Notes Towards Day 25 (Thurs, Dec. 1): De-Classification!
I. With a lot of excitement, and some nervousness,
we welcome juggling farmer-educator, Anne's daughter Marian Dalke!
about-to-be Oberlin College graduate, activist and author of today's text,
“For what(ever) It’$ Worth: Reflections, thoughts, and suggestions on Class
Privilege, Inheritance, and Inequity from a young white woman of wealth"
In The Alchemy of Race and Rights, Patricia Williams wrote that one "thing
contained in the assumption of neutral, impersonal writing styles is the lack of risk ...
we have lost the courage and the vocabulary to describe [the personal] in the face of the
enormous social pressure to 'keep it to ourselves' -- but this is where our most idealistic
and our deadliest politics are lodged, and are revealed" (pp. 92-93).
Mar and Anne are both taking a pretty big risk today--she to come as a guest speaker/
facilitator to her mother's (!) classroom, me to come out to you all as the mother of a millionaire....
as thamid said, Williams is
II. Anne: coursekeeping (til 11:30)
no paper due this weekend;
2 postings due Sunday evening --
1 in diablog, 1 reflecting on the class dimensions of academic writing, plus!
what ideas do you have for other ways to express and communicate ideas?
--this a warm up for paper #11--re-scheduled once more! (irregularly! --
because we need you in class next week!) for 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9:
3 pp. (or equivalent) "de-classifying" your writing for this class
we seem to have agreed that our last gathering will be 7-9 p.m. Sun, Dec. 11--
if that's an issue for you, please speak to Anne or Jody @ the end of class
On Tuesday, we'll continue our discussion of Little Bee,
and here's your homework to get ready:
each pair of students will focus on two different characters-->
so please look @ the book again w/ them in the foreground/
as your primary "lens" for re-reading
Ellen & Hayley: Little Bee and the village girls
Jess & Jacqueline: Sarah and Clarissa
Jillian & Jordan: Batman and the daughter of the girl w/ no name
Kamila & Meg: Andrew and the sari girl
Mfon, Nancy and Serena: Lawrence and the "man w/ the wound in his neck"
Shannon & Tanya: Yvette and the "gang"
next step in self-organizing your "teaching/performing" groups:
stand up, get together! (and sign up)
III. Jody: "for whatever it's worth"....
to begin our discussion of Marian's "class autobiography," we thought
we might work together on generating information to begin writing our own:
1) you'll find a series of queries up on poster board around the room:
get up and answer 1/2-a-dozen of these questions (11:30-11:40)
2) stop writing; go around, read, jot down what you notice;
share what you see w/ someone standing near you (11:40-11:50)
IV. Marian: bring this back to the group (11:50-12:00)
about the 'zine (12:00-12:15)
* on being willing to look @ my own experience,
in light of the work I wanted/could do in the world-->I just had to act!
* until recently, anthropology has never studied groups in power
* on naming myself politically--and then re-learning
the meaning of terms like "owning class"
* on continually revising this story:
it's work you'll keep re-working your whole life
* on the form of the writing:
how could I write differently, for a different audience?
(and yet: addressed to others in my class position;
shared w/ family, friends and my advisor)
getting feedback from you, as my current audience (12:15-12:25)
reactions, questions, additions....?
V. get again into your brand-new performance groups (12:25-12:45)
to step off from this conversation and brainstorm your next paper together:
begin w/ the question of who you want to speak
to about the topic of class and education:
who is your audience? (folks in your high school?
other workers on campus?)...
we called Part Four of this course "De-classification":
Pushing the Boundaries of Academic Writing
Declassify: To undo the action of classification; spec. to remove
(information, etc.) from the category of being ‘classified.’
Patricia Williams' book actually has a postscript "on Categories," about the "struggle ... about how
this book is to be categorized for cataloging purposes.... This battle seems appropriate
enough, since for me the book is ... about boundary ... The complexity of role identification ...
the inflections of professionalized discourse -- all describe and impose boundary in my life" (p. 256).
largely elided, so far in our discussions,
have been the "classed" dimensions of academic writing
cf. Little Bee, p. 2: "Learning the Queen's English is like scrubbing off the bright red varnish from your toenails, the morning after a dance. It takes a long time, and there is always a little bit left at the end, a stain of red along the growing edges to remind you of the good times you had. So, you can see that learning came slowly to me .... But why did I go to all the trouble? It is because ... to survive, you must look good or talk even better .... the pretty ones and the talkative ones, we are allowed to stay. In this way your country becomes lively and more beautiful."
see also David Foster Wallace, "Tense Present: Democacy, English,
and the Wars Over Usage," Harper's Magazine (April 2001)--
a review of six books about language usage:
--the ability to move between various dialects and levels of "correctess," the ability to
communicate one way with peers and another way with teachers and another with family ...
is a far better indicator of a kids "Verbal I.Q." than test socres or grades, since U.S. English
classes do far more to retard dialectical talent than to cultivate it.
--arguments for why SWE [Standard Written English] is a dialect worth learning ...
are baldly elitist... SWE is the dialect of the American elite... the shibboleth of the
Establishment and an instrument of political power and class division and racial
discrimination and all manner of social inequity...
--In this country, SWE is perceived as the dialect of education and intelligence
and power and prestige, and anybody of any race, ethnicity, religion, or gender
who wants to succeed in American culture has got to be able to use SWE. That is How It Is...
--Academic English [is]... a grotesque debasement of SWE ... a scholar's vanity/insecurity
leads him to write primarily to communicate and reinforce his own status as an Intellectual ...
his English is deformed by pleonasm and pretentious diction ... and by opaque abstraction