Saturday, October 27, 2012

What's on My Bookshelf Right Now?: 4 Good Reads for Thinking about Composition

As I work towards putting together my dissertation prospectus, I've been picking up texts that were not on my comprehensive exams list in order to fill in the gaps and push my thinking along. I've found some great reads along the way. Whether I agree with the claims made in these texts or not, here are some books I recommend for their ability to promote thought and dialogue:

  • The Dangerous Rise of Therapeutic Education (2009) by Kathryn Ecclestone and Dennis Hayes : This book is actually about the British education system, covering primary through higher and further education. It traces the ways that education has become focused on therapeutic measures and argues against programs such as Every Child Matters (like the British version of the American No Child Left Behind Act), which, in their attempts to promote emotional literacy and inclusiveness, delay student development and create a diminished self identity.
  • The School and the Society (1900) by John Dewey: The first edition of this book was written in 1900, more than 100 years ago, yet many of Dewey's observations on education are still relevant today. Dewey argues for a bridge between the school and the larger social structure. He also argues for active work/active occupation in the school rather than memorization and knowledge building based on facts divorced from context or critical thought.
  •  Postcomposition (2012) by Sidney Dobrin: In Postcomposition, Dobrin makes the claim that Composition Studies needs to move beyond the composition classroom and make a return back to the study of writing. He says that by limiting our scholarship to the classroom, we are actually studying how to create better students, not better writers. It is also the reason Composition studies is marginalized and seen as a service to other disciplines, according to Dobrin.
  • A Rhetoric for Writing Teachers, 4th ed. (2001) by Erika Lindemann: First published in 1982, Lindemann's book is a kind of theory primer/how-to book for those who teach writing (not necessarily just First Year Writing). It is full of useful practical information. She spans topics from "What does process involves?" to "What do teachers need to know about cognition?" to "Developing writing assignments" and "Teaching with computers." As a whole, Lindemann reminds us that writing is a recursive process and one that is determined contextually.

The other reason I picked these four books is because they all take seemingly contradictory points of view to at least one other text on the list. Despite that, I manage to find something valuable in the claims made in each.

Have you read these texts? If so, what are your thoughts on them?


Bruce J. Martin said...

Hadn't read the last two, but glad you mentioned them. Looking for copies now. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I love the Lindemann book. You'll find it useful throughout your career as a writing teacher. Post a review of the Dobrin book if you get a chance - I'm curious!

NP said...

Bruce, I'm glad you're considering picking those two up. They're solid reads. Lindemann is much easier to stomach that Dobrin, I will say. While Lindemann is very practical, Dobrin is mainly theory and written in complex ways that are clearly intended for intellectuals, not the layman.

Bryna, once we get through this storm, I'll see what I can cook up for you :)

Thanks to you both for reading and responding :)