Recently, we had a discussion in my WC about the (lack of) diversity on our campus. The campus is about 93% white, and during the daytime, the halls are filled with "traditional" 18-24 year olds. But by the evening, the average age begins to go up as more non-traditional students fill the classrooms. But the comment that really fueled discussion was when one person said our campus was mostly middle/upper middle class.
As far as I know, my school does not keep records on student income (or at least I've never seen any). Socio-economic status is a major factor in a person's lifestyle - but it's one that can remain somewhat invisible to others. Given the university setting, I can understand a person's immediate response that everyone they meet is economically stable, but I also know that this just isn't the case.
In her memoir Invisible Privilege, academic Paula Rothenberg discusses the role that economic class plays in her classroom. Teaching philosophy, she noticed a trend among working class students when discussing Descartes' claim that "I think, therefore I am." Although they understood the idea, they had little use for it. Of course I exist - I work all day and am sore and tired all night. Rothenberg had to reconsider the material position that led to Descartes' revelation. He was well-off and constantly ill - she imagines him laying in bed, wondering if he really exists. Workers in his time had no such luxury; aching muscles answer that question pretty quick. So she adjusted her discussions to take account of the material conditions involved.
Ok - so what's my point? Why am I prattling on about dead philosophers? Does any of this connect with our work in writing centers? I sure hope so, but if I can't find the connection, will someone point it out in the comments?
My question is this - does our WC practice take into account the diversity of material conditions students work from? Economic class isn't apparent in someone's face, and we're not likely to have them check a box and indicate their income when they walk in the door. But class does come up. I've worked with students who put off buying textbooks, who handwrite their papers because they've never owned a computer, and innumerable students who work full-time, often supporting families. How do I tell a single mother of three who works full-time that she should devote more time to drafting her papers?
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