Starting with Dr. Crazy's post-MLA post about why she teaches literature, a number of others out there have been posting their reasons for teaching (I'm not going to try to link to them all). There has been some dissent, which is curious since these are individual/personal reasons. Anyway, I've decided to join the fun.
So, why do I teach composition and rhetoric?
- I love words. I love the different ways we can put words together. I love helping people see how words and language work and how words and language can work for them.
- Teaching people the multiple ways they can think through and express their thoughts for different audiences is important to me. I don't just focus on academic audiences when I talk to students about writing. We work on different types of academic audiences, that is true, but we also talk about and write for the different types of audiences they will encounter at work and in their communities. I've seen some amazing health information resources created by pre-med students writing for audiences such as children, adults with low-levels of education, etc. I love these projects and, for the most part, they become very important to my students.
- Reading and writing, as seemingly everyday acts, are often overlooked. I want to show people the ways reading and writing are material parts of our lives and histories. I also want to show them the complexity of both of these acts, the environments (broadly defined) in which they occur, and the ways reading and writing are both valued and devalued.
- I want to help people see themselves as writers.
- I want to make processes of inquiry (both in terms of rhetorical invention and research) more meaningful to students and I want students to take ownership of these processes.
- I love helping people understand how reading, writing, and research are all social acts.
- It's important to me to provide places where students can write works that aren't assessed by grades. I want them to have a safe space to take risks with their writing.
- I can't think of anything I'd rather do.
I couldn't do the items listed in the second, third, fourth, and sixth bullets, in particular, without intellectual freedom for both myself and my students. In all of these areas, students need the space to take risks with their ideas and their writing. I need to be able to provide space for students to take these risks. This cannot be done without intellectual freedom.
Additionally, intellectual freedom allows me to study and teach those things that are part of everyday experiences such as reading and writing. It means that I can teach more than just belles lettres (although that, too, is important). It allows me to integrate cutting edge work into my classroom. It allows us to rhetorically explore all types of arguments, as well as their groundings and support. It allows me to discuss rhetorics of non-dominant groups.
At least theoretically, it allows me to engage in materials that cross-disciplinary boundaries (I've written about my frustration with interdisciplinarity in this post). And, it allows me to talk about my research and teaching in this very space. That is just the beginning, but it covers some of the key points for me.