Showing posts from 2021

Blogbook -- The Politics of Whiteness in the Logics of Outcomes

Entry 40 In my last post ( post 39 ), I discussed the ways white male authors and their historically cultivated habits of language deeply inform the CCSS and its appendix essay , which explains the focus on “argument” over “persuasion” when teaching language and writing to high school students in the U.S.  But I was just getting started in explaining the problems with the appendix essay and the focus on argument. There’s more. I’ll continue in this post. The reason I go into such detail about the appendix’s discussion is that it is indicative of most logics in all course or programmatic outcomes, in both secondary and postsecondary contexts, and it’s good to know what we must orient ourselves against and why if we wish to be antiracist.  The appendix’s discussion of “writing” explains three kinds of writing students should learn: “argument,” “informational/explanatory writing,” and “narrative.” However, half or more of this larger section in the appendix on writing focuses on writing a

Blogbook -- Only White Men

Entry 39 Let’s look deeper into the CCSS’ appendix to understand the fullness of the problem of whiteness, which is a bigger problem in the academy than just the CCSS. This problem comes from the historical and material conditions we live in. The anonymous authors of the appendix draw on only white male university professors and writing researchers to make their point about the outcomes of writing classrooms being mostly logocentric and “argument” based. They reference Gerald Graff, Neil Postman, Joseph M. Williams, and Lawrence McEnerney. They quote Williams and McEnerney of the University of Chicago Writing Program, and explain that the authors “define argument not as ‘wrangling’ but as ‘a serious and focused conversation among people who are intensely interested in getting to the bottom of things cooperatively’” ( note 264 ).  This ain’t a bad way to think about arguments, for sure. I like the focus on “getting to the bottom of things” through cooperation. But it isn’t the only way

Blogbook -- The Difficulty of Avoiding White Language Supremacy in Standards

Entry 38 If what I’m saying about learning outcomes and standards for language seem counterintuitive or wrong, it’s because the systems we live in are built on whiteness (see post 28 on HOWL ), and that whiteness is hard to recognize as politicized or positional (that is, biased). Whiteness is a deep part of the structures that make us as teachers, our languaging, the CCSS, and the OS. The CCSS validation committee (listed in Reaching Higher: The Common Core State Standards Validation Committee ), is a collection of national experts and teachers, and they illustrate the problem I’m speaking of. The problem of white language supremacy is in part embodied in the whiteness of the people who created and validated the CCSS. The CCSS validation committee “was charged with providing independent, expert validation of the process of identifying the Common Core State Standards as part of the CCSSI” ( note 256 ). This committee essentially checked the work of the numerous other working groups and

The Benefits of Labor Logs for Writing Courses

I woke up the other night unable to sleep, so I thought about why a student, or teacher, should keep a labor log in a writing course. I know, that's probably not what you think about when you lie awake at night, but I feel there are some not-so-obvious benefits that are worth explaining to students and teachers, but really, this post is for students.  Now, if you are new to labor-based grading or labor logs and you want to learn more about both, which I use together in my courses, you can check out my book on the subject, Labor-Based Grading Contracts: Building Equity and Inclusion in the Compassionate Writing Classroom (2019). It's free online. I've also made a labor-based grading resource page on my website ( ) with  resources geared for both teachers and students from all over the internet.  So what are the benefits of keeping a labor log. In short, there are at least two important benefits for those who keep them, particularly stud

Bout to Be MORE Racist: The Philly Magnet School Decision

Recently, I got this email from my dear friend Eli Goldblatt (at Temple U). He put me in contact with a committed and engaged pair of teachers who are concerned about the changes to admissions for magnet schools in the Philadelphia area , and more specifically they were concerned about a 90-minute, timed writing exam that students would now have to take for several of the magnet schools admissions processes. The exam would be scored by a computer, an automated scoring technology . The move is meant to centralize decisions and eliminate local decisions that were understood before as racist, or having too much bias that led to racist outcomes in some of the magnet schools. So the changes are meant to " increase diversity " (that's good), but as far as I can tell, they mean by this to "eliminate bias" in decisions by people for admission, which opens a host of other racist problems that it seems clear they've not thought through.  These two Philly teachers wan