Postcolonialism response

I was a little perplexed by the way Bawarshi and Pelkowski equated university writing centers with colonialism and imperialist domination. While I understand their sentiment about encouraging students to understand the structure of writing they are being expected to adhere to, rather than just blindly and haphazardly trying to fit into it, I think the comparison was a bit extreme. The academic discourse that is expected in student writing at the university level is certainly a different and intimidating kind of monolith for many who encounter it, but I would hesitate to agree with the author’s assessment that this writing structure holds some sort of imperialist stance over students. (Really if we want to talk about imperialist tendencies and “acculturation”, we could examine the idea of higher education as a whole – not just the style of writing that it demands from students.) Still, I agree with the idea that it is backwards and inefficient to force marginalized students and writers, as well as students in general, into a mold of “proper academic discourse” without ever giving them the opportunity to examine it. In this sense I feel that the argument really boils down, not unlike the discussion about grammar education from our previous assignments, to the idea that a person cannot really learn something if they do not understand it. In that sense, I think that the philosophy of our writing center is in line with the “new” way of tutoring that Bawarshi and Pelkowski suggest, in that our approach of working on bettering the writing, rather than teaching every student the same rules of academic writing, seems to encourage a more active interaction between students’ ideas and the texts they read, which in turn fosters a richer understanding of experiences and opinions. Overall I do agree with the author’s argument that tutors should work towards providing understanding for students, versus simple grammar and revision exercises; the most necessary thing to remember is that different situations call for different styles of writing, even within the world of university classes, and so we as tutors need to be able to illustrate for our students the way that writing structures function, and why, during our sessions. I think this idea echoes the one we saw discussed earlier in Noguchi’s article – there are different registers of speech and the trick is to learn when and why to use each one, not simply to mime it and hope for the best. That kind of active participation in the process of writing is, I feel, what the authors were getting at, even if their comparison to colonial tyranny was a bit over-wrought.

Maryna Sidykh

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