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Pedagogy 6.2 (2006) 337-341
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Tales of Old
Before she died, my husband asked his grandmother questions about what her life had been like "in the old days"—and he videotaped their conversation. His impulse was somehow to save her stories of the Depression and her experiences growing up poor on the south side of Chicago, memories that would be otherwise lost to him and our children when she died.
A similar desire prompted the edited collection The Profession of English in the Two-Year College. The preface indicates that this book emerged from a discussion at the National Council of Teachers of English southeastern regional conference between Sylvia Holladay-Hicks and Audrey Roth about their desire to tell the stories of early pioneers, allowing newcomers "to share in the richness of their knowledge and fervor" (vii). Rather than distanced articles espousing statistics and trends, this history would be more personal; they would "record as many early voices as possible" in order to provide the profession and future community college instructors with a "historical record of the early years" (vii).
In order to provide such a record, the collection is divided into three sections: "Creating Identities," "Creating Curriculum," and "Creating Professionals." [End Page 337] In the first section, Mark Reynolds's essay highlights the key areas of expertise where community college teachers, despite their heavy workload and an undervaluing of scholarship at their institutions, contribute important knowledge. Other contributors in this section include Mary Slayter, Marilyn Smith Layton, and Richard Williamson, who describe their progression as teachers over the past thirty years. Part 2, "Creating Curriculum," takes up specific aspects of community college writing programs: Barbara Stout describes the genesis of a writing program; William Costanzo describes how a pedagogy integrating film and computers came about; Dee Brock details how her college began teaching writing through television; and Alan Meyers describes the progression of the ESL program at his college. Together, these essays explore some of the innovations that have emerged in community colleges. Part 3, "Creating Professionals," begins with Mary Sue Koeppel's biographical sketch of Roger Garrison, who started the Master Teacher seminars, continues with Elizabeth Nist's description of her movement from a current traditional teaching philosophy to one that involved her students in the premises of social constructionism, and then includes a collaborative essay by Ann Laster and Beverly Fatherree about the southeast regional conference and what it provided for them and others over the years. This section concludes with Ellen Andrews Knodt's essay about the future of community college teacher training in graduate schools (a general study that doesn't quite fit the rhetorical bent of the rest of the collection) and a comprehensive bibliographic piece by Howard Tinberg.
As someone who has worked at a community college for only ten years, I'm part of the audience for this book. Like many of the contributors and as Ellen Andrews Knodt documents in her essay on graduate training, I completed my PhD at a graduate institution that didn't even recognize community college teaching as an option. Although I did my dissertation and exams on college composition, when I applied for the job at my school in 1996, I didn't even know that community colleges had tenured positions. I was ignorant about a lot of aspects of the community college, especially its rich history.
The crucial move this collection makes is to put some of this history in writing. Although I've heard stories from several colleagues who've been there since the beginnings in the early sixties—stories about walking on planks set over muddy trenches between temporary buildings—the history of the writing program at my school has never been written down, and because most of the original faculty have retired, elements of this history are lost forever. As Writing Program coordinator, I've worked to make innovations [End Page 338] in our program and subsequently found myself piecing together a history of...