Reflections on Writing: Gloria Steinem Quote

“Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.” Gloria Steinem

I have to agree with Ms. Steinem that when I am writing, there are few distractions, few interruptions, few “dawdles.” Simply: my ideas and my word processor.

Part of my attraction is this simplicity. If nothing else, writing today is far simpler then when I was an undergraduate or when I was working on my graduate work.  I have never been a stellar typist, so I had to worry about typos all along and had to have white out or eraser or “erasable” bond paper to fix the errors where my mind ran far faster than my fingers had the capacity to manage.

I think that the “mind” part is another attraction to writing that minimizes distraction.  When I write, I am engaging in conversation–sort of–with my own mind.  I am tossing ideas around like a salad to see what looks good.  And this mental activity is great!

Certainly, writing is more fun and distractions are minimal at age 59 in contrast to when I was 18 or 19.  I believe I am thinking better now than then.  And I can stay focused more.  And, I have to confess, I am not worried about pleasing anyone.  In fact, some of my blogs I really hope to work up some anger and comments so we can really have a conversation!

And this last point–thinking better and more focused–is a real distinction in my own life and , I believe, is a distinction in the life of my students.  My students struggle to really be focused.  And they struggle to be focused for any extended bit of time.  There are lots of things going on in their lives and for our digital natives, there are always digital delivery systems chirping and burping for their attention.  Add to that a degree of immaturity for traditional ago students and it is easy to see how writing is just a side thing–there is always something better going on to distract them.

What do you think as you reflect on your writing in the past and your current writing? Is it easier now? Was it easier then?  How have things changes for you?  Please post your comments!

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Standard English?

The question mark in this title is extremely intentional.  I have been teaching freshman writing since 1980 at a state university and then at community colleges.  And unlike Britain and unlike France, I have yet to see a “standard” English.  In fact, as close as I can come is a myth (sometimes referred to as the Muhlenberg Vote) that German missed by one vote becoming the “official” language of the United States!

I concede that there are registers.  I also concede that in guiding students through freshman composition, I have participated in discussions about edited American English and how the freshmen writers need to consider the options edited American English offers them as they are defining their audiences.  However, I chafe at the idea of a “standard” for American English.

Let’s look at the situation: First, who would police this alleged “standard” if we had one?  I certainly would not as a PhD and as an English teacher.  Second, what would happen to the richness of our experiences if suddenly, our language was limited to what ever the “language police” would allow? And third, how could any “language police” keep up with the rapid changes we are seeing in usage (e.g. what speakers and writers actually “use” in contrast to the “grammar” which is far slower to change)?

At one point in the mid to late 20th century, I understand the argument about “network speech,” e.g. the language options used by Chet Huntley or David Brinkley or Walter Cronkite.  Certainly when Americans watched the news and there were only a handful of channels–these language users set patterns, but not standards!

And now–with hundreds of channels available–the genie is out of the bottle and “standardization” is next to impossible.

So why do we waste so much time talking about “standard” English in public schools? Is this talk of “standard” English an attempt–as Ngugi wa Thiong offers in his Decolonising the Mind–an attempt to shape and control thought?

I don’t mean to sound like some conspiracy nut, but I have never come to a clear understanding of why English teachers taught “grammar” every year for nearly 7-9 years of public schooling to students who are native speakers of English and who have fairly capable grammars without formal instruction!

So let’s talk about this issue.  Why do we perpetuate a nonsensical notion of “standard” English?  Please share any thoughts here!

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Special thanks to the faculty of ASE

I am sorry that I will not have a chance to share lunch with you all today since I have to leave town soon after pizza arrives. Tho’ I am not sharing the meal with you, each and every one of you are in my heart and in my head as I make this run to WV.

I especially want to acknowledge the wonderful work of Christy Crouch who is leaving us (sort of) to have time with her new family.  Christy: I am brokenhearted at your leaving and ecstatic that you are going to have the time you deserve with your daughter.  I wish you the best!

