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A Quarter-Century of the "Idea"

It's been pretty quiet around here this semester! Is everyone else as buried under snow as we are here in Ohio?

Anyways, it's my last semester as an undergrad (yaay!), so I'll be leaving my writing center at the end of this semester. A number of other tutors are leaving this semester or next, which means we'll have a definite change in leadership. And with that, a change in the attitude and focus of our center as well. Graduation has me thinking a lot about transition, and metamorphosis, and how this is going to apply to our center.

I say in this to build-up to what this post is really about: Stephen North's (in)famous essay "The Idea of a Writing Center." You may have heard of it; it's kind of a big deal. It was published in 1984, the same year I was born, so we've both turned 25 this year. Twenty-five years of one big idea. It's been revisited, contested, looked at through a post-colonial lens, collaborated and controlled. But what do those of us tutoring right this very moment think of North's Idea? And are our centers doing anything to celebrate this anniversary?

Our writing center has a bi-weekly continued tutor training meeting, where tutors can come and discuss theory and practice as a group. Each meeting has a topic, and this year, to reflect the transition we are going to see this semester, each topic is going to relate somehow to OUR idea of our center. At our first meeting, we re-read North's essay and discussed what we liked and what we wanted to discard. Each week we are going to look to push our idea, see how we can expand and stretch it, make it comfortable and make it our own.

I'll post periodically throughout the semester to discuss aspects of North's essay that I have always focused in on, ares in which I agree or disagree with North. But right now, I'd like to hear what everyone thinks of "The Idea of a Writing Center." Love it, hate it, or something in-between? Should we keep it or scrap it, or can we modify it?


  1. Congrats, Andrew, on finishing your undergrad. Yay!

    As for North, it's tough to see "The Idea" in isolation, without his "Revisited." However, I do hold "The Idea" somewhere in my head as a sunshiney ideal that can come to light on occasion.


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