Link to University of Washington
Home Page
Information for Current and Prospective Students
Puget Sound Writing Project
Course Portfolios
London Theatre and Concert Tour
Contact Information

Winter Quarter ’06– <<>>

The Blackboard

We will be posting supplemental material to this site during the quarter. We don't expect to leave things up here indefinitely--so if you need it, read it or download it soon.

6 February:

Utopian Dreams

Knowing what you now know about your learning over the past few years, think both about what has made your work here good, and what might have made it even better. Think about what the ideal outcomes of an English or Humanities major would be for you, and then think about how those might best be achieved. Think about the kinds of courses such a major would require (or not require), the kinds of texts—literary and non-literary texts—you would read, the kind of classroom environment that worked best for you, and the sorts of projects, written or otherwise, faculty might ask you to do. Work from what you know—your own experience. What should a more perfect program emphasize? What should it de-emphasize?

Then write a 5-7 page Utopian view of an English major. What learning goals should such a major have? How would it best set itself up to achieve them? What should be required, and how should it be orchestrated? What would happen in the classes you took? What pedagogy would these courses adopt?

My reading criteria will again be: specifics, fullness, and So What—or Power; you are making an argument here. No one is going to change anything just by the force your assertion. But you have experience to draw on, and you know something both about how professionals in the field have been urging its reform, and about how your own classmates have experienced the major today.

As with the first paper, we will be publishing these for the class to read and respond to—and, I hope (but only with your permission), to share with members of the English Department faculty who have for the past three years been redesigning the English major.

3 February:

Questions raised by Educating Rita

A film with Michael Caine and Julie Walters about (at the very least):

• what education is (change, alienating, deepening, entering new and different communities, an equipping for more-informed choice, and therefore a way of thinking),
• what it demands (change, patience, buy-in, generosity, resilience, honesty),
• the consequences it aims at (sophistication, “learning,” certification, change, choice, cultural knowledge, discrimination, acculturation and regulation, and?),
• and those it doesn’t aim at (alienation from self, conflict, confusion, failure, pretense and pretension, subordination/regulation, a breeder of cynicism, boredom),
• what education is not (automatic, automatically freeing or enriching, easy, an answer, “enough”),
• what teaching is (here it is a certain canny and cynical tough-mindedness in the tutorial, affectation and self-importance and self-revelation and [therefore] disguise, honesty, sympathy, respect, curiosity),
• what learning is (see above!),
• what education in English literature is (culturally valued experience with a canon, and thereby an introduction to a loose community of discourse that is informing, identifying, assuring, validating, separating—and for Rita, empowering);
• what the relation is between school learning (exam learning) and life learning, and life living, for that matter (not a given). (Indeed, it is complicated, both distant from life experience, and somehow necessarily so—as it is the distance it creates that enables the moving outside of the self—or an expanding of the self—to recognize other places, times, cultures, persons that enables the choices Rita finally makes. But with the distance comes the danger that the loop never gets closed, and education never comes back home to inform the life it has touched—which is the don’s problem, in a way.)


27 January: Letter to class

Thanks for a great class on Wednesday.

I wanted to send an update, summarizing the discussion we had about the "point" of the readings we have been doing so far--both for those of you who took part in it on Wednesday, and for those of you who couldn't get to class.

In essence, through the readings of the past three weeks I have been trying to enable you to write a deeper and more fully informed "Looking Back" paper by making available to you some sense of the conversations of the past 40 years about education in general and about English in particular. You have now read about some of the battles in our discipline—and you’ve read work from some of the major players in those disputes.

I don’t ask that these all pop up in what you write—I ask only that you write with a clearer, more problematic, more critical awareness of the educational experiences you have had. I’m not looking for you to declare either that you’ve been victimized by the banking theory of education, or that you’ve been born again transformed by liberation pedagogy. You certainly may write that, if that is a way of making sense of the dozens of different experiences you have undergone.

But my point is: none of the courses any of you has taken is value-free. Certain ways of thinking and certain goals for learning are implicit in any course, whether anyone talks about them or not. These trends, claims and practices are all out there.
So what have they done to, with, for, you? You have only your own experience to write from, and in that sense I locate your expertise solidly in the “personal.” That’s fine. It’s the only data set you have. But that’s why I want you to focus on specifics, and to be full in your discussion/narration. Being “personal” by itself does not an interesting essay make. Being full, and reflective, and informed about your experience does.

See you Monday.


19 January: Letter to Class

Thanks to those of you in class last night for being such good hosts for Vivyan Adair's visit. I told you I'd give you the URL for her project's exhibit site so you could revisit essays, or see some of those you didn't have time to see last night. It is:

If you want more information about ACCESS, you can just do:

I didn't want to embarrass her by too fulsome praise, but Vivyan is not only an extraordinarily hard working and hard thinking teacher, she was recognized two years ago by the Carnegie Foundation as New York State's Teacher of the Year. I hope you could get some sense last night of both the committment and enthusiasm she brings to her work.

As far as changes to the syllabus go, I will post the whole thing later today--but for those of you unable to get to class, please look to see the assignment revision on the update/assignments page:

Main change: recognizing that with the two missed Monday classes, we just haven't done all I'd like us to do before the Looking Back paper is due, I've set the due date for that as January 30. Instead we'll read Utopia for Monday (a work of enormous power in the reconceptualizing of "education" in western culture--and it also has at least two jokes in it). See the Website for the response paper assignment.

See you Monday.



Course Overview | Texts | Syllabus | Assignments and Updates | Blackboard

Home | A&S Writing | Classes | PSWP | SoTL | London | Vita | About Me | Golf | Contact Info