My writing students presented on their Writing in the Disciplines papers yesterday, and I walked away very impressed. They showed a deep understanding of both the task and the aims behind the task. And they did that without much guidance from me.
I've worked hard in the past few years to reduce the amount of hand-holding I do in my classroom. When I got to Davis I really stepped that up. I put a number of task descriptions on the course website that I never spoke about in class. I counted on the syllabus to speak for itself. I used class time to teach, not to walk students through time-management exercises. And the students rose to the occasion. It's heartening to see students present thoughtful commentary on how the linguistically diverse audience of a hard sciences paper should dictate the grammar choices a writer makes.
Things were less heartening in another class - less heartening, but enlightening. There was the lively discussion we had in pro-seminar yesterday. Each of us presented a prominent scholar's take on Scientific Research in Education. It is a booklet describing the research methods that a group of scholars deem to be the most trusted - and therefore the only types of research that should receive Federal grants. We called the exercise "The Debate," because there is a wide spectrum of arguments surrounding the booklet. However, the ship has more or less sailed on this "debate." The winner is... quantitative research that uses randomized trials and yields reproducible results. Loosely translated, the science of education should look more like the natural sciences.
I think studies that fit the above mold are excellent, but I do not believe it is the only kind of informative research in the social sciences. I'm not alone, and that's what led to the lively discussion. The group went round and round for a while. It was a comment about intended audiences from our professor Rebecca Ambrose that led me to realize what was behind all this: when the government funds research, the researchers' intended audience is government policy makers. I know, seems obvious, right? It was less an "ah-ha" moment than it was a "duh" moment. But it sure does muddy the waters that I dove into this fall.
I had a naive notion of pure research lingering in my head. Left over, no doubt, from my days in the humanities. It was a bit foolish, I guess. I won't claim to have been completely grounded just yet, but this article sent by my professor today helped that process along.
Yesterday, as I attempted to sketch the rhetorical situation that illustrates the relationship between all the education stakeholders, I got a sense of what kind of work I'm setting out to do.
This drawing here is what I came up with. I want to make a sculpture on which the positions of the stakeholders can shift. I won't have time, but it's a fun idea.
On what may feel like an unrelated note, can someone explain to me the economic thinking behind making the Bush Tax Cuts permanent? Before jumping in, however, please take the following into account: These tax cuts may have helped us out of the 2002-03 dip, but they were still in place before and during the 2008-09 recession, making it difficult to argue that they have longterm beneficial effects on the economy.