Sunday, January 24, 2010

Teaching Philosophy

Google Docs Link for revision help:

Johnson County Community College

1234 College Boulevard

Overland Park, Kansas 66210-1299

28 January 2010

Dear Selection Committee:

I am writing to explain my teaching philosophy as part of my application for the Assistant Professor in English position. My philosophy of teaching has evolved over my years of teaching to reflect the demands of the classroom in the global economy, but if I were to summarize my approach, the heart would be critical thinking, openness, self-expression, and accountability.

Each area of my philosophy can be taken individually, but must be viewed as a cohesive unit to be fully effective. The foundation of my teaching is leading students into critical thinking through different models, e.g. the Toulmin method, Aristotle’s rhetoric, rudimentary logic, and dialectical questioning. The first goal then is to give students tools to use for specific assignments, but also, and more importantly, to have the learner internalize these models and start applying them to their world. My curriculum design exemplifies this succinctly, as my writing courses build on successive thought models and lead them through content to which they can relate: popular culture and mass media. Thus, by starting with things about which they are already knowledgeable and opinionated, I believe they engage the material and internalize the critical thought models more successfully. Furthermore, I take personal accountability for helping the students to understand, decipher, and analyze the symbols of their world to interpret them in a meaningful, thoughtful way. This is the basis of my teaching and the cornerstone of active participation in democracy. Thus, critical thinking is the ultimate goal of my teaching in an effort to produce more active and aware citizens, yet it also necessitates the next aspect of my philosophy: self-expression.

All teaching is predicated on the students’ ability to openly express ideas in a safe, non-threatening environment. Accordingly, all my writing classes begin with a ten-minute freewrite on a thought-provoking quotation with sharing and open discussion of their responses following. As a result, the environment I create is very open, letting students express ideas without fear of castigation for a “wrong” idea; I fully establish from the start that there are no incorrect responses but only different interpretations. I seek for them to express, articulate, and then finally engage their interpretation of the world throughout the course, and this is not possible without the fostering of an ambiance of comfort and openness, the next aspect of my philosophy.

I create an open, relaxed environment through my amiable approach to the class. This is essential for fostering the level of critical thought and self-expression I seek from students because chastising them for voicing their opinions is antithetical to the stated goals of my teaching. My philosophy of openness is the reason, I feel, students are able to approach me with questions, comments, and concerns easily, but it is also the reason why students are academically successful in my classes. Additionally, this openness reinforces the teaching of writing as process and allows them to better understand how revision works in that process with an emphasis on creating understanding through praxis rather than focusing solely on the end result. This is not to say, however, that my approach is completely lackadaisical; rather I have high expectations, which I make transparent and to which I hold them accountable for their performance in class.

Accountability is the final aspect of my teaching philosophy and, thus, the framework by which critical thinking, self-expression, and openness are facilitated in class. Like the real world, classes present students with deadlines, attendance demands, and dedication to seeing a project to fruition; therefore, my philosophy also emphasizes the real world accountability of self-management and open communication when things are not going smoothly. As such, I constantly reinforce that, though I want thoughtful and expressive work, it must always adhere to a minimum standard of professionalism and the expectation that it must be the best work they are capable of producing.

Though my philosophy breaks into four parts, it is actually a single, unified vision of how to get students to understand that writing is not just something to put off until the night before a deadline, but rather it is the product of diligent, thoughtful effort and practice. Furthermore, my philosophy and classes always emphasize that their opinion is important, and they should voice it strongly but with the addition of sound reasoning and deep reflection. Thus, through my approach to teaching writing, I feel I give students the tools to communicate their thoughts effectively and support them so that they may begin to contribute meaningfully to the discourse on issues in our society and community.


Carl A Stewart

Monday, October 5, 2009

PT Faculty Issues

Here is some of the background information on the PT Faculty Union negotiations with MATC that is not twitter-friendly. The first selection is one that details in-full the origin of "minor league" comments about PT Faculty from MATC president, Bettsey Barhorst. The second selection details the most recent happenings with our situation.

