Thelin – Thelin’s Response to Russell Durst

Thelin, William. “William H Thelin’s Response to Russell Durst.” College Composition and Communication. 58.1 (2006): 114-118. Print.

In this response to Russell Durst’s critique of Thelin’s article “Understanding problems of Critical Pedagogy,” he acknowledges that he made himself vulnerable to sweeping generalizations by admitting that he had a disastrous section of composition. He asserts, however,  that the goal of the article was to scrutinize a problematic classroom in order to complicate the “this doesn’t work” response.

Thelin says Durst isn’t critiquing his findings, but is critiquing Thelin’s interpretation of critical pedagogy. He claims that Durst wants him to say that critical pedagogy is ineffective, but his data, he asserts does not support that. Thelin details the oversights, errors, and misunderstandings that he says Durst made in his critique.

Thelin also addresses Dursts depiction of critical pedagogy as confrontational: “Critical  pedagogy  is not confrontational. It is dialogic. Confrontation springs  from  authoritarianism  on  the part  of  the  teacher” (115).

Thelin says that while he did not appreciate the tenor of Durst’s critique, he can appreciate the concern and believes that the actual tenets and practices of critical pedagogy need to be discussed and that it needs to be discussed in more precise language. For example:

Critical  theory  is certainly  deployed  by critical  pedagogues,  but  in and  of  itself,  critical  theory  does  not  constitute  the enactment  of  critical pedagogy,  which  Russel  admits.  In  the  same  sense, students  can work  collaboratively,  as  they  often  do  in critical  classrooms,  but  collaboration  by  itself is not  critical  pedagogy.  Critical pedagogy  blends  these elements  together.  Some critical pedagogues do not  experiment  with  power sharing,  per  se, but  they still  adhere  to  Freire’s  belief  in  listening  to  the  students  and  asking  key  questions  about  whom the  classroom  serves  and whom it  acts  against.  The  students’  cultures  and  beliefs  are  accounted for  in  such courses,  as  critical  pedagogy  responds  to  local  conditions (118).


Durst – Can We Be Critical of Critical Pedagogy

Durst, Russell. “Can we be Critical of Critical Pedagogy.” College Composition and Communication. 58.1 (2006): 110-114. Print.

This is a direct response to William Thelin’s CCC article, “Understanding Problems of Critical Pedagogy.” Durst distorts Thelin’s argument. Thelin says the students were too unfamiliar with the critical pedagogy approach – not content. Durst suggests that students adapt to a variety of differences in coursework and unfamiliar discipline when they transitioning from high school to college; however, the banking model is fairly consistent in K-16 education. Therefore, there is not much to adapt to in terms of pedagogical approach regardless of content.

Durst critiques the notion of “blundering for a change.” While Thelin uses the term blunder, I do not think “blundering for a change” is his phrase. Durst asserts that critical pedagogy cannot be a series of ongoing mistakes and suggests that the “blunders” move instructors to “dislodge from our ideological comfort zones” and have “our outlooks complicated by discordant ideas,” just as we try to get our students to do so (113).

Banks – Taking Black Technology Use Seriously: African American Discursive Traditions in the Digital Underground

Banks, Adam. “Taking Black Technology Use Seriously: African American Discursive Traditions in the Digital Underground.” Race, Rhetoric, and Technology:Searching for Higher Ground. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc, 2006. 68-85. Print.

In this chapter Adam Banks  brings the scholarship on Cyberspace, the Digital Divide, and African American Discourse within Composition Studies up-to-date by exploring how African Americans access and transform “underground” online spaces to the specificity of their interests and needs. He asserts that the most important element of technological access is use; people using and developing the skills that make the technology relevant to their lives (68). His data comes from interactions on the online site Black Planet. In his analysis, he shows how interlocutors use two modes of discourse found in the African American oral tradition – tonal semantics and sermonic tone (Smitherman, 2000). According to Banks, these two “oral tradition” features in a written form online is highly significant because it is contrary to other cyberspace scholarship that negates the role of race and cultural identity online:

To do this in an online space given the conditions of technology access and the ways technology and cyberspace are constructed as White, is a critical disruption of those constructions, and, again, reminders that both race and culture carry definite meaning online (81).

Banks asserts that online spaces can be “underground” and operate outside of the power and surveillance of White society and the restrictions that can come along with it. These spaces/ interactions can provide much  insight as it relates to Composition Studies and new writers”

…there is much to learn from the underground sites where people new to any discursive situation have a chance to “get their game tight:” to learn the conventions, to experiment with voice, and tone, and craft; to get feedback that they actually want from people they will listen to; while in an environment where simplistic judgments about grammatical features do not lead to their discursive and intellectual complexity being entirely dismissed and/ or their continued segregation from others whoses voices are often just as raw (83).

Banks concludes that there is more study needed on this topic, and that there are steps that compositionists can take based on his findings. He suggests that we provide “rich, discursive spaces” for students to compose, give, and receive feedback with their peers so that they might help each other along (84). He also suggests that these spaces be places that students control instead of being policed by faculty for the benefit of the university (85). Lastly, Banks asks that faculty pay attention to our own course design and make so that we make it easier for students to navigate them, understand how they work, and find their ways back “home” from whatever point they may be at (85).