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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Recreating the experience of English...

It occurs to me that Kathryn might not have the experience of being heard.  I'd like to recreate what I understand as the experience of the English folks at a polytechnic (Kathryn, please feel free to and all have administrative power so can edit any message, just click the little pencil icon at the bottom of the entry).

What is it like to teach a "service course" at a polytechnic university?

If you are one of those who are charged with teaching a service course, you find that at many levels within the culture as expressed through activities, policies, practices and language, your profession is subtly subjugated by the "professional colleges."

How is this subjugation felt?  It is felt when "colleagues" from professional colleges dictate to you what they want out of the students who take your courses.  They do this not in a way that asks you what you think students need to know and do, but in a way that treats you (and I'm using hyperbole here) as a worker on an assembly line.  The students are viewed as a kind of functional product with industry as the customer.  Your role is to make sure the "product" (student) functions in a way that meets their demands...a kind of skill in service to their more important chosen profession.  You are not consulted in this process, but treated as if your entire function in the university is one of taking care of your part of the assembly line in service to the quality of the product for the imagined customer.

You look around campus and see that the customer is giving money to better the facilities of the professional colleges. These funds improve their learning environment, but do not trickle down to you life as a faculty member. In a sense, how you have contributed to their "product" is invisible.

When the university communicates to the outside world, it speaks largely of its professional college graduates. Your disciplinary profession rarely shows up in the conversation of the "university" to the outside world. You hear "Cal Poly is known for its hands on learning, with graduates who possess the skills and are ready to hit the ground running. They are hire-ready graduates."  You don't hear, "Cal Poly graduates are passionate and reflective agents of change who have developed the ability to express their individual voice as a citizen in the world. They see the critical value of the arts in fostering a peaceful and just society."  You don't hear this because it is not true and not the goal of the institution, despite the institutional rhetoric.

Much of what you value is entirely invisible. In this way, it doesn't feel valued.  You don't feel valued. In conversations about resource allocations, you find that you have to be the one that "defends" your worth.  and fights for a fair share of the allocated resources. You find that what you value is diminished in lots of ways by the polytechnics, for example, by the small amount of the curricular requirements that are allocated to your field, presumably because all the things that they "need" to learn are more important than taking courses from your field.

You find yourself blamed for the polytechnic students' inability to communicate, yet when you examine the curriculum, you find that some programs list all your courses (yes, even the freshmen ones) at the very end of the students' experience (e.g., senior year). Their polytechnic curricular flowcharts give the message that the courses are "unimportant" and can be taken any time because they are "on the side," unrelated to chosen field of study.  They are separate and "less than."  Yet, you are blamed for not making sure that students are able to communicate based on the 8% of the entire curriculum that is devoted to communication.

Does this get at your experience?

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