Keller’s questions focused on whether or not composition faculty should teach students to create traditional college essays or more modern “multi-modal” compositions. However, those questions also apply to the focus of Keller’s book: Reading. Indeed, when debating whether college composition courses should teach students how to write a resume, read college-level texts, or create short videos (or all three), we should be asking the questions Keller asks:
…given the wide and ever-growing range of literacy practices, where should composition direct its every and time? As a consequence of choosing to teach particular literacy practices, what other practices are marginalized or left out?
As a writing teacher, I truly believe that those are important questions. I only have 16 weeks to work with my students, to help them become “college-level writers.” If I focus on just writing, I leave no time for reading, but I know that reading and writing are connected skills. If I spend more time on information literacy, I am taking time away from both reading and writing. Therefore, every writing program and writing teacher must ask and answer these questions, coming to consensus as much as possible.
Reading Keller this time, I wrote the following question in the margins, next to the same passage:
Since I am interested in what a “Literacy Across the Curriculum” program would look like at Lansing Community College, I tried changing Keller’s questions just bit:
Given the wide and ever-growing range of literacy practices, where should college educators direct their energy and time? As a consequence of college educators choosing to teach particular literacy practices, what other practices are marginalized or left out?
I like my revised version of these questions, even though it makes me think about a word that I dread hearing: Silos. Particularly, I hate the phrase, “We need to break down silos.” Still, I hope that my colleagues across the disciplines and I can find a way to discuss which literacies the college as a whole values. Departments and programs need to discuss what literacies they value. I wonder what might happen to our general education and major curriculums if we asked the question, “What literacies do our students need?”
More importantly, I think we need to question our own assumptions about “deep reading.” I hear people bemoan (a la Nicholas Carr) that the digital world is changing our brains for the worse. However, I think we really need to be asking ourselves that if we privilege “deep reading” at the expense of “short” and/or “lateral” reading skills, might we just exacerbating other problems–like believing fake news?
I don’t have the answers, but I do know that we need to be having the conversation.