Wednesday, April 06, 2011

What a difference six years make

The last time I was in this hotel (The Marriott Marquis in Atlanta) was January of 2005. The Joint Meetings were in full swing. I'd crashed the party, masquerading as a registered attendee by slipping my 2002 JMM badge into a recycled badge holder and hoping no one would look too carefully at the logo on the badge's corner. No one gave me any trouble, probably because I kept a low profile and didn't try to duck into the heavily-guarded exhibit hall. After all, I'd come only for three first-round interviews (Seattle University, Carleton College, and UNCA) and a couple of dinners and lunches with Vandy friends.

The first two interviews were a bust. The third...well, you can guess how that one turned out.

Here I am again, six years later. The 2011 Conference on College Composition and Communication gets underway tomorrow. It's met since 1949, but this is my first. I'm thrilled to be here; I feel like I'm diving yet more deeply into the academic writing community, a very warm and welcoming pool of teachers and scholars.

I spent an hour or two over dinner perusing the program, planning my schedule for tomorrow. I'll never tire of the clever and insightful wordplay in which this community revels, play that goes beyond mere punnery: words like "ecopreneurship" and "hypermediacy" pepper the presentation titles, and boundaries of every variety (ethnic, national, racial, sexual, gender, etc.) are broken as presenters assert their selves unabashedly: "I write myself; this is who I am."

It makes me feel as though scholarship in my own discipline, even the scholarship of teaching and learning in math, is soft soap in comparison. A simplistic response would be to claim that considerations such as gender, ethnicity, etc., are irrelevant in the mathematics classroom. Yet this assertion is craven and evasive. Why are we (mathematicians) not so bold as to confront those issues of identity which surely affect our students' performance in our courses? Why are we afraid of letting ourselves and our students proclaim their own identity in their work? Are we afraid of losing what Scott Montgomery (in The scientific voice) calls "heroic objectivity"? Isn't hypermediacy as important in our field as it is in composition, if not more so ("hyperimmediacy")?

Anyway, I'm sure I'll head home in a few days with a boatload of new ideas to think about. For now, I'm going to head down to the hotel bar and have a drink while looking over the paper I wrote with the Charleston crew. I'm sure at some point in the next couple of days Damian and Bella and I will sit down to hash out the next stage of the project, and I want to be ready.


Bret Benesh said...

How would our identities manifest themselves? Do you have examples?

DocTurtle said...

@Bret: I'm thinking mostly of studies in SoTL, wherein our identities would come into play naturally. Similar assertions of identity would be made in the history or philosophy of math, and might even appear in more "mainstream" scholarly works as indications of person and personality: might we dare to slip into the first-person singular rather than the first-person plural? Might we interject a line from Shakespeare if its metaphorical force helps establish the relevance of a particular claim?

I'm merely speculating here, but I for one lament the loss of the person in modern mathematical prose! The interested reader should definitely take a look at the book by Montgomery which I mentioned in this post.