In live blogging this conference, I am following the conventions for conference blogging.
The State of the Profession breakfast speaker is Dr. Nancy Shankle from Abilene Christian University. She is the interim assistant provost and the interim Director of the Adams Center. She received a National Endowment Grant. Last year she was the recipient of CCTE’s Frances Hernandez Teacher-Scholar award.
Beginnings of the English Department
1969 College English article by Parker
2 parts: rhetoric (Socrates, etc) and linguistics = Parents
English department is only about 150 years old. So now about 200 years old.
But have studied the work of the English scholars for years.
Original colleges had a classical curriculum: Greek, Latin. Was elitist.
Then state colleges and land-grant college enrollments doubled higher education in the latter part of the 19th C.
Moved from the elitist towards a democratic education, moving towards (or focusing on) practical and vocational.
Modern Language Association, MLA, came in 1883.
This was the time period of the development of the departments of English (teaching linguistics, literature, and language: speech and composition focused).
These same departments brought in comparative literature, journalism, creative writing, drama, etc.
20th C emphasis included literary theory (literary criticism) and cultural theory
effect of moving departments into an elitist mode again
There was a tension between a specialization (elitist perspective?) versus broad education with focus on practical, career preparation.
What is the common link? How do linguistics and Shakespeare, literature and theory, composition and reading link together?
Critical thinking, analytical thinking and writing emphasis.
USA Today Jan. 25, 2012: Students who had mastered the ability to think critically, write effectively by their senior year were 3x less likely to be unemployed, 1/2 as likely to be living with their parents.
The habits of mind developed in a liberal arts focus is important.
If valuable to careers, job market, why are there still challenges?
Challenges of the English Department
There is no end to challenges to the English department, but these are just a few.
1. Attitude that anyone can teach it, anyone can take it.
Big push to increase access to dual credit. Some high schools give a high school diploma at the same time that they finish an associate’s degree.
Moving college classes into the high school devalues the essential skills that we teach in college.
“Get that out of the way so you can get to your major”
At ACU GenEd represents 43% of the classes required for a degree.
Composition can be taught by anyone.
This comes through reliance on adjuncts and graduate assistant teachers.
By doing this, it deprofessionalizes the subject matter, making it less important.
2. Assessment practices.
Assessment practices that look at measurable qualities in a short term environment is problematic.
Remember “Why Johnny Can’t Read”?
Teaching literacy skills and measuring the effect of teaching is difficult.
It is difficult to show a link from assignments to critical thinking.
Test results and anecdotal arguments undercut the English scholars.
3. Elitist approach to curriculum.
When you have a curriculum that over-emphasizes one aspect of the studies, the colleagues who are not in English will dismiss the validity of the department.
We hear it from our students… What is the deep, hidden meaning in this poem? (Students ask this?) Sometimes the professors create this feeling.
4. The opposite is also true. Too applied.
Popular culture and comparative literature… showing students what they know and how the tools of analysis can be used in other areas…
You hear often “Can you believe what they are teaching at this university?”
People will say, “That is not legitimate subject matter for English studies.”
5. What can you do with an English major?
Many people misunderstand the vocational value of a liberal arts education.
So people cannot envision the value of an English degree.
Future of the English Department
Bryan Matthews blog post: film and media was the new English major
What will film and new media mean to English studies?
Are we seeing a shift from paper to digital?
Imagine if the students are creating a digital argument?
In ACU’s curriculum review, we are considering film and media studies.
The question is: Are they a threat to traditional English studies?
“However when Bryan Matthews, whoever that is, looks at text as dead and dying, I just don’t want to pay any attention to him at all.” –anonymous colleague
Popular Culture: 2010 295 billion emails were sent per day. A fraction included sound or video.
2.5 billion emails per day in 2009.
blogs read by 2 Billion people.
Essence of blogs is reading and writing.
Twitter is a text-mode of communication.
“the wheel did not fall into disuse when the pulley was invented”
We will still have texts.
Do we live in a post-text era?
Or is text alive and well, thriving alongside media and supporting media?
Best illustrated in the production of digital work:
We want a peer-reviewed component.
But consider Wikipedia. It doesn’t have a formal peer review process.
It does have a real peer review process. Things that are wrong, false, or bogus get taken down quickly.
Wikipedia is a general reference work, not having a lot of depth and breadth. That’s why it’s not great for our students.
What about iBooks?
Avoids traditional publishing.
NYTimes June 17, 2011.
Amanda Hawking signed a $2M deal with a press AFTER she sold a million copies of her work online. She was 26 at the time. She had been writing and publishing since she was 17.
Guardian Feb. 8, 2012.
Jessica Daniels novels. Self-published by the author.
Just a few weeks ago, iBook2 and iBook-Author software series announced.
Free software. Only works on iPad. Has templates and widgets for easy development of text. Widgets allow for Keynote slides, calculator, graphics, photographs, videos, etc.
