In the article Postcolonialism and the Idea of the Writing Center, Bawarshi and Pelkowski made an interesting comparison between writing centers and colonization, although a bit extreme. The article criticizes writing programs that force students to adhere to an academic standard, based on the idea that the process of conforming can cause students to lose their individuality. Instead, the authors propose that tutors should have discussions with their students to make them understand “how to reposition themselves in relation to several continuous and conflicting discourses,” and therefore keep their individual point of view.
Individuality is definitely important. But in my opinion, the article focuses too much on the individuality that can be lost by conforming to academic writing than on what students can possibly gain from conforming to it. I believe that too large an emphasis on individuality in writing is bad, because it can lead students to believe that their own opinion is all that matters, and they have nothing more to learn. One of the arguments of the articles is that “the way we use discourse constitutes our reality,” therefore what students may be forced to write can permanently alter the way that they think. I agree that writing is tied to thought, which is why so many students, once they start writing, find themselves straying from their topic sentences. But to me, writing should be a place of exploration and experimentation. Sometimes it is okay to write something that you may not necessarily completely agree with, because I think there is knowledge to be gained from experimenting with new points of view.
It has been proven that knowing more than one language is good for your brain. I think that writing students should look at academic discourse in the same way—as another language to learn. Learning a new language does not mean you need to abandon your old one, it means you have another tool for communication. I believe that it is damaging for students to place too great of an emphasis on their individual style of discourse, because they might limit their learning potential by rejecting certain types of writing in favor of their own. It is definitely important for tutors to make sure their students understand the importance of different types of discourse, and that writing a certain way doesn’t mean that their ideas and opinions must always “conform.”