Farris begins her essay with Sharon O’Dair’s comparison of English graduate students and “young basketball players with ‘hop dreams’ who commit themselves to the impossible goal of becoming stars in the [NBA]” (19). She cites former MLA president Robert Sholes’ admission that English GTAs are “‘generally overworked, undercompensated,and trained for jobs that just aren’t there'” (19).
Farris describes the concern over graduate student labor as belonging within a “Rhetoric of Support” which she acknowledges is conceived of positive intentions but “is typically disconnected… from any realistic calls for restructuring English departments, allocating budgets, or improving undergraduate education” (20). Instead, the conservative “star system” that has historically operated in the English profession is still in place, relegating the teaching of composition to practical labor. This hurts English GTAs, as the lofty goal of landing a tenure-track position in literature with no composition responsibilities becomes ever more elusive. Farris explains:
The fact is that while the number of traditional literature jobs shrinks, there are more positions in or including composition and rhetoric than ever before (20).
Her primary argument here is that the literature/composition, scholarship/teaching binaries at work in most English departments is most damaging and unproductive. She articulates several strategies that her program is in the process of implementing that will allow for better continuity between what graduate students study and what they teach, and closes with suggestions for how other programs might develop curricula that “better represents and enacts the relationship between teaching and scholarship in our profession; that attempts to unify rather than separate our scholarly and professional responsibilities; [and] that takes professional development, including our work as teachers, seriously (21).
Farris, Christine. “Stars, Apprentices, and the Scholar-Teacher Split.” Academe 91.5 (2005): 19-21. Print.