then explained that JSTOR is more reliable than Google Scholar because it contains a database of peer-reviewed articles written about Afrocentricity; while Google Scholar also contains peer-reviewed publications, it often does not exclude papers that have not been peer-reviewed by scholars and experts of a particular discipline from its search results.

Based on the results found in scholarly search engines and databases, I had students give new definitions for Afrocentricity. Surprisingly, based on the definitions for which students searched, they found similar results. Most definitions pertained to intellectual perspectives of people of African descent, or African worldviews. I then asked students to highlight words in each of these definitions with which they were less familiar. Students identified intellectual perspective, Eurocentric, and most commonly, worldview, as some of these terms. Because the term worldview is highly abstract, students first needed to identify what that term means. Most students defined worldview as a way of seeing the world, and then determined that Afrocentricity is a way in which Africans and African Americans see the world. This of Afrocentricity definition is still abstract though. As a focus for the rest of the semester, the class posed the following question as a lens for understanding the rest of the intellectual work we seek to accomplish in the course: How do Africans and African Americans see the world? More on students' progress toward understanding the African worldview to come.

Monday, August 25, 2008

First Day of School/Language Attitudes

As part of my teacher-research study I gave my students a language attitudinal questionnaire asking them to discuss criticisms about their home and school languages. I also included a question written in Ebonics by a male speaker, asking students to discuss whether his use of Ebonics was appropriate for speaking, writing formally, or just writing in composition courses. I then took the same excerpt written in Ebonics and had an audio-recorded version of the speaker saying the same thing. I wanted to see if attitudes toward Ebonics changed depending on whether or not the statement was written in Ebonics or spoken in Ebonics. Here are the results I got:

  • Based on the written statement, 8 students said it was not at all appropriate for a person to speak that way, 13 said it was somewhat appropriate, and 2 said it was definitely appropriate
  • Based on the written statement, 22 said it was not at all appropriate for someone to write this way formally, 1 said it was somewhat appropriate, and 1 said it was definitely appropriate
  • Based on the written statement, 14 said it was not at all appropriate to write this way in class (whether formally or informally), 10 said it was somewhat appropriate, and 2 said definitely appropriate
  • Based on the spoken (audio taped) statement, 7 said it was not at all appropriate, 15 said it was somewhat appropriate, and 3 said definitely appropriate to speak this way in a composition class
  • Based on the spoken (audio taped) statement, 21 said it was not at all appropriate, 1 said it was somewhat appropriate, and 1 said it was definitely appropriate to write this way formally
  • Based on the spoken (audio taped) statement, 13 said it was not at all appropriate, 9 said it was somewhat appropriate, and 1 said it was definitely appropriate to write this way (formally or informally) for class.
Based on this quantitative data, then, is there a significant difference between students' attitudes in my course toward spoken or written Ebonics? Because there was typically a difference of 1 person--and no more that two people--responding differently for each question (eg. 22 said the written version of the Ebonics statement was not appropriate for formal writing, while 21 said the spoken version was not appropriate for formal writing) , I'm guessing there would be no significant difference, unlike what I hypothesized. I thought there students would be less accepting of the written version of Ebonics than the spoken version, but their attitudes were typically the same. To be sure, though, I need to do a statistical test to measure significant differences. I'm not ready to do that just yet with such a small data set. More quantitative data to come. Quantitative analysis hurts!


Friday, August 22, 2008

TA Orientation Done, Summer's Over

The last day of TA orientation's done and I am tired. Collin, Nancy, Steve and the many others who helped out did a fantastic job. A Reader for Writers is in campus bookstores (I think they got my name right on the official copies), and our summer work is over. I have mixed feelings about summer being over though. Although I'm relieved that all the preparatory madness has ended, I must say that I'm gonna miss working in the office with the gang. We had a blast!

I also have mixed feelings about beginning the fall semester. I'm excited to begin collection dissertation data, and I'm excited to meet my new students and be back teaching again, but I'm exhausted and the semester hasn't even begun. I worked all year round and never had any type of break. I co-edited A Reader for Writers, Co-authored the Guidebook for Teaching Tier I Writing at MSU, sent off (or co-authored) four articles (three of which I'm still waiting to hear back from external reviewers), proposed a book chapter that was accepted, took two qualifying exams, and helped on three or so additional departmental/research center projects. Maybe I should have taken a break? People tried to warn me, but I didn't listen. Maybe I'll take a break next year?

Prof PC

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Second Qualifying Exam Submitted!

I just turned in my second qualifying exam (what our R&W Program calls the PhD Concentration exam), an exam that is designed to demonstrate specialized knowledge of the field. I wrote my exam based on the arguments I intend to make in Chapter 1 of my dissertation, "Teacher-Research Don't Die: Pedagogical and Methodological Implications for Those Wishing to Do Afracentric Work." Pheww! I'm already tired just writing the title! But I'm glad to be done and have this out of the way, even though I could've picked a better due date, since I'm helping Nancy, Collin and Steve run new TA orientation for instructors teaching in our Tier I Writing Program this week.

I found this exam to be quite easier than the general field-base exam (what we call the core exam). So hopefully I've done a better job (BTW I did pass the core exam). The next step after the concentration exam is the dissertation prospectus. I'm pleased at my progress though (even though the prospectus isn't due quite yet ) because I've already received IRB approval to begin conducting data prior to my prospectus defense. My fingers are crossed...


