Tuesday, May 8, 2007

"Revisiting the Contact Zone"

After reading and discussing Jeffrey Maxson's article on his translation and parody assignments, I was still left with an uncertainty of the effectiveness of his methods. The premise I would think, is that by translating academic texts or prose into slang, the student demonstrates their level of comprehension of that text. However, I don't remember a lot about comprehension (as a concern or object of the assignment) ever being mentioned. And even so, how much should reading comprehension be a part of a basic writing class? The author's objective then is to open up the contact zone between teacher and student. I would say he blew it wide open! He opened up the class papers to vulgar profanity (which would not normally be acceptable in an academic paper), even encouraged racist writings, which in my opinion have little do with basic writing skills. I believe that by encouraging the students to write in the slang they are most familiar with, he is denying them an opportunity to become more fluent in another discourse. I might get some hate comments from that last sentence, but aren't these students in basic writing because they're not familiar enough with standard English?

After reading my paragraph above I've come to the conclusion that I probably don't appreciate or understand contact zone pedagogy well enough. I do hope, however, that "reverence" of academic texts can be challenged in other ways that don't involve such uncomfortable power struggles between teacher and student.