As we lose one, we can five and I want to welcome the new faculty who will be joining us in the fall.  I believe the search committees have done the hard work of reviewing, interviewing, discussing and recommending a candidate.  I cannot share their names at this point since we have to let those whose names did not come forward know where we are in the process.  Also, each of the candidates must meet with Mary, too.  But I will revise this and add their names before classes start in June.

We have an exciting year looming ahead:

  • SACS team arrives the second week of October and believe we are in excellent shape (5-10 issues to “fix” in the focus report, perhaps 3-5 recommendations we fix after the team leaves, and we are re-accredited in summer 2013!)
  • NAEYC arrives the week AFTER SACS leaves.  The report is superb and I believe Margaret and Sharon will “wow” the visiting team.
  • We are going to begin to scale up the Freshman Year Experience this year with more sections of ACA 090.  I am struck by how many of the issues explored in ACA also resonate with the College “all-read”: Bridges out of Poverty. I have not read more than two chapters, yet I am struck by how the authors address the issues of transcending the role of victim; discovering and maintaining motivation; managing self–particularly as one is learning new, yet hidden, rules; embracing a different type of interdependence; shifting the awareness of self; developing patterns of thought and life-long learning; broadening and deepening emotional intelligence; and lastly, embracing themselves as worthy individuals with insights and perspectives to share and discuss.
  • We will start a year-long self-reflection about student success and how we support and then measure our efforts.
  • We are embarking on a new advisement model, and I want to extend a hearty welcome to our new advisors: Margaret Cutler and Allison Crooks!
  • We are–as professionals in high education–on the cusp of unimaginable and rapid change. But I cannot think of a group with whom I would rather start the travels into these unchartered waters than with each and every one of you.  You share the commitment to our students and their success.  You share the passion of learning. You share a mutual respect for each other and for our students. Simple: you are the best and challenge any administrator anywhere to say the same about his or her colleagues.  Thank you all for being a part of the lives of our students and a significant part of my life. . . .

Enjoy your time away and return with the same enthusiasm in August!

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A Vision of Students Today

Whether we like it or not, our students are significantly different from us.  They are different because they are digital natives–they have grown up with access to the web and with access to 24/7 TV and with access to mixing their own music.

They are also different in–as Sir Ken Robinson stated–they no longer believe the “old lie” that working hard in college guarantees a good paying job.  They do not believe this narrative any more, and rightly so!

They differ in terms of reading.  They have learned skimming the surface, not reading for depth or reflection.  Please note: I am not pointing fingers or blaming; I am simply reporting differences that I have observed in nearly 30 years of higher education in the US.

With this said: I shared this video with faculty and with the college’s leadership team about four or five years ago as the “keynote” for our program planning & review.  We have to come to terms with the differences are students are bringing to the table because we can no loner afford what I’ve begun to call, “the arrogance of attrition.”

Click, watch, reflect, and please comment:

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Sir Ken Robinson and Paradigm Shifts

I shared this video with my faculty several months ago now.  I wanted them to reflect on what this YouTube vid is saying about us–as part of the education “system” in America today, what it is saying about education in general, and how this vid validates my own thinking about the industrial model contaminating our educational system.

Please review this video and post your comments/reflections.  I would love to hear your point of view!

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Hello world!

Welcome to the School of Arts, Sciences, and Education at Davidson County Community College.  I need to acknowledge Philip Nathanael Gough who pointed me in this direction.  Thanks Nathanael!

I have been blogging since “MySpace” days nearly ten years ago.  I have also tried to get wind into the sails of both a “blog” from Moodle and the wiki I created a few years ago for the School.  Now is the time to re-join the “citizen journalists” of my school and my community.

I just saw this vid on someone else’s blog and I have to share it since this underscores the role of “citizen journalist” today:

Enjoy and consider following this blog!

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