Notes: Paul Walker, “Let’s Disagree (to Agree): Queering the Rhetoric of Agreement in Writing Assessment”

Walker, Paul. (2017). Let’s disagree (to agree): Queering the rhetoric of agreement in writing assessment. Composition Forum, 35. Web. http://compositionforum.com/issue/35/agreement.php

Summary:

Walker uses queer theory perspectives on failure to challenge assumptions of agreement or validity.

Keywords: composition, failure, queer, queer rhetorics, rhetoric, writing assessment, writing studies

Sources:

Heard, Matthew. (2013). Tonality and ethos. Philosophy and Rhetoric, 46(1), 44-64.

Scott, Tony and Lil Brannon. (2013). Democracy, struggle, and the praxis of assessment. College Composition and Communication, 65(2), 273-298.

Walker, Paul. (2013). Composition’s akrasia: The devaluing of intuitive expertise in writing assessment. enculturation, 15. http://enculturation.net/compositions-akrasia.

Quotations:

“In such an ‘uncontained’ sense, here I adopt a queer positionality from which perspective I consider the “disorienting excess” emerging from an assessment study relegated to the margins as a result of its failure to meet empirical measures of significance—statistical reliability standards—that orient and are “contained” by writing assessment scholarship”.

“[F]ailure becomes instead a path to nowhere, a space wherein we cannot predict, and by doing so, generate alternative ways of sustaining”.

“I am in no way suggesting agreement, confirmation, or reliability are wrong intrinsically; rather, I propose that agreement as the subsumption of difference can, through institutional mandates and what D. Diane Davis calls the “rhetoric of totality” (12), marginalize queerness by reifying masculinized and capitalistic traditions, including the persistent upward trajectory of merit or value-added results and the assumption that answers to difficult questions about learning and performance and identity are waiting to be found by acting subjects”.

“Constantly moving towards the center, towards explicit harmony and sameness via expected standards of social-scientific statistical measurement to determine the “success” of assessment, reinforces for those outside our discipline the primacy of a correct methodology over complexly and ecologically hermeneutic meaning and validity, thus maintaining enough legitimacy for administrators to continue to coopt a reductive and possibly irresponsible holistic methodology”.

“Intuition, of course, is scientifically queer, for it resists the requirement of outside or empirical verification; indeed, it resists replicated verity as validation, proposing instead that extensive experience affords individually nuanced interpretations by multiple individuals that is more valuable in their ecological complexity than multiple individuals arriving at one clear determinate interpretation”.

“Our aim as teachers is to facilitate learning, which stubbornly resists accuracy, consistency, generalizability, fairness, efficiency, or any other term that is usually applied to calibrated assessment”.

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