A Scyborg Composition Course

José Luis Cano Jr.

Breaking Learning Outcomes

Juxtaposed institutional technologies can break. la paperson (2017) wrote, "Here, in the breaks, are possible dovetails among Black, Indigenous, and Other-ed studies that make the foundation for a technologies framework" (p. 21). I extend la paperson's theoretical break to mean a literal break, so I juxtapose the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board's (THECB, 2021) learning outcomes and the American Community Survey's (ACS) data on language at the county level.3, 4 Placing these technologies side-by-side—one in the the form of a map and the other as inscribed—reveals the white supremacist project motivating these learning outcomes. This breaks the learning outcomes, for it reveals the WME practices embedded in its framework and language. In addition, this break carves a space to speculate on learning outcomes that attend to bi/multilingual practices in the comp course.

THECB Comp I Learning Outcomes, SP2021

  • Demonstrate knowledge of individual and collaborative writing processes.
  • Develop ideas with appropriate support and attribution.
  • Write in a style appropriate to audience and purpose.
  • Read, reflect, and respond critically to a variety of texts.
  • Use Edited American English in academic essays. (THECB, 2021, p. 113)

THECB Comp II Learning Outcomes, SP2021

  • Demonstrate knowledge of individual and collaborative writing processes.
  • Develop ideas and synthesize primary and secondary sources within focused academic arguments, including one or more research-based essays.
  • Analyze, interpret, and evaluate a variety of texts for the ethical and logical uses of evidence.
  • Write in a style that clearly communicates meaning, buildings credibility, and inspires belief or action.
  • Apply the conventions of style manuals for specific academic disciplines (e.g., APA, CMS, MLA, etc.). (THECB, 2021, p. 113)

Imposing WME through Learning Outcomes

The THECB (2021) outlined the learning goals for comp I and comp II courses.5 Housed under English courses, the comp I course emphasizes "effective rhetorical choices, including audience" as part of its description and includes the aforementioned five learning outcomes (p. 112). Similarly, the comp II course description intends to promote "research-based expository and persuasive texts" with the five learning outcomes listed above (p. 113). The description and learning outcomes function as a technology that advances WME in comp courses throughout public post-secondary institutions in Texas. To make this point, I analyze the use of the words "audience" and "academic" interspersed throughout the learning outcomes and course descriptions.

As part of the analysis, I present the following visuals.

Data from National Center for Education Statistics (2019): Table 316.20

Data from ACS: TableID 1603 (U.S. Census Bureau, n.d.-b)

The two visuals collectively depict the characteristics of the population inhabiting post-secondary spaces, which include comp courses.6 White instructors of all levels comprise 76% of the instructors (46% white male and 35% white female) in post-secondary institutions. Furthermore, 81.2% of individuals who obtain a Bachelor's degree or higher use English at home. In essence, white and English-speaking folks assume the implicit role of the "audience" in these learning outcomes. Because white folks populate the post-secondary space in larger quantities, white folks dictate the meaning of academic in the phrases "academic audience," "academic arguments," and "academic disciplines." Therefore, the learning outcomes as a technology imposes WME in comp courses.

Imagining in the Break

Now, I focus on the "Linguistic Plurality" map to align these learning outcomes with languages at the U.S.-México border. For Cameron County, Texas, 26.9% of individuals speak English-only.7 In this scenario, 73.1% of individuals receive a deprived rhet–comp education as it relates to comp courses, at least based on the stated learning outcomes. In the case of Hidalgo County, Texas, 15.7% of individuals speak English-only, or to state it differently, comp courses fail to meet the needs of 84.3% of individuals.8 A technology (ACS's data on language) breaks another technology (THECB's learning outcomes) as it demonstrates the insidious goal of imposing WME in comp courses.

This break brings forth the question and function of learning outcomes and their impact on racialized folks. la paperson (2017) explained that "to theorize in the break is to improvise theory in the rupture from the genealogy of the (often European) founding fathers. It is to think, sing, write, and embody theory in the elsewhere, in the sovereign, in the Black" (p. 19). The learning outcomes serve a practical purpose because they make management of these courses smoother for institutions, and students can transfer comp course credit to other institutions. From an instructor's standpoint, thinking of learning outcomes at an individual and technological (departmental curriculum) level creates a flurry of conversations, so I'll note the following detail shaping the context for these conversations. In Texas, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (2018)—another technology in assemblage with the comp course—requires for comp instructors to specialize or have 18 graduate hours in the discipline of English or related teaching field. If instructors had autonomy in writing learning outcomes for comp courses, I suspect this requirement predisposes instructors to center, once again, WME.

The question on learning outcomes persists. I strongly believe these learning outcomes should acknowledge in explicit ways the white post-secondary landscape. Then, learning outcomes can center the dialects and languages of racialized students, so they can enroll in comp courses that make use of their experiences and develop their language arts.