Some time ago, while I was teaching a first-year writing course that only had international students, after a good class discussion about the importance of writing courses like that as a place to learn some of the fundamentals of American higher education, one student followed me to my office to say how inspired he was by the discussion. But then he added, with tears in his eyes, that he was dropping out of that summer course. After finding out how much the course would cost him during the summer term, he had talked to his parents in South Korea and decided to not take it.
Since the advent of what is called the “global turn” in Writing Studies, our scholarship, programs, and pedagogies have been increasingly focusing on internationalization as a critical educational goal of higher education that we are well positioned to help advance. This interest has manifested particularly in the discourse about multilingualism, translingualism, transnational writing research, and cross-cultural communicative competence. I strongly believe that, as writing teachers, we are an egalitarian, progressive, and sensitive community of scholars who appreciate what our students from around the world bring to our classrooms—how they continue to teach and inspire us—how all students benefit from the increasingly globalized classrooms. read full post…
When I taught the graduate-level writing in the disciplines (or “GWID,” as I call it) course last summer, which had a lot of nonnative English speaking (NNES) students, I faced a lot of conundrums. How much time should I allocate to help students with basic writing skills in an advanced writing course like that? Especially when NNES students seek help with their “language,” should I insist that they instead learn how to situate their writing at the advanced level and in their specialized research/scholarship? Should I challenge them to focus on higher-order issues in their writing even when they tell me that their advisors recommended/required the class to help them “fix” what are essentially lower-order concerns? Am I missing something because I am looking at things from my own discipline’s/profession’s perspective and failing to appreciate other points of view as much as mine?
– – – – – – – – REPOSTED FROM RhetComp@StonyBrook – – – – – – – – read full post…
After reading a new monthly issue of blog posts by a group of English teachers in Nepal earlier today, I had to get off my chest something that I’ve wanted to for a long time and pour it into a blog post. So, here it is, especially for friends and colleagues who have been told that you can’t produce good writing without perfect English or that good scholarship needs to meet a certain standard of quality and rigor and whatnot. The standards are usually local (often cast successfully as global and objective for a long time), they’re highly political (used for maintaining structures of privilege), and most of those who maintain the systems of privilege probably believe that it is all meritocratic (so, don’t be too upset with them!).
Scholarship and the Global Peripheries
The word “scholarship” brings to my mind another term, “scholar,” or a highly learned individual who writes to produce new knowledge, who publishes in prestigious venues, and whose ideas lead and shape his [yeah, I still can’t get rid of the male image in my mind] academic discipline. Growing up in one third world country (until high school) and then living and working in another (for more than a decade), I never considered anyone in those parts of the world as producers of new and significant knowledge in the academic fields that I studied.
In fact, I still struggle in my mind to think about regular teachers (especially those in the developing world) as scholars and writers in the same way as those whose manuscripts qualify among the five or ten percent of total submissions made to established journals in their respective fields at the few global centers. Deep in my mind, the ideas and experiences of people in the global peripheries—outside of the hallowed institutions of knowledge at geopolitical and cultural centers where there are more resources, opportunities, and the power to define what counts as significant—don’t seem to carry as much value, even for their own contexts, even for their own work and lives.
So, yes, I am confessing that I can’t help assuming that the work of the five or ten percent of those who get published at the global centers (and that now includes me), those who have doctoral degrees and are usually tenured at prestigious universities, those who have made it to the top of the professional ladders … best determine what counts as genuine scholarship. I automatically imagine that the extreme minority of seeming geniuses as the standard bearers of quality, novelty, substance, and significance with regard to content, method, and professional practice in any field. read full post…
When I first learned about massive open online courses, the truly massive xMOOC types, I thought, OMG, now I too can finally educate the world from the convenience of my laptop and the high speed internet that I have. In fact, I had just bought a new MacBook Air at the time. And, being a writing teacher, I wanted to teach writing, because, you know, everyone in the world needs to “write better.” Perfect.
What I needed in order to get started was a course banner, especially an image that would represent the kind of writing that I teach, “academic” writing.
“Academics” has to do with wisely thinking through existing knowledge and generating new ideas, so I thought the best image to represent it would be, oh, yes, the “owl”!
However, before I settled on the owl and slapped a big wise owl image at the top of the screen, I wanted to take a quick moment to ensure that most (if not all) students/ participants from around the world would get my point when they see my course banner.
Five minutes of Googling led to another five, then an hour, and finally after three full hours of reading what I found about the owl as a symbol, I was discouraged. I lost my confidence in the power of my laptop, as well as my years of experience teaching while tethered to one particular context at a time. I sat there, face-in-palms, somewhat glad that I didn’t use a local metaphor to claim to convey a particular meaning universally. I was glad I knew how to Google.
read full post…
“Movement”: A Story of my Life & Education
In the winter of 1987, my father decided to take me along with him on a visit to our home country, Nepal. Due to increasing conflict between the government and extremists in India’s northeastern states at the time, traveling across five states and returning safely to the remote little town in the south of Manipur (close to India’s border with Myanmar) was not easy–not to mention traveling with a ten year old. But daddy had with him good documents from local government offices, one of which was a “movement certificate” for me, written by my school’s principal. After a nifty subject line of “Movement Certificate,” it addressed “whom it may concern” and said: “This is to certify that Master Ghanashyam Sharma s/o Gopi Chandra [Sharma], a resident of Tangpizawl Village, Churachandpur District, Manipur, has been a student of this school since 1980.” It went on to request anyone reading it to kindly let me travel to Darjeeling (in the state of West Bengal in India) and return home to Manipur.
