Looking back today, I’m a little uneasy about that piece of rather strong language in yesterday’s post. I figure I’d best clarify right off the bat that it wasn’t directed at any real person, but rather the imagined cocktail-party interlocutor. And I just really loved putting “motherfucker” right next to a putting-on-airs untranslated Latin quotation from the Vulgate of Jeremiah via James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
I run again tomorrow; I’m going to be doing three days a week, until I get back into the swing of things. I used to be able to do two miles in under eleven minutes, smoking a pack a day, but those days are long gone. My thighs are solid blocks of soreness, partly because the first mile of my two and a half mile route is a steep uphill grade. It’ll get easier. My goal is to be able to do Petticoat Hill, four and a half miles of even steeper road, by the end of Summer.
Anyway, I’m done with Mankiw. Tonight’s project: a quick summary of where I’ve been (I meet with one of my committee members tomorrow), with some questions to guide me on where I’m going.
1. Class (4 entries):
Composition discusses class in (at least) four ways: relations of production, wealth and vocation, values and culture, lived experience and authenticity claims. These four perspectives could be a useful chapter-ordering scheme in my dissertation, in examining how they affect my understanding of how class plays in the classroom. (Attention to wealth and vocation might focus more on, say, teacher evaluation of essays, while attention to values and culture might focus more on how students relate to one another in group work; these perspectives would carry different theoretical and pedagogical implications.) The fourth perspective, lived experience and authenticity claims, is always going to be present to some degree, whether or not the other perspectives are seen as exclusionary.
Also, following James Berlin’s work, I’ve named the vocational education and liberal education models of the university. Views of class as constructed by wealth and occupation align more with the vocational model, while views of class as constructed by values and culture align more with the liberal education model. An understanding of class as being constructed by the relations of production doesn’t seem to fit perfectly into these categories, but then, understanding how they get left out of those categories can tell me something, as well.
The language of theoretical abstraction, as enacted in the university, has often been used to deny the material conditions of life via its very abstraction: after Descartes (hell, after Plato), we’re uncomfortable talking about bodies in the world in the same context as ideas.
Not only are institutions classed — think about the small, exclusive liberal-arts teaching college as opposed to the big state university, or the Ivies versus community colleges — but disciplines may be classed, as well. English is hardly vocational, and seems to be much more aligned with the liberal education model — but many proponents of the utility of college writing courses would align such courses with the vocational model.
2. Class & Computers (2 entries):
Computers are both products of and influences upon relations of production. Writing is a product in our broader economy; it’s also a product in the academic economy, and computers influence how it’s produced and consumed. This holds true particularly from a Marxist perspective, but it’s useful to ask how it also holds true from the other perspectives on class: how does a values and culture perspective on class understand the production and consumption of writing with computers? How does a wealth and occupation perspective on class understand the production and consumption of writing with computers?
Economists seem to have so far inadequately theorized the effects of infinite digital reproducibility on their views of production and consumption, althogh Shapiro and Varian’s Information Rules, once I get to it, may change my mind. Does writing instruction with computers reproduce class? Can it be different?
3. Computers (2 entries):
Writing takes forms on the Web that are different from the print-based essay genres familiar to many teachers.
4. Economics (4 entries):
Mankiw says high productivity causes high living standards; I want to say they’re components of the same phenomenon.
Education is a scarce good, but it’s also capital. This is difficult and a little complicated; I’m going to have to come back to it. Education can be seen as human capital or as signaling in the way it places people into good jobs; human capital is a vocational view, and signaling may be a liberal education view, or at least more related to values, culture, and difference.
5. Readings (5 entries):
In the circulation of writing in the classroom, both grades and education function as media of exchange. Social networks establish the value of cultural capital. In terms of these media of exchange, how can we see technological advance as raising the marginal product of labor for writing teachers and students?
6. Writing & Economics (3 entries):
Evaluation is, in one sense, valuation, which is why its exchange in the form of grades is so contentious. There are varying motives for producing writing, and varying motives for consuming writing.
Who produces education?
Who consumes the writing that students produce, in the classroom and on the web?
How do compositionists understand education as a product?
How do compositionists understand writing as a product?
How do compositionists understand educational institutions as producers and consumers of those products?
How do compositionists understand teachers as producers and consumers of those products?
How do compositionists understand students as producers and consumers of those products?
And I’ll close with one broader question, that I think these other questions are starting to help me to ask: how is class produced and enacted in the wired writing classroom?