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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Curing the Writing Disease

Of all the writing center theory we have read, the emphasis we have placed on confronting “fix-it” shop stigmas seem, to me, to be an important task for writing centers. I find myself, in my own pedagogy, addressing the issue and insisting on being a support for my peers, not an authoritative writing know-it-all. So it will be no surprise to you when I disclose my EXTREME frustration with the circumstances of a consultation that completely undermined this notion.

When two ESL students arrived for their appointment (they didn’t realize that they were supposed to make two separate appointments) I sat down with them and was given an overview of their assignment. With this overview, the frustration began.

Both students whipped out a piece of paper for me to look at and sign from their professor, Dr. I Can’t Believe You Are Allowed To Teach. It was a prescription. A writing prescription. A DOCTOR’S PRESCIRPTION. For what you may ask? A writing disease called word choice. Not only did Dr. I Can’t Believe You Are Allowed To Teach, play into the very “fix-it” shop stigma I have come to loath, she “prescribed” corrections to two ESL students without any consideration for the cultural boundaries that may inhibit them from understanding her clever little sheet. I have never seen two students more distraught over their writing, having no idea what to do with prescriptions in their hands.

Increasing my growing animosity for this professor, both writers asked nothing more of me than to explain the comments she had made on their papers. I went through the corrections they were most confused about, alternating from one student to the next, cringing with each inaccessible comment. I explained why I thought she had made specific suggestions, and did my best to boost their diminished confidence.

This kind of approach to teaching writing, to “helping” students, just proved to me how inhibiting prescriptions for the writing disease are. The need for a student to address word choice is not an “illness,” cured by a trip to the writing center. There is no genuine connection with a writer, no genuine help when we ignore the writer’s voice, and fold them into predetermined “grammar” boxes.

If Kolln could only see this, I am confident she would slap that professor with the backhand of grammatical CHOICE.

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