Teach Your Children

Ph. is taking an online class this summer: LS211: Introduction to the Humanities. It’s a class I know well. I first developed the online version several years ago2002 and taught it a handful of times, including every summer during my tour de PhD. I was the course developer for, I don’t know, seven years right up until I landed in Ypsilanti.

Now two years later, I encouraged him to enroll in this particular course because he needs it for his major, and I thought there was a chance the main textbook might still be in use and a few crumbs of the course I’d designed might be lingering in the new version. All this amounts to is a faint hunch that we could have some conversations about the course materials–in-family supplemental instruction.

You can imagine my surprise–and horror–when Ph. received as a welcome email an message I wrote many years ago as a template for other instructors to adapt when welcoming student into the course. What a peculiar turn, this message in a bottle, from me to students in the early oughts, then with details removed as a template from me to instructors of the course, then minimally modified from an instructor to Ph. late last week.

The class begins for Ph. today. In fact, he just shared with me a Google Doc with the major project assignment (because I was curious; plus he is working in my office today), and, indeed, it is the very assignment prompt I created a half decade ago. I’m baffled, conflicted. I mean, I know it was work-for-hire. I know the other school “owns” these course materials. I know they are entitled by contract law to redistribute and make money on every scrap of material I put into that course. And even though this situation hints at odd and unsettling pedagogical practices (for a course–ironically–we paid tuition for), and even though I am not crazy about the idea that Ph. would be taking a course dependent upon such an aging bundle, I am nevertheless reassured by what feels like stepping through a wormhole, i.e., that the course is solidly enough developed that materials I wrote and assembled several years ago could still be sound today. It’s a principle to teach by, I suppose: create classes you would like for your children to take one day (and understand that if you sign a contract releasing work-for-hire, you just might end up paying tuition for them to take it).

Tingle and Self-Development

Nick Tingle’s
Self-Development and College Writing
(2004, SIU Press)
proposes a psychoanalytic stance on the "transitional space" of the
composition class.  Tingle’s argument leans heavily on Robert Kegan’s five orders
of consciousness–a quasi-Piagetian theory of stage-based psychological
development.  Phase one accounts for ages 2-6 (which, taken literally,
suggests pre-birth through the first twenty-four months of life are
non-conscious…discuss).  Tingle explains that some of the
discord felt between teachers and students can be attributed to our varied developmental
positions.  College-level writing students, in Tingle’s framework, match up with the third order of
consciousness (16), which is often defined by institutional forces and tends to
celebrate subjectivity (as in adolescence).  The fourth order in this model
accords with "’a qualitatively more complex system of organizing experience’"
(16); it is a more sophisticated order of self-truth that "somehow break[s] the
identifications of the self with its social roles" (17).  Tingle writes
that the modern university is designed to support students’ movement from the third
to the fourth order of consciousness, but because such moves involve
destabilization and "narcissistic wounding," the writing class might function to
enable and support.  Furthermore, writing teachers are often positioned at
the fourth order of consciousness (if not the fifth, which he correlates with
postmodernism (20)).  Teachers, therefore, must attend to their own
stage-orientation when defining viable writing projects and articulating
developmentally-appropriate expectations.  It can prove disastrous, in other
words, when fourth-order teachers presuppose their third-order students to be more
psychologically advanced.  Among the consequences: shame, embarrassment and humiliation (89).

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