PT Faculty Union President, Mike Kent, provides a recounting of his conversation with MATC president, Bettsey Barhorst:

While the meeting was intended to be one to one, Bettsy brought in Terry Webb at the outset. I explained to her that the reason for the meeting was to see if there was any last possible chance that we could avoid the looming storm clouds. I explained to her that my perception after the mediation session was that the administration has a very strong desire to maintain the current situation on campus as it relates to part time faculty. I told her that was likely to be a problem, as our membership views the current situation as unfair and unsustainable. I asked her if she believed the gap between full time and part time compensation was fair.
Bettsy told me that the huge difference in compensation was "the way things are". I told her that we did not dispute that, but that we felt "the way things are" was unfair. I asked her to offer a philosophical or academic rationale for why the compensation for full time instruction should be so much higher than that for part time faculty. Bettsy had a variety of answers for that question.
First, she indicated that for full time faculty, teaching is a career. It's what they do. They are committed to it, as evidenced by all the times she sees full time faculty working in their offices or coming in on weekends. She said that the college expects more from them, such as service on committees and work for their center. "We expect their whole life." She said that for part time faculty, teaching was just some extra thing they do in their lives.
I pointed out to her that our part time faculty are very committed to their teaching, and that many teach at multiple colleges. I told her that our pt faculty spend many hours outside of class prepping or grading. I also told her that the extra work done by full time faculty with respect to committees is accounted for in their workload formula and that they get compensated for that work. I said that part time faculty also do much committee and center work, both compensated and uncompensated.
Bettsy told me that if part time faculty were serious about a career in teaching, that they should apply for a full-time position, here or someplace else.
I told Bettsy that there aren't many full time positions that come open, and that our members do apply for them in great numbers.
Bettsy then told me that she had always wanted to be a major league baseball player. She asked, "should I be hired by a major league team just because I want to play?"
I asked if she was suggesting that some difference in quality of teaching accounted for the difference in pay.
She replied that "hey, everybody wants to be a major leaguer, but only the best get to play."
I asked her if the model she was suggesting for MATC was that of a professional sports team or a Hollywood movie studio. I told her that I was confused by this explanation, because earlier in bargaining, the college had asserted that they recognize no difference in the quality of part-time teachers versus full time teachers.
Bettsy replied that "well of course, the college recognizes no difference when it comes to just teaching a particular class." She did not elaborate further, so I did not get an explanation of what exactly makes part time instructors bush leaguers.
Bettsy elaborated that the college only hires the best applicants at that if a part time instructor applied for a full time position and didn't get it, it meant they weren't the best teacher who applied, and that they should accept that. She gave a little shrug as she said this.
I pointed out to Bettsy that the college places limits on the number of current part-time faculty who are eligible to be considered for interviews for full time positions. She turned to Terry and asked him if there was any limit on the number of pt faculty who could apply for a position. He said no, no limit on applications. I pointed out that the limitation is on the number of part time faculty who can be interviewed. She said "well yes of course, a limit on the number who will be interviewed". [note- the college takes their stack of applications and advances 12 candidates to the first interview. The limit has been that only 3 of those candidates can be current part time faculty.]
As the conversation began to come to a close, I thanked Bettsy for her time. I told her I regretted the direction things were heading. I told her that our door would be open if she wanted to talk more at any time, and that I hoped we would be able to make the relationship between the college and the part-time faculty a positive one for all at some point in the future. Bettsy told me that the college had to make decisions that were best for the students and other stakeholders, and that she didn't expect everybody to be happy about that. She said it was best for the students if part time faculty were "flexible" with respect to re-assignment and "cost-effective" with respect to pay.

The following link is to another blog, Caffeinated Press, supporting us on this point:

This is an article posted on the Capital Times, detailing the situation and providing an interesting view from MATC District Board lawyer, Jon Anderson:

The following was received in an email from Mike Kent to all PT Union members, refuting the claims Jon Anderson makes in the Cap Times article:

