Thoughts on the Issue of Control

Hello all,

While reading through Lundsford’s essay Collaboration in the Writing Center, I found myself very fond of the "The Center as Garret" model of the writing center—in love with its ideologies in fact—a true "Romantic" I suppose. I do strongly believe in "individualism" and "individual ‘genius’ (48). Perhaps this directly stems from my own experience in writing, in my previous conversations with writers, and in my deep-seated love of all forms of writing and its ability to enable individual expression—whatever the reason, I believe that I may be a true Garretarian. Now, according to Lundsford this poses a problem when attempting to foster a true "collaboration." As seen in her essay, Lundsford "challenges" the "Storehouse Center" and "The Garret Center" ideologies by offering up a third option for consulting, the "Burkean Parlor Center" (51). Although I agree with Lundsford’s idea of making a center’s overall ideology "Burkean," I tend to disagree with her underlying implication that the individual consultants under this Burkean umbrella must neutralize their individual beliefs in order to adequately fit this model.

Lundsford suggests that within the Burkean Model control is always "negotiated and shared" (52). Yet on the other hand, as is discussed on page 48, control within the Garret model is given to the "individual student knower" (51). Under the Burkean Model this appointment of control wouldn’t be appropriate; I personally believe that this initial appointment of control is needed in order to have a successful consultation—the paper is the student’s after all, and it’s important that they feel in complete control of it. Now, if that student feels that the control needs to be shifted back onto the consultant (me in this instance), in order to feel comfortable within the consultation, I personally would accept it in order to get at the individual’s confidence and at their personal interest in the piece. Yes, under these circumstances there would be a shifting of control, but perhaps it needn’t be ‘negotiated’ or ‘shared’ throughout the consultation if letting this control reside within one of the two persons warranted positive results for the individual and for the consultant.

What’s your personal stance on the issue of control?

What do you think about this ideology?


  1. I like hypothetical situation because it shows a situation where a consultant can't stay locked into one view and model of the writing center. You also make a good point about considering what the writer needs above your--the consultants--idealization of a consultation.
    To be honest, I was a little doubtful that any one model of a writing center could fully accommodate every session and every writer we encounter. To that end, I would suggest reading, researching, and understanding as many different theories, models, and methods as we can so we can adapt our actions and reactions to accommodate the writers needs.

    As for my own view of control in the writing center, I think the writing needs to make the determination of who will be in control. There is their comfort level to consider, their wants, and their motivations for being in the center. I can often see what needs to be done in a paper, but I can't simply tell them what to do. Neither should I ask leading questions to get them to see what I see. Instead, I should listen to them and look for places where the issues I see intersect with their wants. For instance, I was working with a non-native English speaker from a culture that has a very hierarchical social structure. He viewed me as below him, and therefore I needed to follow his exact demands, which were to identify where the commas needed to go and double-check his word use. There were far more problems in his paper than commas and word use, but he refused to listen to anything I said, constantly saying "You aren't the in the same field so you don't know what needs to be done." Granted I wasn't in the same field, but I can tell if a sentence makes sense. The session ended badly with him ignoring everything I had to say and strutting out of the center proud that he was better than me.
    After some reflection and talking to Mike, I realized that I'd approached him incorrectly: I'd attempted to shift the session to what I knew needed work. Instead, I should have gone with the comma concerns, explained to him where commas needed to go, then asked him to point out where he thought the commas should go. That sounds like I should acquiesce to his demands, but when he tried to follow English rules to place commas, he would have found it impossible because his sentence structure was so poor there was no way to identify where the commas should go. Now this is close to asking leading questions, but it is doing exactly what he asked. I wouldn't be trying to trick him into seeing the paper may way, I would be demonstrating to him that there was more to be done than simply adding commas.
    This is longer than I intended, sorry.

  2. Hey Zach,

    Thanks for the response and I very much agree with your statement, As for my own view of control in the writing center, I think the writing needs to make the determination of who will be in control.

    I haven't, of course, actually participated in a consultation yet, and all my reflections within previous posts (and this one too) are based upon personal experience in life and with my own experiences in writing. Lundsford's article merely reinforced some ideas that I already knew that I agreed and disagreed with inside myself, and perhaps that's why I find it to be such an interesting topic.

    I do agree with your ideas on models and theories as well. I also consider it doubtful that any single model or theory would pertain to every writer and every consultant all of the time—maybe even half of the time for that matter. People are people, and people do vary by nature. Their needs, wants, skills, and expectations are always going to be different depending on the paper, or their background, or even their personality—all of which was reinforced, at least for me, in the sharing of your own personal experience with that ESL individual.

    The experience that you describe in your comment reminds me of the discussion that we held in our small class group about ‘radical intellectualism.’ Perhaps some of the ideas that revolved around that particular discussion can apply here. During this discussion, the idea of personal evolution through questioning and conversation came up—the idea that learning and knowledge flourish from the constant challenging of what is understood and widely accepted. When reflecting back on that conversation, I find it odd that ‘experience’ was never brought up—there’s ‘questioning’ and there’s ‘conversation,’ but perhaps experience can be of equal or greater importance to this evolution.

    Through the reading of your experience, it seems that you gained a lot of insight and knowledge from that single consultation—it was an experience that aided in your personal evolution, and so something very positive was gained through it. You had you initial reaction and then reflected upon and challenged your original perceptions of it. This seems to indirectly tie into your idea of researching, and understanding as many different theories, models, and methods so we can adapt our actions and reactions to accommodate the writers needs. Perhaps as consultants, and writers ourselves, we should consider what specific theories and models, or parts of them, work best with who we are and where we are within our own evolutions—we take that into experience (consultations) and even the ones that feel like they turn out ‘badly’ have a positive turnout.

    I think I’ve gotcha beat on length…I’ll post and find out.


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