Cccc Carter Dm | Curriculum | Integrity

Shannon Carter CCCC 2012 Draft: Please don‟t quote or cite!

Manufacturing America at “The South’s Most Democratic College” In “Drafting US Literacy,” Deborah Brandt reveals how WWII shifted the nation‟s approach to mass literacy from an abstract, moral imperative to “an actual resource needed for the production of war.” Never before had literacy instruction been so firmly connected to democratic ideals. Yet the war‟s end did not sever these links. Instead, postwar America merely shifted mass literacy‟s output from a resource for the production of war to the raw materials with which to manufacture a sustainable democracy. I want to explore with you today that coupling of literacy and citizenship as articulated at a rural, white teachers college during its years as “The South‟s Most Democratic College” under the leadership of James Gee (president, 1947-1966). I argue that this particular articulation of literacy as raw material for the production of democracy enabled the development of a writing program that anticipates far more contemporary approaches, including the key movements of the 1970s and ‟80s (Process, Expessivism, Rogerian Rhetoric, Cognitive Rhetoric), as well as current movements in undergraduate research and writing about writing and recurring issues in writing across the curriculum and basic writing. It also reflected movements dominating CCCC at the time, especially general semantics, communication studies, and to a lesser extent, personality psychology, as I will explain. The university‟s advertising slogan—“The South‟s Most Democratic College”--marked a period of unprecedented change and (often excruciating ironies), but I will focus today on just one: the establishment of a highly controversial general education program based on values supporters insisted were “core to all human experience” and of vital importance, as the curricular materials assert, to „the wide sharing of democratic values.” The program itself, and the writing approach that emerged to support it, was fraught with paradox—intensely problematic on

Shannon Carter CCCC 2012 Draft: Please don‟t quote or cite!

numerous levels, yet rich with potential guided by the “Best Practices” our field would publish nearly fifty years later. Let me begin, then, at the beginning.

Part I: “Toward a Common Citizenship” In 1947, the Truman Commission published Higher Education for Democracy, a sixvolume report articulating the American college‟s inextricable link to democracy‟s future. The same year, James G. Gee moved to rural, Northeast Texas to become ET‟s fifth president and lead the campus through the most dynamic period in American higher education. For Gee, the report could not have been timelier or more deliciously quotable. “If we are to give more than lip service to a democratic conception of the function of a college,” Gee declared in his inaugural address in November of „47, we must “develop within each student a sense of responsibility to the social order.” The report‟s articulation of higher education as “the carrier of democratic values, ideas, and processes” resonated deeply with Dr. Gee. He was convinced that, as the report insisted, “[e]ducation is the foundation of democratic liberties,” convinced of higher education‟s obligation to “transmit [to students] a common cultural heritage for a common citizenship” Originally from South Carolina, Gee was a veteran of both world wars who had risen to the rank of colonel and identified deeply with his family ties to the Confederate Army. He was at once deeply patriotic and increasingly preoccupied with the communist threat he saw lurking around every corner. He was also an outspoken segregationist who frequently conflated the long civil rights movement with communist rhetoric, a subject I explore at some length elsewhere. In the face of what he assumed to be communism‟s increasingly seductive and powerful influence, higher education appeared to be America‟s only defense.

Shannon Carter CCCC 2012 Draft: Please don‟t quote or cite!

