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Catherine Chaput Forging a Workers' Consciousness in Composition Studies (on Marc Bousquet, Tony Scott, and Leo Parascondola, eds, Tenured Bosses and Disposable Teachers: Writing Instruction in the Managed University [Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2004]) Composition theorists who study the profession, like their colleagues across the university, usually focus on the role of tenured and tenuretrack faculty at research and aspiring research universities. Thus, there is a tendency to allow research activities to stand in for all university work. The omission of community colleges, four-year liberal arts schools, and non-tenured lines is not surprising given the importance of research and research faculty to the contemporary university's formation. The United States system of public higher education developed through an emphasis on creating research to help the United States compete within the capitalist marketplace. For instance, advocates of the Land Grant Act—the source of many state universities—argued for greater investment in agricultural technology specifically because smaller European countries were yielding larger crops than were American farmers (Cross 80-1). Privileging research over other academic labor has a history as old as the U.S. university system , but Tenured Bosses and Disposable Teachers, edited by Marc Bousquet, Tony Scott, and Leo Parascondola, seeks to reverse this trend by focusing on lowly writing instructors and others glossed over in prevailing studies of the profession. Informed by Gary Rhoades' important study, Managed Professionals: Unionized Faculty and Restructuring Academic Labor, the contributors to Tenured Bosses acknowledge that they are scholars who explore the often esoteric nuances of language, teachers who harbor pedagogical hopes for transforming the world, and individuals who derive fulfillment from their work—what one essay calls "psychic reward." Yet they also identify themselves as workers whose conditions of labor will not change without forging a class consciousness of their positionality as labor opposed to the interests of capital. The collection brings together such well-known scholars as Richard Ohmann, David Downing, and Paul Lauter who all underscore the importance of linking a critical consciousness of the labor situation to the objective realities of our material working conditions. Lauter suggests that "most of the problems this book engages cannot adequately be addressed unless or until the free-market ideology that underwrites current management practices is brought into serious question" (74). While few dispute the need to construct a new consciousness, a war of words itself—or, a war of ideologies—will not alter unfair working conditions. The overwhelming thrust of these essays, consequently, encourages further unionization, 264 the minnesota review stronger coalitions, and an unequivocal refusal of the economic bottom line. In other words, this collection calls us to identify and theorize the labor of writing instructors. Randy Martin, editor of Chalk Lines: The Politics of Work in the Managed University, goes so far as to argue inhis foreword to the collection that writing instructors should see themselves as industrial workers. Because U.S. universities formed in concert with industrialization and have evolved with changing occupational needs, he contends that the role of instructors follows a process of industrialization rather than a pre- or post-industrialization schema. While some might cringe at being called an industrial service worker, this claim highlights the fact that higher education is an industry for the production and dissemination of knowledge—what Karl Marx calls the teaching factory and Stanley Aronowitz calls the knowledge factory. Such an assertion also implies that our working conditionshavenot significantly changed since the advent of the repetitive, nineteenth-century workplace. Anyone familiar with John C. Brereton's documentary history of writing instruction, The Origins of Composition Studies in the American College: 1875-1925, knows that the debates about teaching, assessment, and disciplinarity have more often repeated themselves than they have moved forward. The turn-of-the-century essays excerpted in Brereton's text discuss the usual topics—emphasis on style versus content; the value of reading versus writing; whether to require or abolish first year composition. But they just as often discuss the labor of teaching composition. In fact, many of the debates center onhow much labor is extracted from instructors of writing and how much that labor is or is not remunerated. One teacher in Brereton's collection—who...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2157-4189
Print ISSN
0026-5667
Pages
pp. 263-268
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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