This document, as daddy told me before the trip, would serve at least two purposes: first, it was proof that I was his child–one of the things that a foreigner-looking man might have to prove when inevitably hassled by bad cops, of which there seemed many–and, second, it was a clever way of showing them our home address in India. Daddy had better documents of his residency, but they did the disservice of revealing that he was a foreigner (from Nepal), unlike my document, which only said what part of India we were “residents” of, so this would be a good piece of paper to dig out when questioned where we were from and who we were. Darjeeling, I found out, was the “permanent home address” in the school’s record, a reminder that ethnic outsiders needed an outside address. Never mind that 1) the border between India and Nepal is open by treaty and we shouldn’t have to conceal our identities, 2) those who were paid to be good guys protecting the vulnerable were being bad guys (making money, using hatred of outsiders in the name of law and order, etc), and 3) the effect of good guys acting badly can be very damaging to people’s trust in systems of justice and security.
read full post…
When I said that I am from Nepal, a taxi driver in a Midwest US city quickly responded: “Oh, man, ALL the homes are destroyed in your home country. I am so sorry. Is your family okay?” I asked why he emphasized the word “all,” and it turned out that he wasn’t exaggerating: the reality was that he had only seen collapsed houses in the media!
Especially in capitalistic societies, media today typically show the public a view of the world that “sells” best, and that tends to be a world seen through a straw, based on “stories,” usually advancing oversimplified views of people and issues in the world. We could call those easy-to-sell but often problematic narratives “strawries.” read full post…
Another post about #clmooc. Last week, I followed other colleagues’ work with great interest but couldn’t create anything myself. But building on that spirit, I’d like to start this post by sharing my main idea through an illumination.
Images can be relatively universal, but because their imitation or representation of the world or ideas are mediated by selection, perspective, perception, and interpretation, even the seemingly most universal images create room for complex conversations.
read full post…
While attending a talk on campus (at Stony Brook University) this afternoon, given by Elana Sohamy, an Israeli scholar, I had a moment of despair.
The title of her talk today was “multilingual testing” and the backdrop of her presentation was the monolingual regime of language testing and its effects on multilingual language users across the world.
As teachers of language and writing/communication, we keep saying in theory that language learners take 3-5 or even 9-11 years to be fluent and accurate in a new language, depending on where and how they learn. But in practice, we continue to resort, very quickly and thoughtlessly, to the logic of pragmatism, of institutional policy, of the need to make sure that our multilingual students can perform in English. read full post…
Since I made a trip to New York City to visit the SUNY Center for Collaborative Online International Learning (SUNY COIL) last week, I’ve been thinking about and trying to find and read any scholarship on how writing teachers in colleges/universities in the US incorporate the element of “global citizenship” (GC) into their teaching.
I knew that the concept of GC is defined and perceived in a wide variety of ways, including as a terrible idea (one that promotes world governance and undermines local cultures and values), as a proxy for imperialism and commercial globalization, as a fancy buzzword that is ultimately empty of practical use and meaning, as a useless ideal, and as a “chimerical idea” (as one professor called it when rejecting my proposal for a seminar paper in graduate school; maybe he saw that I hadn’t done enough research yet and thought that I couldn’t fully engage the complex debates surrounding the topic, or maybe he thought that I took the term at face value–whatever it was, he was the professor!).
But until this week, I didn’t know that there is actually a lot of scholarship in my own discipline that is more or less relevant to the topic. You know this is why I love my discipline, Composition and Rhetoric. The field is diverse, it is interdisciplinary, and if you start looking for resources, you find good ideas about almost anything. But I digress.
So, I went to New York City last week, and was inspired. read full post…
Our real problem, then, is not our strength today; it is rather the vital necessity of action today to ensure our strength tomorrow. – President Dwight Eisenhower, State of the Union Address,1958 
. . .after investing in better research and education, we didn’t just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation. . . . This is our generation’s Sputnik moment. – Present Barack Obama, State of the Union Address, 2011 
“STEM” is perhaps the most popular academic buzzword of our time, as well as perhaps the most popular academic term in US politics and policy. But in the debate about the shortage of engineers and scientists in the US, primary attention is given to the issue of demand and supply, and (unfortunately) a more critical issue is often left out. The issue of the quality of education received by our future scientists and engineers is overshadowed by the discussion of their quantity. The undue emphasis on numbers has created the worst blind spot in the discourse of STEM crisis from a global perspective: we’re competing to produce “more” scientists while forgetting to ask if we’re producing the best scientists. This question of quality has to do with academic success, professional development, transfer of skills from academe to the professions outside, and adaptability to changing and increasingly globalized workforce.
In order to produce well-rounded scientists and engineers who are locally successful and globally competitive, US universities must address the bottle necks, blind spots, and speed bumps along the path of academic and professional development for STEM students. And in light of the fact that “foreign-born” students outnumber their local US counterparts in the STEM fields, they must also pay attention to the challenges faced by this majority–especially at the graduate level.
Return of the Term: The term “Sputnik Moment” came back to currency when President Obama used it for suggesting that the US is facing a similar challenge from rapidly advancing countries against staying ahead in science and technology. But while the metaphor helped to draw tremendous attention–leading to a number of Congressional hearings, a flurry of media reports, and conversations within universities–the conversation did not reach far enough into issues of education. Personally, I found return of the metaphor fascinating because I was finishing up my dissertation on engineering writing, focusing on the academic and professional development gap among engineering students. read full post…