On the points Jon Anderson makes:
-Just because other colleges also exploit their PT faculty doesn't make it right. (Gosh I wish I could think of a historical analogy or two to illustrate this point.) Also, Milwaukee Area Technical College and Waukesha Area Technical College both have significantly better deals for their part-timers, so Anderson is comparing us to the worst, not the best. (At Milwaukee part-timers earn 60% of the full time salary and are eligible for benefits).
-The part-time faculty at Edgewood are non-unionized.
-Teaching at the Technical College level requires both the degree requirements of a college professor and the certification requirements of a high school teacher. Comparing us to Edgewood neglects that fact.
-MATC full time instructors and administrators are paid significantly more than their counterparts at Edgewood. For 2007-08, Edgewood Professors earned an average of $55,697 in pay and $15,587 in benefits. For the same period, MATC FT faculty earned an average of $75,849 in pay and $40,465 in benefits. MATC administrators average over $100,000 a year in pay, have benefits that match the full time faculty, and are the highest paid administrators in the Wisconsin Technical College System. (Salary figures from US Department of Education- Bureau of Higher Education Statistics, reported to the USDOE by the colleges themselves.) Is Anderson suggesting that they should be viewed as a comparable for part-time faculty, but not for full-timers or administrators?

Overall, the effort seems positive and well-supported, but it seems the (well-paid) MATC administration really wants to maintain the status quo. This situation is not limited to MATC by any means, which I must stress; this is a national situation, affecting all higher learning institutions. Mostly, this is facilitated by the degree-farm mentality that allows universities to accept more grad students and grant more degrees than there could possibly be jobs: all to keep balanced budgets by using grad students as cheap labour.

I'm sure there will be more to come ...

In solidarity,

the under-employed, the underpaid, the under-valued: the underground.

Friday, November 21, 2008

post-election thoughts


as we all know by now, obama won. so, what does this mean for us? well, it seems, or at least i am hopeful that it seems, that we are embarking on a new phase of liberalism. the conservative backlash to the era of FDR, truman, kennedy, and johnson has perhaps run its course and the world the liberals now inherit is the direct result of deregulation, free market excess, and the culture wars. these things aside, i don't see that what obama has inherited is any worse than what FDR inherited from hoover - in fact, bush could very aptly be described as hoover-esque (and i'm sure his presidential library will be just as dreary). my anti-conservatism aside, what will come to define this new liberalism, if that is in fact what this is. the new yorker has a good spread on just this.

Liberals would dominate the entire government in a way they haven’t since 1965, or 1933. The Journal’s nightmare scenario of America under President Obama and a Democratic Congress included health care for all, a green revolution, expanded voting rights, due process for terror suspects, more powerful unions, financial regulation, and a shift of the tax burden upward. That idea is ascendant in 2008 because it answers the times. These political circumstances, even more than the election of the first black American to the highest office, make Obama’s victory historic.
indeed, this seems like the conservatives' nightmare, but it does reveal that the policies carried out from regan to bush and bush, jr. have waned in enthusiasm among the general public. curiously as well, this election could not focus on the social issues that had been the bread and butter of neocon ideology in the bush "wins."

on a slight tangential note, there is certainly unrest among some, which seems particularly directed at the media. a forthcoming documentary is set to expose how the media won the election for obama. (see also). i will not profess that there was not, in fact, a media bias; however, i will suggest that people are only willing to cry foul when their particular ideology is not the one carrying the day in the media. our news outlets are, indelibly, the fountainhead of ideology: turn on, tune in, and get your daily dose of what people with more money than you think you should think. it astonishes me that people are just now like wtf? but better late than never, as they say. again though, the real issue here is that conservatives are blaming the media because it was not biased in their favor. if it had been, then the liberals would be crying wolf. as long as the media is owned by anyone other than the people, there will be no such thing as objective news coverage ... and even then it might fail still. in a comment thread from the
western standard, i found a "libertarian" view of interest as well:
I don't know of any libertarians that are suggesting the state should break up the media. And I don't at all suggest that anything involving the law or the government should be done to the news media.

The criticism, it seems to me, is that the media is failing in providing unbiased news.

Maybe we should reject that vision of the journalist. Maybe, instead, we should embrace a vision that includes open and honest expression of bias (like we do here. We love liberty. Our news stories are from a pro-liberty perspective, etc.)

Freedom of speech is a call to keep the government out of it. It is not a call for silencing critics. I think it's perfectly all right for Republicans to express their criticism, to boycott, to write letters, and so on. All of that is consistent with free speech.

And they can, legally, print whatever they want, as far as I'm concerned. But that doesn't mean that I have to endorse what they write, or approve of it. Just as I can't silence them for putting out pro-Obama news, they can't silence me in pointing that out and saying "shame on you" (or an equivalent).

