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.