chapter  12
Sample of Discourse Analysis 3
Pages 17

For a final sample of discourse analysis I want to return to some data in Chapter 2, namely the history project where university academics and school teachers were working together. In this chapter we will look beyond the data in Chapter 2 to see how later events can give us yet deeper insight into what was going on in our original data. Once again, my goal here is simply to show some of the sorts of questions and issues that can arise in the course of analyzing the building tasks we have discussed and using the tools of inquiry we have introduced. The data in Chapter 2 concerned a university history professor (“Sara Vogel”) who wanted to work with middle-school teachers to get students engage in doing oral history. She wanted the children to interview their relatives and neighbors to gain information about the history of their local neighborhoods and the city in which they lived. At the same time, she was working towards writing a grant to gain federal funding for a longer-term and bigger project of the same sort in the local schools. The university at which the professor taught (“Woodson”) was a small elite private university in “Middleview,” a largely working-class industrial city that had, in recent years, lost a good deal of its heavy industry to overseas competition. There were historic town-gown tensions between the university and the city and, in particular, tensions between people who taught at the university and people who taught in the public schools, tensions over status and commitment to the city. The university faculty were not born in the city and often did not stay there, moving on to other jobs in other cities; the public school teachers were invariably born there and intended to stay there. The data we looked at in Chapter 2 came from the first official meeting of the project. This meeting was attended by the university history professor, two of her undergraduate research assistants, a representative of a group that was helping to the fund the collaboration between the professor and the teachers (who we will call “Ariel” and who was an advanced graduate student), two curriculum consultants, and the teachers. The curriculum consultants were professionals who worked for a local historical museum. They were specialists in designing history curricula for children and were hired by the funders to help the university history professor and Ariel, neither of whom knew much about curricula in schools. The data we looked at in Chapter 2 was talk from one of the teachers (“Karen Jones”). Karen had been asked by Ariel, who was chairing the meeting, to give those at the meeting some background on what had transpired prior to this first official meeting. As we saw earlier, the history professor had called the curriculum coordinator at Karen’s school-“Mary Washington”—to ask for help on her project and to gain access to the school. A curriculum coordinator in a school, though usually a former teacher, is often viewed more as an administrator than as a teacher by the teachers in the school, at least this was so in Middleview. I repeat the data below:

1. Last year, Mary Washington, who is our curriculum coordinator here, had a call from Sara at Woodson

2. And called me and said: 3. “We have a person from Woodson who’s in the History Department 4. And she’s interested in doing some research into Black history in

Middleview 5. And she would like to get involved with the school 6. And here’s her number 7. Give her a call” 8. And I DID call her 9. And we BOTH expected to be around for the Summer Institute at

Woodson 10. I DID participate in it 11. But SARA wasn’t able to do THAT

From just this data we might guess that Karen Jones is bothered by the fact that Prof. Vogel contacted her school’s curriculum coordinator and not Karen herself directly. Karen’s language makes it sound as though she was “ordered” by Mary Washington to help Prof. Vogel. We pointed out in Chapter 2, as well, that Karen’s talk emphasizes that she acted (making the call and attending the institute) even when “ordered” to, while Prof. Vogel failed to act (i.e., to attend the Summer Institute) even when she had initiated the original events. Thus, too, Karen makes herself seem reliable and Prof. Vogel not. Note here, even in my own description, that it is hard to name the protagonists without notating status and power differences, an issue that we saw in Chapter 2 was relevant in the data itself. I have referred to the history professor as Prof. Vogel and to the teacher as “Karen Jones” or just “Karen.” Partly I have done this to make clear who is who, but, nonetheless, it is a problem that becomes an issue to the participants themselves in terms of how status and power do and will function in the project. Hereafter I will refer to everyone by their first names and hope readers will remember that Karen and Jane are teachers, Sara is the historian, Mary the curriculum coordinator, Ariel is the chair of the meeting and the representative of the funders, and Shirley and Cynthia are the curriculum consultants (specialists from the history museum). After the group had met for several weeks, a meeting occurred where direct evidence appeared that Karen and the other teachers were, indeed, botheredand had been bothered from the outset of the project-that Sara had gotten to the school’s children through the curriculum coordinator (Mary) and not through the teachers themselves. The teachers started the meeting by saying that they were no longer sure what the project was about; it seemed to them confused and unfocused. They went on to point out that Sara had, some time ago, given a draft of a grant proposal she was working on to the curriculum coordinator, Mary, not to the teachers themselves. The grant proposal was

intended eventually to go to a federal agency to seek funding for continuing the current project or one like it. The teachers had not seen the grant and had noticed that, as a teacher we will call “Jane” (a good friend of Karen’s) said: “there is no mention of the teachers as an actual component in the grant program.” The grant proposal proposed to pay others, but seemed to take it for granted that teachers would work on the project without pay. Jane went on to say:

Shirley and Cynthia are the curriculum consultants from the historical museum. Sara replies that “it’s good for me to hear your concerns” and acknowledges that there “needs to be a committee made up of teachers as well as curriculum planners in terms of figuring out what resources are necessary or what ideally we would like to ask for in a grant.” Sara’s response elicits the following lengthy reply from Jane. In this reply Jane clearly returns to Karen’s story about being told to call Sara, the data we looked at in Chapter 2. The text below is printed in terms of stanzas that I label in such a way as to help guide the discussion below (I will explicate the numbering system below):

JANE: STANZA 1 TEACHERS NOT CURRICULUM COORDINATORS NEED TO BE ASKED 1a. Well I think 1b. one thing you need to recognize 1c. about the structure of the Middleview schools 1d. is that if Joanne, Linda, Karen, and I 1e. or any combination thereof 1f. are involving our classrooms 1g. we are the people who need to be asked 1h. and to be plugged into it.