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Pedagogy 1.3 (2001) 583-589

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Resisting the "Ideology of Certainty"

Bonnie L. Kyburz

Ways of Reading: An Anthology for Writers. 5th ed. Ed. David Bartholomae and Anthony Petrosky. New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 1999.

Before I launch into a description of my "encounter" with Ways of Reading, I need to provide some context for my experience. I will limit this description to a few key features, characteristics of my present reality and local situation that I find relevant to my reception of and quick resistance to David Bartholomae and Anthony Petrosky's book. First, I am writing program coordinator at Utah Valley State College (UVSC), where, legend has it, many students are simply doing time in "generals" before moving up the hill to attend Brigham Young University (BYU), a private, religious institution created and maintained by the Mormon Church. Since a large majority of UVSC students are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), it seems only natural that many of them desire membership in the BYU community. For at BYU Mormonism defines the campus experience, and there, allegedly, the difficult tensions that emerge from encounters of the mind in the context of a secular school are less trying and demoralizing to the carefully developed, rigidly controlled worldview of the Mormon student in Utah Valley (where both BYU and UVSC are located). In short, I have worked to shape the [End Page 583] UVSC Writing Program against a conflicted political and ideological landscape. Even as I have attempted to create a curriculum that encourages students to discover the concepts of agency and praxis in a dominant culture described as hierarchical and patriarchal, I have worked to create forums and curricula for the Writing Program that engage students of faith in ways that do not deride, disallow, or otherwise limit the roles of faith in their intellectual lives.

It is true that the LDS church defines "hegemony" in Utah Valley, and thus my "faith" project might be described in Freirean terms as "heresy," but it is more productively described (also in Freirean terms) as "cooperation," which "leads dialogical Subjects to focus their attention on the reality which mediates them and which--posed as a problem--challenges them" (Freire 1970: 149). Put simply, I draw on Freire with the awareness that his work is complexly articulated through a heteroglot of conflicts and tensions rather than reduced to a simple dualistic tension between oppressor and oppressed, dominant and subordinate, good and evil. Thus I am not working "for" or "against" the (dominant) LDS church or "for" or "against" (subordinate) liberatory ideology when I attend to faith issues at this state school. Besides, "faith" is not the problem I see in Utah Valley. Fear is the problem.

In part, it is the problem of fear that I find implicitly informing Ways of Reading in the shape of assumptions about the fears of incoming students and their ostensible need for guidance into the big, wide world of "readers" and "writers" (as though these terms inherently and exclusively suggested "academic" readers and writers). Perhaps this fear is also felt by Bartholomae and Petrosky, as it is by many of us who have taught literature and eventually found ourselves teaching composition. We feel safe with what is "proven," familiar.

As a graduate teaching assistant (TA), I would have been overjoyed to use the carefully structured, familiar Ways of Reading. The readings are provocative, "long, powerful, mysterious pieces" (vi). The "Questions for a Second Reading" do the work of both analysis and explication: "The questions we [the editors] have written highlight what we see as the central textual or interpretive problems" (vii); plus, as a bonus for the busy TA, Bartholomae and Petrosky provide ready-made prompts. The "assignment sequences" do the work of synthesis and application: "In the assignment sequences, your reading is not random. Each sequence provides a set of readings that can be pulled together into a single project" (782). What is more, if you go astray, the editors are there to put you back on the right track: "Note: Freire would...


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