Teaching Writing through the World Cup

The original plan called for me to teach a dedicated section of Rhetoric & Composition I as part of the Department of Engineering's bridge program. (R&CI is the first part of the FYC sequence in the Writing Program at the University of Texas - Pan American.) This bridge program, partially funded by an NFS grant, would provide select students transitioning from high school with an opportunity to get a head start on their college course work. But Engineering wants the class taught during the Summer II session, when I'll be out of town. Naturally, I found this out just a couple weeks ago, and so I passed the course design off to another instructor, and went about swiftly developing a new design for the traditional R&CI course section I would be assigned to. Not wanting to simply plug in the course I had designed and used earlier in the year (which would have been easy enough - mostly just revise the calendar), I decided now would be as good a time as any to try out something I've been wanting to do since I got into the profession: teach a course themed on the World Cup.

This is not just an excuse to watch the games during class time (although, we most definitely will). It's an honest attempt to blend a significant contemporary cultural event into my approach to FYC, which relies on elements of discourse communities, genre study, and social justice pedagogy. Furthermore, events like the FIFA World Cup are ripe for critical investigation because they rely heavily on concepts of identification, capital, simulacra, and yes, rhetoric. (In some ways, I used the University of Kentucky's Craft Writing project as a model for thinking about this course design - just don't tell Jeff Rice.) Therefore, I contend that the World Cup, and soccer more generally, can serve as a useful vehicles for investigating objectives common across most college writing courses. In fact, there already exists a line of scholarship about the beautiful game as an academic topic, although admittedly little of it has focused specifically on writing. So, while acknowledging the disciplinary strain insisting FYC courses act as RhetComp intro courses emphasize writing about writing, I also want to capitalize on the idea that students are more engaged in writing work when they have a topical interest in what their writing about. Longer term goals include fleshing out potential usages of global football as a metaphor for teaching, thinking about, and doing writing.

A bit more about that "contemporary cultural event" concept: A significant part of my teaching is to help students use writing to move into the disciplinary communities they hope to enter into as professionals. With regards to the World Cup, it is likely that few, if any, of my students will formally move into that particular community, but I would counter that in many ways, some are likely already a part of it - as ardent followers of particular teams and as practitioners of the game itself. Even if not on the pitch, members announce themselves as part of this community through a variety of shared and individual discursive acts, including supporters groups, blogging, visual art, naming practices, national identification, gender performance, and social media, among other things. In fact, I would argue that world football fans are a larger part of their discourse community than most professionals are with the communities related to their jobs - there is is an investment based on cultural, familial, and identity, and not simply economic transaction, that permeates the global football culture, and I think that's important.

Here's the link to the current version of the course syllabus. Take a look, if you like, and tell me what you think, challenge my claims, and offer suggestions in the comments section below. If you'd like to participate in some way (such as responding to students via Twitter), please let me know that, too, and we'll figure something out.

Rhetoric & Composition I: Rhetorical & Discursive Constructions of the World Cup

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