Monday, August 18, 2008

Speaking of Misspellings...

The desk copies of our edited reader, A Reader for Writers, arrived and McGraw-Hill misspelled my first name! Arg! I know they tried to rush desk copies for the TAs so that they would have them before courses start. How ironic, especially after my previous posting. Just my friggin' luck! Now I do care if things are spelled correctly, especially if it's my name. *sigh....

Making an 'Arguement' for Misspelling?

I ran across this article about instructors complaining about students' spelling errors in postsecondary settings. Let me just say this: I don't care whether or not students can or can't spell! Yes, I teach writing, yes I understand that the ability to spell correctly is important for writers, and yes I admit this!

Okay (I'm using the African derived spelling), here's why: I'm a phonetic person and can't spell to save my life, even though I was one of the only students in elementary school to win the spelling bee two years in a row. How is that? Not because I can spell, but because I can memorize. Should we be teaching memorization in a first-year writing class? If so, I'm not sure how you teach someone to memorize stuff, even the spelling words we have to memorize in school. Not worth my time to do.

Also, as I mentioned, I'm phonetic (like many native speakers of Ebonics and other languages/language varieties are). English is not necessarily a phonetic language, and there are many exceptions to the rule. So English teachers can't teach the rules without addressing its many exceptions. Do I want to spend a semester going through all these (spelling) rules and exceptions? No, because like many writing pedagogical specialists, there are more pressing things to cover in the 15 or so weeks instructors get with students.

So what happens if I don't know whether or not a word is misspelled? I'm afraid to admit, but I often rely on MS Word. I am NOT suggesting that this always works, and there have been quite a few studies that address problems with MS Word spell checks and grammar checkers, but it can catch some misspelled words. Now, I do teach students that they still have to proofread, since Word can't catch every grammatical and/or spelling mistake (think homophones), but there is some value in using the spell check. That's the best solution I have for teaching/not teaching spelling and while mundane and problematic, that's the best I can think of. Thoughts?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Worst Writing Contest

A large historical debate in writing studies (tho I'm not sure how much rhet/comp scholars continue to debate this in our recent disciplinary scholarship) is the idea about teaching grammar--or any type of writing--in context. Basically most research and scholarship in writing studies calls for the need to teach students to write for real audiences and real purposes (read Because Writing Matters, published by the National Writing Project in 2003), and that grammar should be taught within the contexts of students' own writing or real writing situations.

I stumbled upon this article about the worst writing contest. Participants were asked to submit a horrible opening sentence to novels. Some of these sentences were submitted:

"'Toads of glory, slugs of joy,' sang Groin the dwarf as he trotted jovially down the path before a great dragon ate him because the author knew that this story was a train wreck after he typed the first few words."

"Like a mechanic who forgets to wipe his hands on a shop rag and then goes home, hugs his wife, and gets a grease stain on her favorite sweater -- love touches you, and marks you forever."
I guess this article could serve as real life example for the importance of not only writing good opening sentences (whatever good means), but also, the significance that grammar plays in people's judgments when we write. I'm not going to take the time and point out the errors--not quite sure if the previous examples are more reflected by issues of stylistic choice than issues of 'error' (if you're that nerdy you can do that yourself), but I will say that using this example of how confusing syntax (and I think it IS confusing) may limit readers' understanding and influence their judgments of a piece. I think using 'real' examples is much better than scribbling 'awk' in the margin.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Foolishness! Prof Moons Judge!

See this link for the story on a professor who is under investigation for mooning. Such foolishness!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


I got some fantastic comments from reviewers who reviewed one of the manuscripts I have out for review right now at a fairly well-known journal in our field. The comments were clear, dead-on, and I think will be valuable as I revise. Since this is my first revise/resubmit article, I had to ask for consultation on etiquette with journals when resubmitting a manuscript. Thanks to Radical Transparency, I got some really good advice (also huge shout-outs to her for successfully defending her dissertation). Both Paul Matsuda's Blog and the Chronicle of Higher Education's article on publishing also have some good advice for authors who resubmit manuscripts, also very helpful.

This process puts me back in my earlier student days (as both an undergrad and graduate student), and because of this, I'm a little concerned. If I consider our pedagogical scholarship, many writing teachers make recommended suggestions for students' revision, though students need not necessarily make all of the changes recommended by instructors. But as an author, I still feel that there is this unspoken rule (not quite sure where it comes from) that I must make all of the changes recommended by reviewers. Although most of their recommendations I do believe to need changing, what will happen if I don't follow all of their suggestions? For example, with some of the changes I made, other suggestions become obsolete or less relevant because the focus of the article has shifted based on another suggestion given by reviewers. What happens then? I know that I should probably think that reviewers should understand this, but I'm still concerned about expectations that authors should take all reviewers' suggestions.

I guess this is similar to the idea that many students have when we as instructors offer recommended revisions. If they consider them all and "fix the mistakes", in their mind, they're supposed to get an A, right? If I do everything the reviewers recommend, they'll be more accepting of the article, right? I of course know that things don't work that simply here, and I'm not trying to provide overly simplistic or unsubstantiated claims; however, I'm still suspicious that there might be one reviewer out there who has the expectation that writers address all of their recommendations in the revised manuscript. I have no evidence or justification; it's just my paranoia. Thoughts?