Thus when Texas Education Agency mandated broader-based instruction in the liberal arts at the state‟s teacher‟s colleges, Gee was all too happy to comply. He immediately formed a task force to study the issue of general education and relevant applications to ET. Between 1951 and 1956, the appointed committee undertook an exhaustive study and analysis of the issue and its potential implementation. The final year of the study, ET hired a director, piloted its first set of courses, and issued a favorable report concerning its successful implementation. At each phase of this multi-year study, the committee was guided by two core goals: (1) that the curriculum “develop in the individual a crucial loyalty to democratic ideals and to foster behavior consistent with a belief in such ideals,” and (2) that the program be unified in ways that make “sense in terms of realistic interrelationships between the major disciplines.” When he arrived in 1955 to direct the newly formed General Education Program, Dr. Clyde Arnspiger immediately began developing the “social process” framework, a mechanism supporters believed would promote these democratic ideals while integrating the disciplines. Yet the same framework that integrated the program would play a key role in dividing the campus, despite the scholarly communities endorsement of the framework itself and almost unanimous local support for the concept of general education if not its particulars. Almost immediately upon its implementation, dissent among faculty and students began to erupt, spreading quickly into the community and across the region. Scathing denunciations of the program began appearing in local press, campus demonstrations erupted in the fall of 1957, and anti-general education flyers began littering the campus. “The controversy came to a head in the spring of 1958 when Gee, armed with the support of the Board of Regents which endorsed the program, announced that the two department heads who had been most recalcitrant about general studies would be relieved of their administrative duties.” Following this public challenge to any faculty dissent, Gee and his

Shannon Carter CCCC 2012 Draft: Please don‟t quote or cite!

supporters began enforcing campus-wide adherence to the program with McCarthy-esque tactics, characterizing opposition as “un-American”: threatening to fire dissenters, requiring faculty to sign a “statement of support” indicating they were, as he explained to the press, “sympathetic with the philosophy of general education.”

Part II: Fundamental Opposition So what were the key complaints levied against the program and leading to this local controversy? Neither the charge itself nor its rebuttals will seem unfamiliar to anyone in this room. The new program ignored the “fundamentals.” A typical rebuttal to such charges is this one by President Gee appearing in Dallas Morning News in the fall of ‟57: Far from weakening our basic instruction in English grammar, we feel we do a better job of teaching it if we recognize communication includes speaking and listening as well as writing and reading. We may recognize in Gee‟s statement influences of both the general education movement and the communications movement converging around this time. As we further recall, this period also overlapped CCCC‟s establishment and communications-composition debates filled the journal‟s first issues (of course the last “C” in both cases stands for “communication”). Indeed, I can identify direct links between the communications program established at ET and the conversations taking place in those first CCCC workshops. That direct link is Dr. Paul Barrus, department head, head of the General Education Task Force and, in subsequent years, head of both the subcommittees on Communication and the Humanities. Dr. Barrus attended the very first meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication (in where/) and was a member of the CCCC Executive Board for the first three years of the organization. No

Shannon Carter CCCC 2012 Draft: Please don‟t quote or cite!

doubt the conversations taking place in this organization‟s earliest meetings contributed to the programs developing in rural Northeast Texas. A number of local rebuttals during this time seem lifted almost directly from the recommendations emerging from the CCCC Workshop “Grammar in the Freshman Course,” published in the May 1950 issue of CCC. Indeed, such direct borrowings seem likely since Dr. Barrus is listed among the workshop‟s participants. In a Dallas Morning News editorial published around the time Gee‟s statement appears (Fall 1957), for example, an ET professor involved with the program‟s establishment stresses “appropriateness to context and situation” in language “not merely correctness.” “Freshman English,” Professor Bowman explains, “is now called „Problems in Communication‟ to stress a fact long known by English teachers that language is not effectively used just because it is free from errors . . . but must communicate information and ideas.” It seems reasonable to conclude, then, the general education committee was well aware of the available research concerning the complexities involved with “communicating information and ideas.” Influencing the philosophy guiding the general education program in the 1950s were the same movements influencing 4Cs: the general semantics movement, which approached language as both a symbolic system and a social process; the psychology of communication, especially experiments in perception laboratories, and the theoretical influences of Freud and, as I will explain, Harold Lasswell. In many ways, ET‟s communication program also foreshadows the Writing About Writing movement. In 1949, Frances Shoemaker articulates a future for general education that seems to effectively describe the one established at ET in the 1950s. More than 60 years before Downs and Wardle‟s landmark article on writing about writing, Shoemaker predicted “subject matter” in general education, “will tend toward communication about

Shannon Carter CCCC 2012 Draft: Please don‟t quote or cite!

communication as it functions in contemporary society—community forums, newspapers, magazines, and motion pictures” (244, emphasis mine). As interesting as I find these connections, however, challenges to ET‟s general education program went beyond that typical Back to the Basic battle cry. Far more complicated to pin down for analysis are the many challenges to the Social Process framework itself and the specific ways it conflated democracy with educational goals. I address them next, all too briefly. The heavy lifting for these concepts appears on your handout.