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 18-Nov-08 5:23:51 PM

we have freedom of the press, but nowhere does it state that the free press must be unbiased. there is bias and ideology in every aspect of our culture; it is up to the observer/listener to be objective in making decisions and judgments about that bias. bias, in the parlance of our times, is simply double-speak for "does not agree with me." and to that i simply say: who the fuck cares? most people do not agree, and even if they do, it's certainly not all the time. having a plurality of views encourages discourse, debate, and perhaps, if the demarcations are not so deep, consensus. because i greatly doubt that truth is something knowable other than in science (but even there, truths seem to dissolve after time).

this all leaves us squarely in the realm of interpretation, and there were two opposing interpretations of how the result of this election came to pass. c. 46% of the country interpreted the current republican ideology as the best: the best to solve a financial crisis, the best to "win" a war, and the best to protect american nationalism. contrarily, c. 53% of the nation cast an opposing interpretation, one predicated upon government working for the people, ending poorly conceived conflicts, and believing in a different "american dream." neither has truth on its side. each only has an ideology and an interpretation. we can only hope for transparency about what that ideology is and whom it serves, so that if we find ourselves on the ass end of the situation, we can revise our interpretations and try again.

~off, and back to the underground.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

the biden comments and more


so, as i was watching cnn last night, i was perplexed about what joe biden could possibly mean when he stated that obama would face an "international crisis" in the first six months. now, the basic principle of what he said seems to be correct. every president has faced some sort of crisis early in their first year. the manner in which he stated this view was, er, not so good. i grimaced because it's another talking point for the GOP and mccain/palin, and one that falls well within their purview - foreign affairs.

i like biden, so please do not misunderstand, but i do fail to see the point in broaching this subject in such a way with only two weeks until the election. in the politico arena, i think the view for why biden's comment is not a gaffe, per se, is clearly elucidated. perhaps, one of the better responses is from andrei cherny, where he points out that the essential political gaffe here is that biden told the truth. the implication the GOP is going to run with on biden's comment though is that obama will not be able to handle this international crisis, which is a patent absurdity, but one of the many absurdities that mccain/palin will be able to get to stick with some voters. whether the many undecided voters are influenced by such rhetoric is, in my opinion, uncertain, but it will definitely get the conservative base going (again).

on the subject of the vp candidates, the RNC announced yesterday that they have spent $150k on palin's outfits during the course of the campaign. the figures are since the end of august/beginning of september, which means they have spent about $2800/day on making palin look "acceptable" to the american public. i have a few issues on this point. first, mccain/palin are running on a platform of decreased spending and budget reform. yet, $2800 on clothes does not seem like anything near spending reform; in fact, i would call it wasteful. when asked to comment, an RNC representative stated:
"With all of the important issues facing the country right now, it’s remarkable that we’re spending time talking about pantsuits and blouses," said spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt. "It was always the intent that the clothing go to a charitable purpose after the campaign."
tracey, in case you have been living in a fucking bubble, one of the issues facing the country right now is how we spend our money.

my other issue with this is more along the lines of having my curiosity piqued. palin is only the second woman to be attached to a major party presidential ticket, and one thing (you can look to hillary clinton on this, too) is that the way women appear to the country is very important. there are certain do's and don'ts, which have often (perhaps until palin) tended to emphasis a lack of femininity. so, i wonder what the calculated image for palin is. they have definitely emphasized her femininity, but to what extent? she dresses powerfully, and has apparently been a topic in fashion magazines, but do "soccer moms" shop at saks fifth avenue and neiman marcus? most, i suspect, shop at the perennial middle-class favorites: walmart, target, kohls, and penny's. the image discrepancy is obvious, but i think it still begs the question: how are the republicans trying to make her appear to the public? what is the ur-presidential woman in the republican model?

also, with 13 days to go, the polls seem to suggest that despite the pundits' views that the polls had been tightening, they are actually widening. RCP's national poll average now shows obama 50.6/mccain 43.0, which amounts to one of the bigger leads obama has had in the poll averages. as david gergen (one of my favorites) stated last night on AC360, "the big story tonight is that after 2-3 days in a row of talking about tightening polls, they're now widening." whatever momentum mccain gained out of the last debate appears to have dissipated, and he now relies on changing pennsylvania red, where according to poll averages, obama has an 11.4 point lead. though obama's support has, in fact diminished slightly in PA over the last week, mccain has not gained anything. until mccain starts showing a significant (or any gain) in PA, i don't think it's in any danger of being turned red.

