confessed to Bernstein, “were not being told how to put together a writing program. They were not being helped to understand how they should teach writing.” In her apologia “Making a Federal Case out of Difference,” Brodkey repeated her taboo assertion: “there was reason to assume that graduate students know how to teach literature but not writing.” In other words, U.T. had for years been assigning the teaching of a basic required course in writing to graduate students unprepared to teach it. Hence the new syllabus. For that admission, Brodkey deserves praise. She unbagged the cat whose very existence professors of English have stubbornly denied. At U.T., the consequences of denial have been severe. In a 1975 survey there, fifty-seven percent of respondents called U.T.’s freshman English courses either not at all helpful or only slightly helpful. Nearly two-thirds of faculty respondents judged that students wrote either rather poorly or quite poorly. Twenty years later, in a 1994 report to the University Council, a committee stated “the consensus of U.T. Austin faculty…that despite current efforts, most of our students do not write well.” Presenting the report, the committee’s chairman said that “the majority of the faculty” considered the writing program weak; yet President Berdahl remarked flatly that “the money is not there” to provide big new resources for writing, and Vice President Vick observed that most of the issues raised had been raised fifteen years before. In the staff directory of the Department of English and the new Division of Rhetoric and Composition for Fall, 1995, teaching assistants and assistant instructors \(graduate stuulty by about three to two, as they easily did five years ago. Perhaps the contested establishment of the Division of Rhetoric is a sign of better things to come at Texas. A believable graduate student reports that training of graduate students to teach composition has improved. Moreover, U.T. is no more guilty of exploiting graduate students \(and, in the recent past, part-time teachers or partThe great fact that Bernstein missed in his sin-hunt is that big departments of English are built on a foundation of exploitation. The exploitative scheme is simple and utterly familiar. At a time when departments of English should be reducing the size of their graduate programs, the professoriate welcomes new candidates for admission. They will both save the professoriate from elementary teaching and provide a vanity-feeding captive audience for the professoriate? s seminars. Administrators go along with the scheme because even the more advanced graduate students can be paid to teach freshmen for maybe one-sixth or one-seventh of the salary of the professor who directs the composition programs. The candidates keep coming, because the dream of a lifetime of well-paid, pleasant work is seductive, and because even parttime teaching with no chance for the security of tenure is better than no work at all. Sadly, less than half of new Ph.D.s in English get the tenure-track appointments that the system urges them to hope for \(MLA Newsletter, two-thirds get full-time teaching positions of any sort. Over ten percent have to settle for part-time, and ten percent are unemployed. If one adds the unknown number whose tenure-track appointments don’t actually lead to tenure, then presumably between one-half and two-thirds of the nine hundred and twenty-three new English Ph.D.s in 1993-94 \(the latest year for disappointment at a high cost of time and money. When graduate students are not available for exploitation, part-timers can be exploited. According to the National Education Association, part-timers are about one-third of all college teachers and teach about one college course in every four. Like graduate students, they don’t cost much, have little power to demand decent working conditions, can be easily dismissed in the name of “flexibility,” and to “free full-time faculty to spend more time on research and to be more selective about teaching assignments” \(NEA Update, Not many years ago, U.T. employed dozens of untenurable “lecturers” in English, but abruptly let them go when established faculty saw them as a threat to tenured privilege. So there’s the real scandal that Richard Bernstein could easily have sniffed out. He frets about a minority of “ideological multiculturalists” isolated in elite institutions, but college and university faculties \(ideolferent from the “real world” of getting and spending. They scratch and claw for personal advantage like the rest of the citizenry, but are considerably more sanctimonious about it. They are part of the whole vast system whose pressures encouraged Bernstein in real political correctness that is, the denunciation of ideas and practices, however remote from general acceptance, which might conceivably threaten illusions and delusions that the powerful cultivate in the populace. The real scandal is a scandal that the powerful maintain. In dutifully ignoring it, Bernstein did indeed enact a painful condemnation of the culture of which he too is a part. American culture is just one hell of a lot less multi than it ought to be. Some multi culturalism is admirable, and even the faddish sort that Bernstein attacks won’t balkanize the country or destroy its European heritage. That ugly work is being done by the executives of transnational corporations and by politicians who serve them. A two-tiered nation is a sane multiculturalist’ s nightmare. CAN YOU SPARE A BYTE? he Observer is seeking dona tions of usable computer equipment to augment its you have outgrown your recentmodel Macintosh or related computer equipment, please call the Observer Donations are tax-deductible and will guarantee you a place in heaven next to Joe Hill. ANDERSON & COMPANY COFFEE TEA SPICES TWO JEFFERSON SQUARE AUSTIN, TEXAS 78731, 51’2 45:1-1533 Send me your list. Name Street City Zip THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13
You May Also Like
The Texas Rangers are tasked with investigating corruption and crimes by public officials. Those officials are rarely held accountable.