Assignment #5 due 11/28

Diane Lee

In “Postcolonialism and the Idea of a Writing Center,” Bawarshi and Pelkowski condemn the acculturation practiced by the writing centers and discuss the problems that lie within such process. Often, students in remedial classes forego their original subject positions because transforming their writing to fit the standards of the university is necessitated as the “natural” and intelligent thing to do. For the most part, I agree with the authors and see this as almost an act of brainwashing the students. To me, even the word “change” seems like an understating word because in this process of acculturation, according to the authors, students were basically becoming whole new individuals and experiencing reality in different ways—all to meet the expectations of what is required in their classes. Like the authors, I do believe that there is danger in the university’s extreme manipulation of students’ subject positions and other areas involved in writing (whether it is intentional or not). For instance, Expository Writing 101 can be considered as one of these “standard academic discourses” and I think this class does have “a particular academic style,” in which for each paper, students must come up with solid connections between two to three authors (85). I remember one of my students needed help with fixing parts of the paper because she had written about a connection that the teacher did not quite agree with and found hard to understand. She also had a format sheet for organizing the Expos essay that her teacher handed out as a guideline; however, she focused so much on this format sheet and tried to write her paper specifically like this format. The authors might say that these are exactly the kind of problems they are talking about in the reading. On the other hand, I still feel ambivalent because I think it all depends on what “kind” of change it is and what effect this change has on the person. In a sense, the extreme transformation in subject position could have a life-changing and beneficial impact on the student (even if the authors mostly gave negative examples, such as the student who talked about movies in the writing because that was the teacher’s topic of interest). Surely, acculturation is not the best way for schools to adopt, but there is a possibility for it to be a way of learning for some students, though not all.  

Moreover, I think the authors’ proposal makes a lot of sense, in which the writing center should become a “contact zone” (90) to help students develop a “mestiza consciousness” (88) and critically assess themselves in the process of mastering academic discourses. In fact, this solution reminded me a lot of what Anne Curzan argued for in her writing. For example, just like how it is important to be able to hold multiple and sometimes ambivalent subject positions, Curzan said that learning Standard English should allow the student to enrich and expand his or her home dialect or old knowledge. The “standard” stuff that is taught or reinforced in school should not replace whatever knowledge the student brings, and that is the basic point made by both Curzan and these two authors. Additionally, instead of simplified subject positions, the old and the new must be mixed together to allow students to form complex ideas in writing and become more active participants of learning community. Finally, similar to the two authors’ call for constant evaluation of self-reflexivity, Curzan asked the reader to not just accept the given grammar rules but question the origin and purpose of these rules. Thus, I thought both readings had similar points in their solution to the problem and taught extraordinary lessons to the audience.

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