Links to glossaries.
Interactive timelines for survey classes.
Linguistics- reproduce the phonetic alphabet pronunciations.
Dictionary app that speaks the sound of the word.
iBook-Author brings ownership to authorship.
Very little programming knowledge.
You can control content and update.
There was some problem with Apple saying they were the only distributors. (Still say that for iBooks, but you can distribute the information in other ways.)
interactive delivery device
It is still production software. Doesn’t allow for bi-directional flow of information. Not a discussion board or a blog or Facebook. Delivery of content only.
Students producing iBooks instead of research papers… I LOVE THAT IDEA!
Bruce Commisky 2006 “English Studies” umbrella term: rhetoric, composition, creative writing, critical thinking, critical studies, linguistics, literary theory, literary studies, English-language studies
Laura McGraft study of production and consumption of digital texts (multimedia, web content, iBooks)
English majors work with tools and softwares.
recomposing, sharing texts, etc.
Our field IS being impacted by digital studies.
Curriculum committee research revealed:
as reviewed programs, looked at universities
within the major a core set of classes that looked at critical thinking, analysis, and writing
then there was a mix of new and old topics
mix of survey and single author or topic courses
balance of classes for grad school and career tracks
most schools added classes, minors, or tracks in film and new media
“What is old is new again”
Amalgamation of studies within the English departments
tension between elitist elements and democratizing aspects of our discipline
vocational, career preparation were the foundation of $$ in English departments–still there
Looking at general education curriculum, consider the other areas that were once part of English departments (speech, communication, foreign languages), then you are looking at a good chunk of the gen ed classes still coming from English-related studies.
Do you remember evaluating handwritten themes?
Analysis of texts:
editing tools of MSWord (marking, grading papers electronically)
New Media directs us back to our origins of English departments.
Discussion about New Media is taking us back to the beginnings of our discipline.
What do I think English majors need for the future?
Technical skills: web design, digital production, story telling (Think of Daniel Pink!)
Literacy skills: critical thinking, critical reading, analytical writing skills
Content and knowledge of great ideas: fundamental component of the Liberal Arts curriculum, classical texts both print and digital
Evaluation skills: with all access to information, the challenge of evaluating content becomes more important— The problem with research used to be getting access. That is not the challenge today. They do a quick Google search and they have a million hits. The challenge for our students today is evaluating the quality of the content they find.
Dual credit classes at someone’s school: Have to go to HS 4x week, add more hours, and go to the semester with the high school, with no additional money
What have you encountered?
Nancy Shankle: Not best person.
Gilchrist: Dual credits for 10 years. Have HS students come to us. Some on HS campus. Credentialed folks teach this. Because I was involved in the dual credit from almost the beginning, our department took a really firm stand that the students had to conform to the college-level timing.
In the last 3 or 4 years, we have had HS instructors teaching on their campus. They are teaching our curriculum. One HS teacher teaches 3-4 sections of Comp I and Comp II. She is teaching 35 students in a class. 5 days a week. Gilchrist says that is not the same instruction. It was shaped by the high school schedule. She molds it to fit the high school day.
Some high schools teach a zero-hour class. It’s three days a week, like the college.
20% of our enrollment is dual credit for the entire College of the Mainland.
Brent Gibson (Mary-Hardin Baylor U): It sounds like you may be too far gone already. Dual credit has to come our campus and take our professors. We don’t go out there.
Peggy (UT-Arlington): Online dual credit.
Then when the state backed out of the reimbursement, then said would reimburse if student passed.
With parent-pay dual credit, we have a higher retention rate.
When state was paying, we had 90% dropouts.
Susan Blassingame: When you have students who take dual credit or AP, they already have their gen ed hours. What about the skills they need?
Shankle: SACS requires that we access the learning outcomes that are required.
That means, our universities are responsible for showing how well our students write, even if we had no input into their general education classes.
We need to work as a profession to fight those negative perceptions.
Steve Remollino: Houston Chronicle, March 1,
Most of the AP folks who are making As and Bs are failing the AP tests in droves.
The students at HS campus are supposed to be on the college schedule, the HS students took the HS holiday, even though there was class.
Students taught on HS campus by HS professors, it’s a HS class. Not college. That’s how the students view their classes.
Brent Gibson: Are we doing a disservice to the assault on our discipline by viewing the issue as career preparation issue?
Nancy Shankle: As a chair, often had parents asking where the employability of English majors is?
I would frame my argument that the Liberal Arts education will not only help the students in their lives, but in their careers.
Federal Government estimates every year how much is spent training folks to read and write for their job.
Moumin Quazi: RTF degree. Went to a local celebrity and he said they don’t hire RTF majors. We hire English and history majors, because we want to train you in the RTF stuff, but we can’t train you to read and write and think.
Brent Gibson: Video gaming looking for narrative writing.
The really good jobs start out with “excellent communication skills