"Writing Classroom in the Trump Era" (MLA 2018)
The new president did not show any interest in higher education until the late stage of the campaign. His pick to lead the Education Department, Betsy DeVos also does not have any background in higher education. In addition to his impulsive and popularist policies that horrify experts, his connivance of white supremacy and anti-intellectualism especially put academe in jeopardy. We have already witnessed unpromising changes on campuses in the U.S. since his appearance for the election. Racial and religious minority groups became targets of hate-motivated incidents. White-supremacist posters and fliers, swastikas, and racial epithets, which were once believed as taboo, cause constant controversies on campus. In accordance with his win, racist and xenophobic rhetoric seem out of the ancient shadows that his supporters pejoratively call “political correctness.” And, we have seen these happenings in our writing classrooms.
Some people have blamed this election for academe—failure of “liberal” education. For example, Heidi Beirich, an expert on extremism at the Southern Poverty Law Center, argues, the “alt-right” movement is built on ideas “liberated” by academics. Must academe be blamed for producing these populist groups as byproducts of an intellectual trickle-down process? As Mark Lilla, a professor of humanities at Columbia University, insists, academe and its fixation on identity politics result in “moral panic about racial, gender, and sexual identity that has distorted liberalism’s message and prevented it from becoming a unifying force.” Critics of academic liberalism like Lilla even scoff at the idea of “sanctuary campus.”
Nevertheless, these “byproducts” cannot defame the values that academe stands for—the value of expertise, the authority of scholarship, and the pursuit of truth and academic freedom. These values cannot be aligned with the Trumpian inconsistency, lack of logic and empathy, divisive rhetoric, and contempt for scholarly authority. In fact, what Trump represents simplifies and devalues critical thinking and writing that academe emphasize as one of the core skills students must learn in lower-level college composition courses. As college educators, our worst fear may be anti-intellectualism. Whether or not we admit, this election revealed deep-rooted distrust and hostility toward expertise, and the institutions like colleges, that produce it.
This session is looking for a paper on teaching reading and writing in a lower-level composition course, especially at public colleges in the Mid-West where Trump was predominantly supported. Not a small number of students at those institutions favor Trump and his anti-intellectualism, and consider his way of arguing acceptable. Then, how does he affect our classroom? How can we educate students to be better media consumers? What can help them able to adequately police the line between fact and fiction? Ultimately, how can we lead them to learn citizenship through writing pedagogy? What effort do we need to revise writing curriculum and pedagogy?
Here are possible topics, but not limited to them:
- Changes in students’ writing styles since the election
- Critical thinking against “alternative facts”
- Writing through social media and Big Brother in 2017
- Writing pedagogy through the election
- Plagiarism, appropriation, and hypertext in the Trump era
- Academic freedom and “freedom of speech”
- Discussing sensitive issues in the classroom
- Creating an inclusive classroom
- Citizenship and writing pedagogy
Please send your 250-word proposal by March 25, 2017, Friday, to Jewon Woo (firstname.lastname@example.org). If you have any questions and suggestions, you can also contact her.