Thursday, August 05, 2010

Cultural Diversity in American Life, CCCC, and NCTE

Introductory Bio

Duane Roen is Professor of English at Arizona State University (ASU) where he serves as Head of Interdisciplinary and Liberal Studies in the School of Letters and Sciences. At ASU he has also served as Head of Humanities and Arts; Director of Composition; Co-Director of the graduate program in Rhetoric, Composition, and Linguistics; Director of the Center for Learning and Teaching Excellence; Coordinator of the Project for Writing and Recording Family History; and President of the Academic Senate. At Syracuse University he served as Director of the Writing Program. At the University of Arizona, he was founding Director of the graduate program in Rhetoric, Composition, and the Teaching of English, as well as Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of English.

Roen serves as Secretary of the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC), as well as Vice President of the Council of Writing Program Administrators (CWPA). He has written extensively about writing curricula, pedagogy, and assessment; writing program administration; writing across the curriculum; and collaboration, among other topics. In addition to more than 200 articles, chapters, and conference papers, Duane has published eight books, including Composing Our Lives in Rhetoric and Composition: Stories About the Growth of a Discipline (with Theresa Enos and Stuart Brown); Strategies for Teaching First-Year Composition [NCTE] (with Lauren Yena, Susan K. Miller, Veronica Pantoja, and Eric Waggoner); Views from the Center: The CCCC Chairs’ Addresses, 1977-2005.


Blog Entry

When I grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin in the 1950s, I had little awareness of human diversity. Most of the people I knew were descendants of Norwegian immigrants who arrived in the United States in the 1860s. Most were dairy farmers who lived within a few miles of my home. I first became vaguely aware of human diversity in the fifth grade at Willow Hill School, a one-room country school that enrolled children who lived on neighboring dairy farms. Approximately half of the children in the school had the same surname—Roen. When I was in fifth grade, all students in grades one through eight studied the US Civil War. Although I don’t recall many of the historical details that we learned in that unit, I do recall learning about some of the factors that led to the armed conflict that raged from 1861 to 1865.

As an undergraduate and graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls (which was far more diverse than anything that I had experienced before), I enrolled in courses in which we studied literature by and about people from underrepresented groups. Those courses, taught by lifelong NCTE member Nick Karolides set the stage for my master’s degree thesis, “Cultural Diversity in American Life,” which laid out a year-long course for high school students. When I taught English at New Richmond High School in Wisconsin from 1972 to 1977, I co-taught the course titled Cultural Diversity in American Life with Clark Anderson, a colleague from social science, and Mary Rivard, a colleague from art. It was an eye-opening experience for juniors and seniors who had previously had relatively few opportunities to read, write, and talk about human diversity. In the course students studied cultural backgrounds that were new to them.

I began this blog entry with some personal background because it helps to explain my current perspectives on human diversity and its role in CCCC and NCTE. During my career, both organizations have provided resources to help elementary, secondary, and college teachers develop curricula and pedagogical approaches that introduce students to diversity and its importance.

The organizations’ journals, books, position statements, and conferences offer opportunities to learn about diversity. For example, in the mid 1970s, I did a presentation at the annual NCTE conference to share my experiences in teaching the high school course Cultural Diversity in American Life. I also remember how useful it was to have the NCTE position statement titled “Resolution on the Students' Right to Their Own Language” (http://www.ncte.org/positions/statements/righttoownlanguage) when it became available after the NCTE annual business meeting in New Orleans in 1974. That statement has helped thousands of teachers make the case that linguistic diversity should be valued and celebrated.

In 2007, I had the honor to serve on the NCTE Task Force to Advance and Support Members of Color with distinguished colleagues from across the country—Beverly Chin, Amanda Espinosa-Aguilar, Sharon Floyd, Maria Franquiz, Patsy Hall, R. Joseph Rodriguez, Anna Roseboro, Sharon Washington (Facilitator), and Kent Williamson (NCTE Executive Director, who offered invaluable support to the task force). When the task force submitted its report to the NCTE Executive Committee, the response was enthusiastic, resulting in initiatives such as the NCTE Leadershift Awards (http://www.ncte.org/awards/leadershift).

Of course, the work of the task force is only one of many NCTE efforts to promote diversity, as evidenced by the organization’s twenty-nine resolutions, policy statements, and position statements on diversity (http://www.ncte.org/positions/diversity). Further, among professional organizations in the language arts, both NCTE and CCCC have relatively strong records of electing members of color for leadership roles—officers and executive committee members.

