“Ladies Who Don’t Know Us Correct Our Papers”: Postwar Lay Reader Programs and Twenty-First Century Contingent Labor in First-Year Writing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

I draw upon Eileen Schell's notions of "maternal pedagogy" and an "ethic of care" to analyze archival material from the National Education Association and Educational Testing Service pilot "lay reader" programs of the 1950s and 1960s. I argue that there are striking similarities between the material and social circumstances of these postwar lay readers' labor and that of contingent faculty in first-year composition today. I additionally contend that lay reader program narratives and policies evince a longer historical trajectory of labor problems in the teaching of writing than we typically recognize. This trajectory illustrates a continual need for various types of "help" in achieving effective writing instruction, yet paradoxically values labor-intensive models for teachers that emphasize the personal (and interpersonal). Such conditions create a problematic "motherly" discourse for the discipline that is magnified by the gendered imbalance already typically found in the first-year writing teacher workforce.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)387-419
Number of pages33
JournalCollege Composition and Communication
Volume63
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Literature and Literary Theory

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