bring in the clowns!

Today at a departmental meeting, I learned what our college president really thinks of my department's faculty and the work we do. The good news is that we no longer have to pretend there is mutual respect. There isn't. This revelation came about during a meeting about the qualifications for certain new hires. These new hires would be high school teachers teaching high school students in high schools using high school textbooks only marginally under the control of the college. Sounds like high school to most people who bamboozled by all the bull shit. But instead, this is called "college in the high school." Yes, high school teachers teaching high school students in high schools using high school resources is now college, if some get their way, and likely they will thanks to the stupidity of the legislature and the spinelessness of the boards of trustees and administrations they put in place. In short, we are selling credits with our imprimatur in the hopes that these students will come our way after they graduate or leave high school.

Lots of people like to think the graduate degree in English they earned, whether an MA or PhD, has meaning beyond filling some space in a frame while hanging on a wall. The legislature says that the high school faculty must be qualified and meet the same qualifications as the college faculty. In the English department, this means anyone we hire will have an English degree, which could be some generalized degree, a comp/rhet degree, a focus on some particular literature and when the "closely related" aspect is taken into account, that is generally taken to mean American Studies, Comparative Literature, Linguistics or something of that sort. Our president, and unfortunately our dean as well, are taking "closely related" to mean the most common graduate degree in the school system, which is a Masters in Education.

When arguing for sticking to the MA in English or something closely related as our minimum, our president said no. In her words, "Anyone can teach composition." And that's when we learned what she thinks of us and our work. Well, she's right. Anyone can teach composition. But that's not really the concern. What matters is can they teach it well? Can they translate an understanding, assuming they have it, of current theory and pedagogy in a way that benefits students? Just as the answer would be "no" in any other field of study, the answer is no when it comes to teaching composition in a way that best serves students first and foremost. Expressing contempt for a department that teaches the only required course of all incoming students, expressing this contempt in front nearly two dozen faculty and administrators makes clear just what is wrong with education today. So bring in the clowns, where they can join those who are already making funny.