Part III: Writing the Social Process Named Director of the General Education Program at ET in 1955, Dr. V. Clyde Arspiger was a recently retired executive from Encyclopedia Britannica Films, where he‟d been responsible for the creation of more than 700 instructional films, and previously on the faculty at Columbia University, where he had worked closely with Harold Lasswell, a political scientist whose work would significantly shape ET‟s program philosophy and goals. For Lasswell, all political behavior was a fundamental expression of an individual‟s drive for income, safety, and deference. Building on Lasswell‟s theories, Arspiger developed a list of eight values (power, respect, wealth, enlightenment, skill, well-being, rectitude, and affection) which he argued were the keys to understanding human behavior. The social process framework, as an integrating factor among ET‟s general education courses, would allow students extensive practice recognizing the elements that he insisted govern any social process to determine if participants involved hold perspectives compatible with democratic goals. In this way, Arspiger adapted his mentor‟s framework (a tool designed for basic research on political motivation) for use by college students examining and understanding

Shannon Carter CCCC 2012 Draft: Please don‟t quote or cite!

human motivation in a free society. The basic assumptions guiding this framework are listed in Figure ? on your handout. I draw your attention to the last one, which should prove sufficient for our analysis of literacy as a raw material in the production of democracy. According to Arspiger, “a [key] educational objective in a free society is the development of individuals who can assume personal responsibility for implementing democratic goals.” In the service of this objective, he offers the formula represented in Figure ? and later expanded to include the Lasswell Formula for the “Communication Process,” represented in Figure ?. “The social process may be described as man seeking values in institutions using resources.” Arspiger is nothing if not consistent. This is precisely how he defines the social process in his numerous reports, extensive curricular materials, student handbooks, catalogs, and volumes of worksheets adjusting this formula to a variety of disciplines and age groups, as well as an array of his own scholarly publications. When used properly, he insists, this formula enables us to understand human motivation in any situation—be it one‟s own life, the life of another, a work of art, a play, a historical event, a news item, an advertisement, or anything else. Arspiger‟s formula is clean, infinitely applicable, and utterly baffling. Even among faculty immediately sold on the value of this particular analytic tool, there was simply no way for it to make sense of the formula and its potential implications without extensive study. Each term within the formula (Man, Values, Institutions, and Resources) required extensive explanation, not merely once but through each specific application to each discipline‟s key concerns. I‟ve included samples of the worksheets generated to implement this tool in a variety of disciplines. I won‟t try to explain. I‟m not sure I can. I show you these to suggest that the widespread resistance to the program may be traced, at least in part, to its baffling complexity.

Shannon Carter CCCC 2012 Draft: Please don‟t quote or cite!

Yet even so, it is difficult to dismiss this program. As a writing scholar, this seems an incredibly rich site for recovering new information about rhetoric‟s relatively recent past. Writing played a significant role in every area of the general studies program. Arspiger was a major proponent of writing as a mechanism for both learning and expression. Under his leadership, every course in the general studies program was to include extensive organized, analytic writing, freewriting (which he called “Free Recall” or “Free Association”), peer review (which he called “discussion and extension”). Regardless of the object of analysis, the ArspigerLasswell formula would guide the discussion, followed by extensive writing, peer review, and revision. In Arspiger‟s approach, we find echoes of movements in our field still years away: Expressivism, especially Donald Murray‟s insistence that "Writing is rewriting" and “all writing is experimental”; the cognitive process, especially Linda Flower‟s early attempts to develop a “strategic, problem-solving approach to writing instruction” based upon “intimate relationship between cognition and context,” Rogerian Rhetoric, especially with respect to its inclusive, dialogic, and collaborative features (versus persuasive ones) as articulated in 1970 by Young Becker and Pike. The list continues. I‟ve only just begun. This controversial program has much to offer today‟s WPAs, as well, both as a model and as a cautionary tale. The general education curriculum today retains many of the elements established during this period. Personality Foundations continues as the course widely understood as the “integrating factor” across the program, yet “the social process” framework faded into the background soon after the 1957-58 controversy lead the committee to declare it AN integrating factor (one of many) rather than THE integrating factor. Yet such specifics and their sustainability may be less informative than the framework‟s other broader, more conceptual elements.

