Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Bizzell and Min-Zhan Lu

I believe Bizzell takes an approach that conflict is to be minimized in the transition into the academic. In the case of basic writers this transition can be filled with "estrangement from home" (20), "bewilderment" and "a clash of ways of thinking" (17). She acknowledges these issues without trying to minimize their effects on students, but she ultimately believes that the struggle is worth it. I too think that there are many benefits of acquiring the academic world view. First of all, in order to succeed in any community one must be able to communicate in ways that other members of the community can understand and interpret in the way the communication was intended. I personally believe this entirely. Not only will a student need to learn this academic dialect just to make it through school, he/she will ultimately learn that this is a discourse that holds a very privileged position in society (20). So, while students with conflicting home views and dialects have farther to go to master this new academic world view, Bizzell's "hypothesis is that they will also find it's acquisition well worth the risks" (20).

Min-Zhan Lu seems to take a different approach to conflict. (Let me clarify first that most of the conflict she speaks of is cultural). In her essay Conflict and Struggle:The Enemies or Preconditions of Basic Writing? she expresses her view that many teachers are "hesitant to consider the possible uses of conflict and struggle" (52). She discusses the ideas of repositioning, accomodation and acculturation as methods previsouly used to deal with struggle, methods most associated with Bruffee, Farrell and Shaughnessey. She contends on pg 32 that these experts view "conflict and struggle as something to be dissolved". Lu, though, seems to want to live in Anzaldua's "borderlands" and suggest that "teachers can and should draw upon students' perception of conflict as a constructive resource" (32). Ultimately, by alienating students from their home culture in the academic field, educators are encouraging feelings of incompetence, frustration and failure. According to Lu, conflict and struggle are the "preconditions of all discursive acts". (33).

If this is true, and I see this as a big "if", how far can I have possibly come in the academic discourse? I never had to overcome these cultural differences in a basic writing class. I liken more to Perry's students that never really had too far to go to be assimilated into academia. What, then, are the means in which students like myself coming into this academic world view achieve "all discursive acts"? According to Lu I haven't. Maybe that's why I liked Bizzell's essay more! ;)

Works Cited:

Bizzell, Patricia. "What Happens When Basic Writers Come to College?" Landmark Essays on Basic Writing. Halasek, Kay and Highberg, Nels P. Ed. Mahwah: Hermagoras Press, 2001.

Lu, Min-Zhan. "Conflict and Struggle. The Enemies or Preconditions of Basic Writing?" Representing the Other. United States: NCTE, 1999

Friday, February 9, 2007

To Quote Mina Shaughnessey

I've titled my blog "To Quote Mina Shaughnessey" because it seems that's what everyone does! I've noticed that in all my readings, there are many quotes from and direct references to Mina Shaughnessey and her work. From all of our readings so far, I would be bold enough to say that she is the author and creator of Basic Writing discourse. Even Bartholamae remarks on the "kind of saintly status given Mina Shaughnessey" (Halasek and Highberg ed. 171) It all stems from her work with Open Admissions and branches out from there in other's writings and critiques of her and her work. I, too, would like to quote Mina Shaughnessey now. I read one of her statements, not in one of her own books, but as a quote from the introduction to Representing the Other. Page xi quotes Shaughnessey as saying "Wherever the new students have arrived in substantial numbers English teachers have begun to realize that little in their background has prepared them to teach writing to someone who has not already learned how to do it". That's when the whole point of this hit me! It was like a revelation. Teachers at the college setting really aren't prepared to teach writing on this level. Most instructors expect their students to have already mastered basic grammar, spelling and punctuation. So that's what this class all this theory is really about! I'm learning how to give instruction to students such as these whereas before I would have not been prepared. This has brought a more personal approach to my thinking as how to best foster writing skills in what will someday be my own students. I believe I will even be more personally involved in the readings from here on out and I do not want to be one of these ill prepared teachers. I won't have an excuse after this class! Thanks Mina!

Works Cited:
Horner, Bruce and Min-Zhan Lu. Representing the Other Basic Writing and the Teaching of Basic Writing. National Council of Teachers of English, 1999

Halasek, Kay and Highberg, Nels P. ed. Landmark Essays on Basic Writing. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc, 2001

Thursday, February 1, 2007

First Week's Readings

I was glad to read in other's blogs that I wasn't the only one who didn't know what basic writing was! The first week's readings, though, have since given me a better understanding, a more concrete definition of basic writing.
One of the themes that kept recurring in our readings was that of basic writers more often than not coming from disadvantaged social situations or being of ethnicity. I must confess I had never put the two together before. I always thought that some people just had the writing talent, and some just didn't. Growing up in Springfield MO I never saw a difference in grades and race. There just weren't many minority students to compare with the whites. There were good white writers and poor white writers.
It seems that the authors' experiences, though, mostly stem from the poor and minority students. Mina Shaughnessey (p 3) states "Most of them had grown up in one of New York's ethnic or racial enclaves". At City College Adrienne Rich used her energies "in work with disadvantaged (Black and Puerto Rican) students" (p 3). It's hard for me to continue at this point for fear of saying something politically incorrect and offending someone. But as this is supposed to be my avenue for free expression of thought, I'll continue. I think what I am mostly trying to sort out for myself is this question: Is basic writing different at MSU than at City College?
It's the same in that basic writing involves errors of all sorts. It may be different, though, in the backgrounds of the students. MSU does not have an open admissions policy so some minimum requirements must be met. I'd like to ask Janelle or Ian how many papers they get in the 100 class that are almost incomprehensible. Probably not as many as those in the first few years at City College!
To wrap things up for everyone here, It's just interesting to me to note what differences we may see here as teachers in basic writing, as compared to more diverse populations such as NYC or

Halasek, Kay and Highberg, Nels P. eds. Landmark Essays on Basic Writing. New Jersey: Lawrence Earlbaum Associates, 2001.

Shaughnessey, Mina. Errors and Expectations. New York: Oxford UP, 1977.