~off, and back to the underground.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

obama likes pie

just so you all know, obama definitely likes pie.
but who doesn't? srsly.

in other news, the polls seem to be tightening a bit nationally, but not as much on the state levels. this seems to be largely the economy still, as this piece on missouri points to.

anyway, more to come later I hope.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

in response to obama's wealth redistribution critics


why would america be against wealth redistribution, per se? thanks to the dot com boom and the increasing corporatization of america, the income disparity is staggering. 1% of the country owns 38% of the nation's wealth, and the top 20% of the country holds 83% of the total household wealth, whereas 60% of the nation holds less than 6% of the total wealth, with 12% of the country living below the poverty line (mantsios). you could also cite a graph i found on the ratio of ceo pay to the federal minimum wage: 821:1 ... so 821 times the minimum wage as of 2005 (5.15), which makes the the equivalent hourly wage of a ceo over $4,200/hour. i'm sure that they've "earned" it, but such a great disparity in income distribution in this, the most affluent, country is an absolute affront to even american ideals.

furthermore, middle class tax cuts while raising taxes on those who make more than 250K/year, i would argue, is not income redistribution. [btw, the percent of the population who make more than that magic number is 1.5%, or 1,699 households. that's it.] if you think about it, the 95% of americans who would benefit under obama's tax plan largely only draw income from a job - or labor in some form; whereas, the 5% of americans who would see tax increases don't work jobs, per se, but rather draw income from investments and assets (stocks, bonds, property ownership, production, and distribution). to enhance this, you can also add that 66% of those who make $100K or more a year have inherited assets. (which to me suggests that they didn't "work" for their money, as is so often the argument the wealthy level against tax-based income redistribution) so, they largely either sit on or invest their wealth in things that mature, rather than having that as income and needing it to pay bills, send kids to school, buy food, pay rent, etc. at this point in the game, the majority of americans need the majority of their income, so lowering their taxes makes sense.

as for the top 1.5% of america, i think that their investments can be curtailed a little. obama is looking to stimulate the economy through middle class tax cuts and energy sector job creation - which is (at least according to pure capitalism) what that 1.5% should have been investing in in order for it to "trickle down." they are not, and have not, been holding up their side of the economy, and the majority of us (the workers) are suffering as a result. so, obama proposes to invest (as the wealthy should have been doing) in securing america's energy future, and creating new, non-exportable jobs. more money for the struggling middle class and a new energy-based sector of the economy opening and creating jobs seems like a sound formula to me.

i'll leave you with this: the income gap between rich and poor in the US, measured as the total income held by the wealthiest 20% of the population versus the poorest 20% of the population, is approximately 11:1 ... cf: nyt


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

adjunct bs


though i count myself fortunate to be working in the field, this article from inside higher ed reveals exactly why working in the field is so difficult. i think this sums it up well:

“Wal-Mart is a more honest employer of part-time employees than are most colleges and universities,” said A.G. Monaco, senior human resources official at the University of Akron, and yet academics are “the ones screaming about how bad Wal-Mart is.” Academics “have to stop lying” about the way non-tenure-track professors are treated, he said.
considering the polemics i launch against walmart in the classroom, maybe should redirect my efforts to chastising the "degree industry" for its treatment of laborers. i mean, even with union representation, compensation is still pretty scant. even more so when you consider that i make less than $2k per class, whereas a full time instructor makes just short of $5k per class. and, qualitatively, what's the difference in instruction that warrants such a disparity? i don't know, but I know that it's a 5:2 ratio of adjuncts to full-timers, and they (wisely on their part) keep the full time and part time instructors in separate unions.

this, if anything, definitely revitalizes my motivation to go back and finish my phd - it's not worth it otherwise. but then again, with a flagging economy and a similar ratio of adjuncts to professors across the country, it seems like job security in academia has an inverse relationship to the price of tuition.