Ellen Cushman argues for a broader understanding of public when considering the purpose of a public intellectual. Cushman notes public should include “the ones often located close by universities, just beyond the walls and gates, or down the hill, or over the bridge, or past the tracks” (329); that is, people often occluded from the policy making and debates occurring in isolated circumstances. While this extension of purpose is admirable, I find there might be threats to its possible realization. As Cushman states later in the position piece, “academics must have the secure position that autonomy (typically gained through tenure) provides if the knowledge they make is to be protected from censorship” (Cushman, 329).
The stability of the profession of teacher permits much activity. For example, I honestly will not pursue advanced Trans-Atlantic and Pacific Partnership projects, which I categorize as service learning for reaching beyond the classroom, unless I have the security of tenure. The challenges are simply too risky if I am simply a one-year contract – with possibility of renewal. Laura Julier, Kathleen Livingston, and Eli Goldblatt offer encouragement to endure through volatility with organizations. Eli states, “I simply have to learn to trust my ability to tell if things are going wrong for the partner” (69). Great, but how to help a partner who recognizes an instructor might be gone after a year or in some cases a semester? This concern is serious. The discussion about assessment, for example, does not address the issues Tony Scott and Lil Brannon identify in “Democracy, Struggle, and the Praxis of Assessment.” The primary threat to assessment, according to Scott and Brannon, is programmatic instability.
Assessment must be sufficiently simple that a person might understand it within a week yet remain robust enough to appease accreditors, administrators, and other stakeholders. Larger programs might have a “revolving door” (enter, exit, enter, exit, and on and on) of hires, so the assessment procedure must be resilient; should a WPA consider integrating service-learning elements given the possibility the courses dedicated to service-learning might only exist for one year, one semester, or maybe only a portion of a course’s activities? On the one hand, I think it is necessary because many program outcomes seek to extend the involvement of students (and instructors) “beyond the classroom”; on the other hand, I think it is foolishness to suppose service-learning is sustainable. This issue looms very large in my thinking because, again, it involves TAPP. I have evidence that TAPP is beneficial, yet I do not have evidence that it is sustainable (rest assured, though, so long as I and some others are in universities, it will thrive).
How might a writing program integrate service-learning in a sustainable manner?
How might professional volatility dissuade (1) instructor (2) writing program (3) community participation in service-learning? Conversely, how might it encourage their participation in service-learning?