CCCC 2008 New Orleans

4COne of the great perks of my sabbatical is that I got to attend the Conference on College Composition and Communication in New Orleans a few weeks ago. The knock against CCCC in community college circles is this; it’s a bunch of grad students and windy PhDs just reading papers with post-modern titles like “(Re)Charting the (Dis)Courses of Faith and Politics.” That’s a fair criticism.

Call me strange, but I like those po-mo titles. I’m thinking of collecting some and creating a po-mo poem at some point. As a grad student, I presented twice at CCCC, and I felt like I was part of an important conversation, something that I don’t feel very often when I’m in the thick of teaching. Therefore, I thoroughly enjoyed the conference, appreciated the efforts of those dewy eyed grad students and windy PhDs, and came away with some new energy. I attended more sessions than ought to be legal, so MnSCU got it’s money’s worth, too.

I’ll include links to my full conference notes below, but first let me briefly note three ideas that have stuck with me.

  1. The Believing Game. Peter Elbow, Pat Bizzell, and some others presented around this idea that Elbow apparently coined several year ago. The believing game is essentially the neglected ugly sister of critical thinking. Academia has essentially honed the doubting game to a highly developed skill. We train our students to study everything looking for weakness. For this we have Descartes to blame, since he swore to question everything. The doubting game, of course, offers something important, but the believing game offers something of equal importance. It allows us a way to understand things that really seem wrong. As Elbow said, “That really sounds wrong to me. Help me think about it some more so that I can understand what you see as valuable about it.” Basically, we ignore the believing game, jump straight to the doubting game, and are worse critical thinkers for it, resulting in polarized discussions at all levels of discourse.
  2. Institutionalized Service Learning. I attended a Service Learning Special Interest Group meeting where I met a lot of great people doing interesting things in service learning. What was interesting, though, was what someone brought up about the dangers of institutions co-opting the SL train for their own purposes. Until hearing this, I had only considered that institutional support must be a good thing. However, when institutions start using it in their PR, then we lose that edgy, Freirean, grassroots element and our students just become showcase tools. It’s not all bad, but it’s something to think about.
  3. Community Publishing. There’s a whole grassroots movement that would be exciting to get involved in where people from primarily low-end socio-economic neighborhoods are writing and publishing their own stories – self ethnographies, so to speak. My favorite is New Orleans’ own Neighborhood Story Project. I’m thinking about somehow getting LSC students involved with places in Duluth like CHUM and Damiano Center, working similarly to help those people tell their stories.

That’s the short scoop. If you want to read all of my voluminous notes (you really don’t want to, but my deep respect for you, oh reader, tells me that making them available to you is the right thing), follow the links below.


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7 Responses to CCCC 2008 New Orleans

  1. David says:

    I read all the notes! Fun to get a glimpse into your two days there. And it brings back memories of the hit and miss conferences I attended as an administrator. I was always dying for practical, “try this…” things, and mainly got doom and gloom, and theory.

    I was also intrigued by this note: “Basically, she was arguing that student spaces are valuable (MySpace, Facebook). To understand them, we can’t ignore this cultural phenomenon. Regardless of our texts, we have to use pop culture as a text, too.” As a father of two HS students that spend hours on MySpace, I can attest to the value of that “cultural phenomenon.” Though I would characterize it, not as a cultural phenomenon, but a communication phenomenon.

    An example: My son has known one of his best friends for about three years, even though she has been on the island only one. When she found out her family was moving from Florida to HI, she searched the MS blogs for kids in the school she would attend. That’s how she met her current group!

    Another example: My daughter asserts that she never tells anyone anything–she keeps everything locked up inside…except for her blog, and her poems, and lyrics, and her song choices all on MS!

  2. David says:

    And another thing…

    MSpace might spawn discussions about the sad state of literacy in the US. I can hear presenters lambasting the grammar, the acronyms, the emoticons. Fact is, though, language changes, and communication changes, always has. I would have killed to have this kind of connection growing up alone on the Rez…

  3. Jocelyn says:

    I think there’s a lot of merit to #2. As I’ve been working on putting together this Service Learning booklet–for adminstration–I’ve felt sorry for many of the faculty who have been badgered, again and again, to report what they have done and are doing in terms of Service Learning. They end up spending a fair amount of time writing emails, attaching docs, doing interviews, and the like, just to report (again) what they’ve done with students. The whole process has made me think, “I don’t know that I’d want to incorporate Service Learning into a class; I can see how it would add a whole new level of time commitment, not with students, but with being trotted out as a fine example by admin.” And admin wants this info for publicity purposes, and, frankly, to pass on to the President, who has no idea of what goes on in the classroom.

    Perhaps the session you attended was a bit less cynical than this comment.

  4. Sarah says:

    My hubby and I both like notes… Thanks for making them available. It’s amazing when a conference has some substance to take home.

    Please write that Po-Mo poem. Maybe you could even make words with all the acronyms, like TIOLI.

    Your phrase “important conversation” caught my imagination. There seems to be a charge created when tossing around ideas and people can generate some electricity with talk. David says that the breaking of bread over a conversation makes the talk more powerful and action-inducing. I like to think that knitting over a conversation has the same effect.

    Wiki? As in Wikipedia? We use wiki in Hawaii to mean hurry.

    The idea of the Believing Game: I was intrigued by your notes and how your thoughts phased in and out of the thread as you processed the concepts. One of the things I love most about David is how he doesn’t think like most males that I have met. I think that the believing game might be one of the ways that he thinks: he defaults to why something that sounds wrong to him might be right. He pulls alongside the speaker and looks into their ideas from a parallel trajectory. I don’t meant to sound gender-biased, because I tend to the doubting game more than I wish. It’s just that my models for critical thinking have been very male, with the women just oozing, “That’s nice, dear.” and not thinking about verity or substance at all. Or, the flipside: “That’s not nice dear.” End of discussion.

    The believing game sounds like an alternative to suspend judgment and still retain an intelligent approach. Can you say more about it? Google has one related article that I could find.

    I had to google Peter Elbow to recall why he sounded familiar. We used his Writing for Power at a Volcano writing workshop. Too much of batting around ideas in his way gave me writer’s elbow. (I couldn’t resist.)

  5. Sarah says:

    If you were to recommend one of Freire’s books, which would it be?

  6. david says:

    Just a comment on Jocelyn’s comment. I used to be a public school administrator, and being able to point to something cool that is happening in the school is very valuable in terms of real money. I would do that when talking to the legislature, or the governor when I was in NM. It isn’t very pure and certainly isn’t noble, but it was important to the teachers and the school in the long run, because it brought real benefit to the classrooms.

    That said, I also enjoyed bragging. If that is all that is going on when admin asks for details, then shame on them, and me.

    I think you already know this, though…

  7. dalagest says:

    I’m just so darned flabbergasted that both you and David read all of my notes. If I’d thought anyone was going to read them, I probably would have tried harder and rendered them uninteresting and unreadable. I guess it’s all for the best.

    I like your thoughts on the believing game, and I think your dead on about gender tendencies in this regard. I also agree that it’s not exactly new. Like you say, it’s only a slight twist on suspending judgment. As far as other articles, I only just heard the term at the conference, but if and when I run across anything, I’ll fire it your way.

    Again, thanks for reading.

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