Diversity, Decision-Making, and a Community College Class Project

Working as an editor involves making decisions about which authors to publish. If there’s little or no diversity among editors, that could influence which voices they choose to promote. 

It’s a problem that interested Professor Christopher Leary (Queensborough Community College). To understand how diversity influences editorial decision-making, he asked community college students to create an anthology. He focused on community college students because they tend to be more diverse by race, social class, and other measures than four-year college students. The results of Leary’s study were published in the journal Teaching English in the Two-Year College.

“Backed up by their own observations and experiences, many community college students can already comprehend and articulate the mechanisms by which quality is overlooked in ways that are harmful to individuals and to society,” he wrote.

Leary used “anthologizing assignments” to watch students’ decision-making at work. “This anthologizing assignment puts me and my students in a good position to observe texts being produced, categorized, lost, translated, exchanged, interpreted, and finally displayed by fellow classmates in a table of contents,” he wrote.

He found two compelling takeaways. Ensuring the inclusion of authors who write in languages other than English “require[d] more than the presence of multilingual readers. … It requires generous readers and editors who offer small acts of hospitality.” Secondly, having female editors meant more female writers were valued and included.

Leary notes that his class was a writing class, not a literature class. But the anthologizing assignments opened up discussions about “active reading, reflective writing, collaborative editing, critical thinking, project-based learning, and higher-order reasoning.” Most importantly, though, it showed “students how to provide stewardship for the work of others,” a critical skill necessary to keep broadening the scope of modern-day publishing.

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Teaching English in the Two-Year College
National Council of Teachers of English, 2019

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Christopher Leary (Assistant Professor, English) | Profile 1