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Activist WPA, The

Changing Stories About Writing and Writers

Linda Adler-Kassner

Publication Year: 2008

One wonders if there is any academic field that doesn’t suffer from the way it is portrayed by the media, by politicians, by pundits and other publics. How well scholars in a discipline articulate their own definition can influence not only issues of image but the very success of the discipline in serving students and its other constituencies. The Activist WPA is an effort to address this range of issues for the field of English composition in the age of the Spellings Commission and the No Child Left Behind Act.

Drawing on recent developments in framing theory and the resurgent traditions of progressive organizers, Linda Adler-Kassner calls upon composition teachers and administrators to develop strategic programs of collective action that do justice to composition’s best principles. Adler-Kassner argues that the “story” of college composition can be changed only when writing scholars bring the wonders down, to articulate a theory framework that is pragmatic and intelligible to those outside the field--and then create messages that reference that framework. In The Activist WPA, she makes a case for developing a more integrated vision of outreach, English education, and writing program administration.

Published by: Utah State University Press


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pp. v

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-xi

In the yoga class that I took each week while I was writing this book, our teacher, Michael, reminded us to practice pranayama, breath that vibrates in the back of the throat. (Michael described it as the breath you make if you’re trying to fog up a mirror.) “Hearing everyone else’s breath,” he said, “reminds us that we practice in a community ...

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1. Working from a Point of Principle

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pp. 1-35

Alarmist stories about student writers or college-level writing that run counter to the ones that circulate among writing teachers on disciplinary listservs or in discussions in professional research are easy to find. Using the search terms “writing skills and college students” in a database like Lexis Nexis Academic reveals news items headed by ...

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2. Looking Backward

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pp. 36-58

In chapter 1, I suggested that actions taken based on responses to these questions reflect tropes, “movement[s] from one notion of the way things are related to another notion, and a connection between things so that they can be expressed in a language that takes account of the possibility of their being expressed otherwise” ...

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3. Framing the Public Imagination

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pp. 59-84

The column from which this excerpt is drawn illustrates the ways that elements of the progressive pragmatic jeremiad contribute to a frame surrounding discussions of education (and writing) in widely read documents, like news stories and policy reports (which are often cited in news stories). In that jeremiad, the purpose ...

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4. Changing Conversations about Writing and Writers: Working through a Process

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pp. 85-127

Justine’s story encompasses some of the field’s most pressing challenges, all of which extend from the stories about writing and writers discussed in chapters 2 and 3. How are students’ literacies defined when they come in to composition courses? What should courses teach to develop students’ literacies—or, in the language ...

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5. Taking Action to Change Stories

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pp. 128-163

This anecdote from Larissa, the writing director at a large private university, illustrates a point made by the Bay Area Organizing Coalition (BAOC) organizer Eleanor Milroy: “There’s a gazillion problems and a gazillion issues” (Milroy 2006). Issues here might include lack of support for WI courses, reliance on one faculty member ...

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6. Working from My Own Points of Principle: Tikkun Olam, Prophetic Pragmatism, and Writing Program Administration

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pp. 164-185

We all know this story: “I was chatting with someone in/on (insert location here—airplane, airport, grocery store line, child’s school, etc.), and the conversation turned to what we did for a living. When I said that I taught writing, the person said (insert negative comment about writers or writing here— ‘Oh! I’d better watch ...

Appendix: Contact Information for Community Organizations/Media Strategists

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pp. 186


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pp. 187-189


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pp. 190-203


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pp. 204-208

E-ISBN-13: 9780874217001
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874216998

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2008