While reading “Postcolonialism and the Idea of a Writing Center” I began to question whether an “old” or “new” writing center would be more beneficial for students. In the “old,” the tutors are helping to transform a particular work, while in the “new,” tutors are there to change the actual writer. Before reading this article, I automatically assumed that the “new” style would be most advantageous, but I am currently wrestling with the idea. Take for example, an Expository Writing student who has a beautifully written essay about two specific works, but the essay is written like an opinion piece with first person permeating it. This particular writer does not need to be taught how to construct a sentence or other writing issues, but rather, how to conform to the university’s demands.
Writing is entirely subjective to the standards of the university. Bawarshi and Pelkowski explain how the goal of the tutor is to “transform the student and his or her texts into the acceptable standard of the university” (85). This is an issue with many students who come to the writing center; they are confident in their essays but are stubborn about conforming to the ideal style the university prefers, and continue to get punished for it. I repeatedly told a student that their teacher and the university prefer for the essay to be formal, and not read like a short story with their experiences tied into it. The student thought that his essays read better if there was a personal connection present, and refused to leave his experiences out of his writing. The teachers continued to make the same comments about this issue, with no improvement to be found. Eventually I explained to the student that if he wished to succeed in the course and receive a good grade, then he would have to play by the rules. The next essay he wrote was formal and received a much better grade. This example proves that it is not the student that necessarily needs to change, but rather the style he or she writes in for the particular course he or she is taking.
Although I was struggling before with the “old” and “new” writing centers, I have determined that the “new” are more useful because it is important for students to learn how to write in a specific format. Throughout one’s college career, one will come across professors who demand essays written in a particular format or style. If a student choses to disregard the professor’s request, then the student will lose credit; it is that simple. Professors at the collegiate level expect students to be able to alter his or writing style to fit a particular course. Therefore, Expository Writing is a great way for students to learn how to do so. This will result in many stubborn, confused, and unsuccessful students who make their way to the writing center for assistance. The most accurate way to describe the intention of a writing center is “to make sure that writers, and not necessarily their texts, are what get changed by instruction” (North 237). If a student comes in each time with a new essay and expects you to edit it, and then he or she goes home and makes the corrections, then that student is continually going to make the same mistakes, that the tutor is going to repeatedly fix. With that being said, as a tutor, I strive to instruct the students how to meet the demands of their professor and of the university, while still including their ideas.