Posted in CCCC 2012, History of Basic Writing, Who is Basic Writing?

Featured Session on Basic Writing!

Can I tell you how exciting it is to have a Basic Writing featured session? Our community owes a huge thank you to Program Chair Chris Anson to listening to our concerns last year! In his 2012 Greetings, Chris Anson says of this year’s program that “as promised in the 2011 Annual Business/Town Meeting, heightened focus on basic writing will be noticeable this year.” Given the roots of composition studies in basic writing, it’s gratifying to see this focus on basic writing.

Mike Rose begins with an analysis of how we have always had a version of basic skills in higher education. While higher education focuses on the numbers of students placed into basic skills, it ignores the fact that more students attend college today than ever before. Yet, today, basic skills education is only 1-2% of the total higher education budget. Basic Skills has a lower status than other courses for both faculty and students. This is part of the bigger picture about basic skills and higher education. And, there’s a connection between legislative and economic attacks on basic skills, who teaches it, and who takes these courses.

In keeping with his Exemplar speech this morning, Rose moves to a vignette about a basic writing class. We are invited to take a seat in the back of the classroom as we hear a compelling sketch of who is taking basic writing courses and why they are there. Rose details a classroom very familiar to those of us who teach basic writing, a rich and diverse classroom of students young and old who share a history of being undeserved in their prior education and for whom economics are the most compelling force against them. there is, notes Rose, a big dose of optimism that doesn’t fully address the challenges students in the class will confront such as interactions with the justice system, medical systems, and more.

Rose notes that they were placed in basic skills based on a placement exam which “no one knew about before hand and no one prepared for it.”

Rose moves on to document the differences in social class with another vignette about a visit to his friends who had small children. Surrounded by books, computers, and parents focused on their success, the differences between these children and the students in the classes he observed is based on material and economic disparities. Rose notes that it’s not about parental method, process, or intent: it’s about economic disparity and familiarity with American higher education.

Rose then moved on to address differences in educational preparation. Why, he asks, do we focus on techniques (how to underline and take notes) and not on how to interrogate and analyze the world around them? Why don’t we teach students how to think?

Back to the original classroom, Rose updated the success rates of students in the class. A familiar pattern of students who had to drop the class or who failed the course because of external forces: illness, jobs, pregnancy. Still others failed for missing too many classes and others because of difficulties with the digital platforms for the course.

Rose went on to address critiques of “college-for-all.”Our society, he says, does not provide a rich set of programs and possibilities for vocational training. We don’t provide counseling or advising to help students find their place in society. Does college attendance for financial aid not point to problems with our economic policies?

Rose then moved on to address the labeling of remedial/developmental students. He reminded us that we have always, in higher education, had a tradition of developmental education.

Rose ended his eloquent remarks with a story about a student who was laid off, went back to school, and graduated successfully.

This summary does not capture the beautiful writing of Rose’s carefully prepared remarks, but I hope you will check out his new book coming this September, Back to School: Second Chances at Higher Ed.

Lynn Quitman Troyka followed with some reports from the field on the state of developmental education: Pima College is cuttingndevelopmentalmeducation entirely because, “it only affects about 2,000 students.”

She also detailed the White House conference on community colleges that included no full-time faculty in the conversation.

Peter Adams followed by focusing on the ALP project. In his remarks, Adams looked at the the way in which developmental education has been increasingly moved to the community college. He raised questions about what that means for faculty, students, and the study of rhetoric and composition. He focused on current trends in innovation in community colleges and large national organizations/foundations. The huge list of programs and studies like stretch and bridge programs, studies on basic skills pedagogy like GSCC, and the ALP program point to ways that basic skills educators are innovating and trying to serve the students Mike Rose talked about.

Peter Adams ended by saying that these are critical times for developmental education. “If your focus is social justice,” Adams said, “then developmental education is the most important sector of higher education.”



Doing Developmental Education Differently

Posted in CBW 2012

Mike Rose

Hannah Ashley began our session with Mike Rose with a very personal introduction about the influence Mike Rose had on her choices as a graduate student and her decision to focus on basic writing, developmental education, and issues of social justice. In graduate school, Hannah published an article citing Mike’s work. He e-mailed her about the article and it gave her the courage to pursue what has become her life’s work. I’m sure that Hannah’s wonderful story encapsulates how many of us feel about Mike Rose and his work. That Mike Rose took the time to write back to her about it is further testament to just how cool Mike Rose is. For how many of us has Lives on the Boundary or Mind at Work or some other Mike Rose book been a guide for those of us committed to basic writing and developmental education? I am certainly one of those former graduate students for whom Mike Rose’s writing served as a guide to the kind of work I wanted to do. I imagine most of us in the room could testify to the critical importance of Mike Rose’s work not just in our field but on our personal, professional decisions. Did I mention that he’s receiving the 2011 CCCC Exemplar Award? (During questions and answers, Bill Lalicker said that Mike signed his copy of Lives on the Boundary in a cowboy bar in Laramie, Wyoming).

So, it won’t surprise you that you want to be first in line at your local bookstore to purchase His new book. At our session today, Mike Rose shared the introduction his forthcoming book Back To School: Second Chances at Higher Ed due out in fall 2012. The new book focuses on the role of education in society as a second, third, or more chance at education. The book is a series of essays on higher education addressing issues like the critical importance of adult education. It raises critical questions about the debate between occupational training and college-for-all. Another essay addresses why so many adults hunger for education; students return for education certainly for work but also so they can read to their children and help them with homework and because they enjoy reading. Today, there are many opportunities, but they are also under attack. How do we work to protect these programs and the public institutions that offer a wider education than just occupational education? But how do we also think about the importance of providing vocational training students need while also providing intellectual breadth?

In the last 30 years, have you heard anything about education that wasn’t about economics? Even informed citizenry gets only a small nod. The really rich motives for education need to be addressed more. Rose began this question in Why School and continues it in this new book.

In the rich question and answer period, people raised questions and comments such as these:

So much education today is hopeful, trying to suggest that when we have high expectations for students, they do inspiring things, even when there’s a lot working against them.

The notion of “The People’s College” (the final chapter) is a challenge to fight to change perceptions of community colleges as places of failure instead of places for success & possibility.

The group also discussed Pima Community College and the trend to get rid of developmental education (trends in California and Connecticut). What happens when the cure contributes to the malady? Decisions are made on a legitimate concern, but have unintended consequences. Policy cures are far from the day-to-day realities of the classroom, the tutoring center, and other spaces for education.

The book and the conversation ended with a discussion of the learning society (the conclusion to Mike Rose’s new book) and the ways in which education can help students to “make things right.” These journey metaphors encapsulate the the ways students are focused on not just getting a job but living a better life, a life defined by a more complicated understanding of learning and education.

Rose shared “Mikey’s little theory” of cognitive momentum. For the students who make it and are successful, there comes a point when they are building this knowledge base and they can do things they couldn’t do before. There’s a body of knowledge and you can use it; all of a sudden you are able to solve problems with that new knowledge and a change starts to happen that affects student identity.

We ended with a fabulous student story from a student literacy narrative. We need to help share all of these powerful student stories to the national conversation about education.

Mike asked that we all visit his website and share your ideas and comments!

Mike Rose at CBW 2012


Hannah Ashley and Mike Rose

Question and Answer session with Mike Rose


Thanks All Around & A Standing Ovation