Organizing, Advocacy, and Knowledge Work

Labor and Composition

Posted by Amy LB on March 10, 2008

Here are my two cents of introduction: I think that no space for discussing the field of Composition generally, or our program specifically, would be complete without some discourse on labor. While much Composition scholarship has endeavored to reveal the negative effects of the distribution of labor in the university system, actual reform of that system has been very slow in coming. Indeed, in 2001, the Conference on College Composition and Communication Committee on Part-time / Adjunct Issues found that graduate students, adjuncts, and temporary full-time employees make up the bulk of college composition teachers [CCC. 53.2(2001): 336-348.].

Locally speaking, for several recent semesters, temporary employees have taught the bulk of Composition courses at KU. All tenured and tenure-track professors are required to teach Composition as well; our reliance on temporary employees, then, reveals both the growth and value of Composition in the university, perhaps in contradictory ways.

Composition is the only class that all KU students take. As we work to reform our own program, then, we need to ask: What effects, both long and short term, do our labor practices have on student learning? How do the terms of labor contracts affect the pedagogical choices teachers make? How do teachers for whom Composition is not an area of specialty (temporary, tenure-track, and tenured alike) see their role as teachers of writing? How can we better support, train, and advise the diverse group of persons teaching Composition?

In essence, I hope we can use this blog to discuss the good work all of our professors are doing in composition, as well as to consider how their varying status in the hierarchy of labor helps or hinders their success.

In other words, this is my ax to grind. (Well, one of them; I have an ax collection, really.) I’ll sharpen it here occasionally.


3 Responses to “Labor and Composition”

  1. Ok…if you’re looking for the post to which Ms Lynch is referring, check out the KU Comp/Rhet blog. You see, the other night…the night I went invite crazy on my brand spakin’ new inkwork/kucomprhet blogs (“my,” as it were, must be struckthrough now). I guess that’s the way I work. Messy. Chaotic. Throw out some ideas, invites, work, and promise and see what ya get.

    So, sorry for the confusion folks…Oh the joys of blogging!

  2. mslynch said

    I edited out my ref to the other blog…sorry for the breach in netiquette!

  3. Mysti said

    Amy–you ask all the right questions. And though I agree that you have many axes in your closet (garage? pick-up truck? underwear drawer? safety deposit box?), this may be the one you sharpened your incisors on: in other words, you were born to fight this battle–and lucky for you, there are others in the tent with you–Bousquet and Giroux, of course, but also Peter McLaren and, of course, Paulo Freire, and oh–how I want to be in this tent with you! If one is consigned to live a life with purpose, me thinks this is an honorable a cause as any to die for. (Sorry–I’ve been a bit morbid lately–it’s not so much influenced by the death of my father as much as my re-reading of Carol Bly’s criticism of the community I was raised in [and she’s right, by the way]). For a cool twirl, visit web site.

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