When I look at my own state, Arizona, I appreciate the importance of professional organizations that promote diversity. At times, Arizona’s political leaders struggle to come to terms with the rich human diversity in the state, passing laws that suggest a devaluing of diversity—e.g., Senate Bill 1070 (http://www.azleg.gov/legtext/49leg/2r/bills/sb1070s.pdf), which requires state and local law officers to enforce federal immigration laws, and House Bill 2281 (http://www.azleg.gov/legtext/49leg/2r/bills/hb2281s.pdf) and which bans some forms of ethnic studies in public schools

Such legislation reminds us that professional organizations have much work to do. Of course, as tax-exempt organizations, NCTE and CCCC cannot actively lobby for or against legislation, but our organizations can and should continue to provide resources that help people understand the importance of diversity in a healthy democracy.

Individual CCCC members can support diversity in the organization. For example, the editors of the NCTE collection Strategies for Teaching First-Year Composition have donated all their royalties to the Scholars for the Dream Travel Award fund (http://www.ncte.org/cccc/awards/scholarsforthedream) which helps up to ten new scholars from underrepresented groups attend the March convention each year. Other individuals support diversity in CCCC by serving on critical committees and task forces. In my many conversations with the CCCC officers in recent years, I have come to appreciate the officers’ individual and collective commitments to diversity in the organization.

In addition, individual CCCC members can also become involved in their local communities to promote diversity. For example, my service includes conducting workshops on writing about family history. Participants write about their families’ experiences, often celebrating the diversity of their loved ones. Because these workshops draw a wide range of individuals, participants have opportunities to hear about experiences that are both similar to and different from their own.

Our organizations can also continue to help students to develop the skills and knowledge that will serve them well in a diverse world—communication, leadership, ethics, global awareness, critical thinking, information literacy, problem solving. These skills and knowledge sets will serve not only individual learners but also the wider world in which they apply their personal learning. Diversity thrives in cultures that value such skills and knowledge. But, importantly, it founders when such learning is absent.

As we think specifically about CCCC’s role in promoting diversity in the future, we can ask ourselves the following kinds of questions:

1. How can CCCC most effectively reach out to nonmembers with diverse backgrounds to encourage them to join the organization?

2. What more can CCCC do to encourage greater diversity in the membership?

3. What more can CCCC do to mentor new members from diverse backgrounds to encourage them to become future leaders of the organization?

4. What additional committees and task forces (http://www.ncte.org/cccc/committees) could CCCC establish to foster diversity?

5. What other kinds of sessions at the annual CCCC conference will foster further discussion of diversity?

6. What additional curricular materials can CCCC make available to support college writing teachers who wish to explore topics of diversity in their courses?

7. How can CCCC most effectively use the MemberWeb resources (http://www.ncte.org/cccc/resources/webresources) to share information about diversity?

8. What else can CCCC do with social media to promote diversity within and outside the organization?

9. How can CCCC most effectively use the National Gallery of Writing (http://www.galleryofwriting.org/) to promote diversity both within and outside the organization?

10. How can CCCC most effectively partner with other professional organizations to develop synergistic relationships that will foster diversity?

11. What additional Webinars could CCCC sponsor to promote diversity?

12. How can CCCC leaders work most effectively with the caucuses (http://www.ncte.org/community/caucus) to promote diversity?

13. What additional awards could CCCC offer to promote diversity?

14. How can individual CCCC members most effectively support diversity in the organization?

15. How can individual CCCC members work with community groups to support diversity in their localities?

16. How can CCCC most effectively embrace the widest possible range of voices in conversations about diversity?

17. How can CCCC foster the most mutually respectful discussions about diversity?

These questions are not meant to imply that CCCC is falling short in any area. Rather, they are intended to encourage further thinking and discussion about possible initiatives that CCCC could pursue. I look forward to reading your comments and responses to this post.

2 comments:

Kate Mohler said...

Holy Mackerel, Duane, this is a really long blog post! However, I enjoyed reading it, especially about your early years in Wisconsin.

Duane said...

Kate,

My experiences growing up in Wisconsin have affected my adult life in many ways. They certainly shaped my perspectives on diversity.

Best,
Duane

CCCC Annual Convention

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March 11-14, 2009
San Francisco, CA