Shannon Carter CCCC 2012 Draft: Please don‟t quote or cite!

Part V: Toward an Ethical Democracy In January 2012, the White House issued A Crucible Moment: Learning and Democracy’s Future, once again identifying literacy as the raw material needed for the production of democracy. The last time our country turned its attention to higher education as a site for citizenship training was more than 60 years ago, when Arspiger was first designing this controversial program and locals were actively resisting it. In 2012, the White House turned again to higher education to prepare its citizens: “Today‟s education for democracy,” the 2012 report insists, “needs to be informed by deep engagement with the values of liberty, equality, individual worth, open-mindedness, and the willingness to collaborate with people of differing views and backgrounds toward common solutions for the public good” (3). Education for democracy, through Arnspiger‟s framework was, of course, deeply valueoriented. Indeed, he called the social process formula a “value-oriented framework,” which he saw as primarily concerned with the “wide sharing of values.” Many of the values Arspiger lists in the 1950s echo those appearing in the 2012 report, especially its Framework for 21st century civic learning and democratic engagement (see handout, figure ?). Value terms in Arspiger‟s framework like shred power, wealth, and enlightenment seem undeniably cold war era, individualistic, and undeniably problematic in our postmodern world. Yet others from this 1956 frame seem uniquely appropriately for this 2012 version as well. Other key parallels are highlighted in Figure ?. In closing, I‟d like to draw your attention to “ethical integrity,” a value appearing in both versions. As we consider the nation‟s current attempt to consciously link literacy with democracy, how might we help our students embody, promote, sustain, and share (widely) the

Shannon Carter CCCC 2012 Draft: Please don‟t quote or cite!

value of ethical integrity? What role might ethical integrity play in our attempts to provide America with the raw materials of literacy it needs to manufacture a sustainable democracy? It seems one particularly compelling place to begin answering this question is John Duffy‟s “Virtuous Arguments,” published just last week in Inside Higher Ed and generating rich discussion of direct relevance to the above questions. Duffy writes: “First year composition is more than a course in grammar and rhetoric. Beyond these, it is a course in ethical communication, offering students opportunities to learn and practice the moral and intellectual virtues that Aristotle identified in Nicomachena ethics as the foundation of a good life.” Indeed. The question is how. For me, Duffy‟s manifesto sheds new light on Arspiger‟s approach and its potential for “ethical integrity” in today‟s Crucible Moment. Shared values through the social process. Shared values through attention to our work as engaging ethical dimensions of communication for democratic engagement. That‟s what it is all about now. That‟s what it was all about then.

Categorizing the Arspiger‟s program is difficult. There is much here worth celebrating, both in terms of the progressive approaches to writing instruction and the unique conflation of literacy and democratic ideals. Yet there is also much to challenge, especially with respect to its

Shannon Carter CCCC 2012 Draft: Please don‟t quote or cite!

deeply problematic framing of democracy as individualistic, driven by personal responsibility, and the excruciating irony that Arspiger‟s program, based as it was on the “realization of democratic ideals,” did not turn its attention to the injustices persisting right in front of him. It is crucial to note that the program designed to promote democracy was established at a segregated college led by an outspoken segregationist. It must be understood that the pilot program established at this segregated college began the very year Brown v. Board of Education outlawed the separate but equal doctrine that would continue to guide campus policy for more than a decade. The advertising slogan “The South‟s Most Democratic College,” so important to the college‟s identity during the years it was establishing the general education program, disappeared as a slogan moments after Gee was forced to desegregate ET, one of the two last remaining colleges in Texas to uphold racial barriers. The list goes on.

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