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.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Being from small rural communites where standard English is rarely modeled in writing or in speech patterns can also be a serious problem--i.e., I think it has more to do with socioeconomics (not so much race, although the two sometimes correlate) and cultural dialects and attitudes about language.

I'd bet you are right about MSU versus anywhere with open admissions. The quality of writing may still often be quite poor, but they must meet certain requirements before they are allowed to enroll. I know as a high school English teacher I've had plenty of papers that, at least at first glance, appeared as indecipherable jibberish (not just handwriting, but the syntax as well). What I'm also curious about is nearby community and jr. colleges with lower admissions requirements.
Anybody have any information in relation to that?