This post was written by NCTE member and past CCCC Chair Linda Adler-Kassner.
Scholar, teacher, researcher. Even more often, mentor. Inspiration. These are some of the words in the hundreds of tributes to Mike Rose that appeared on social media and via websites just the day after his passing, August 15.
Mike Rose changed the field of composition through his remarkable, deeply researched, deeply felt, and beautifully crafted scholarship. He made us better, more compassionate, more careful teachers and researchers. Eleven books, including Lives on the Boundary, The Mind at Work, and Why School? contributed to the ways that so many of us came to understand the power, potential, and intelligence of everyone around us, from students to the people we saw in grocery stores and at lunch counters. Dozens of articles—“Narrowing the Mind and the Page: The Language of Cognitive Reductionism” (1980), “The Language of Exclusion” (1985), “This Wooden Shack Place: The Logic of an Unconventional Reading (co-authored with Glynda Hull, 1990)—challenged constructions of “basic writing” and “basic writers” (aka “remediation”) and contributed to the field’s activism to recast those terms and the students to whom they were applied.
And for those lucky to have met Mike . . . well, he was as warm and generous in person as he was in his scholarship. Mike’s talent was to make everyone—every faculty member, every graduate or undergraduate student, every person he talked with on the job (and he wrote about many, many jobs)—feel special, feel they had a crucial contribution to make, feel heard. In Lives on the Boundary, Mike wrote that “Philosophy . . . begins in wonder. So does education.” Mike brought that sense of wonder to everyone he met, everything he did. He brought curiosity, kindness, intellectual rigor, and faith—faith in people, in school, in teachers and students and learners of all stripes. Mike’s generosity and belief in the inherent goodness of people lives on in the thousands and thousands of people he touched from all walks of life; in his remarkable, poetic, and meaningful writing; in the ways he has helped us live a life of hope and potential. Like so many, I will miss him—and I feel so grateful that he was with us in so many and such important ways.
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