The Point of the Writing Center

Bawarshi and Pelkowski create a very interesting argument for the purpose of writing and what tutors at a writing center should focus on when it comes to helping their students. I personally find the argument very intriguing, encompassing everything I’ve learned through my time tutoring for Plangere. The idea of “acculturation” is something I’ve personally experienced while at Rutgers. Bawarshi writes that the purpose of Basic Writing is “to acculturate students who speak, read, and write Other dialects, Other languages, Other discourses, and initiate them into academic discourses,” (81). Although I became a bit annoyed at the division between regular discourses and “other” discourses, I still find the point to be valid. I don’t believe in classifying students (especially referring to their abilities as “Other” when it’s more a matter of cultural differences) and I faced that challenge when I had two students side by side and trying to address them by their ability to assimilate to the university culture and writing style. It is, however, crucial for students to master this ability to acculturate in order to succeed in what society has deemed an acceptable form of the English language. This should, however, still maintain the idea of language they’ve acquired through their “Otherness” or it could hinder their ability to develop as a writer. Bawarshi continues to write that “in short, acculturation becomes a mean for administrating one’s own power within one’s own place,” (82). The power a writer has can increase if they can master the way writing is acceptable in their surrounding environment; in this case, the university’s standard of writing could be considered the environment the student needs to master. With this power, writing becomes easier and the guidelines become more acceptable to the writer. Writing in this fashion will then also become just as natural for “Other” writers as it may be for innate writers of the university fashion. Bawarshi then mentions how much more important it is to change the writer than to change the writing. She writes, “changed writers are improved writers because changed writers are writers who can better function within academic discourses and the university. Such transformation seems a natural and positive consequence of a ‘pedagogy of direct intervention'” (Bawarshi 84). The goal of the writing center is to initiate this change through the way tutors instruct their students. Instilling in them the values of the institutional writing rather than the importance of grammar, will create eager students who want to acculturate. It’s most important to understand why they need to understand the university’s culture of writing in order to succeed in the real world. When tutoring my students, I want them to be exciting about writing and to want to be a better writer, not necessarily get the grade for the class. The appreciation I share is the appreciation I want them to share. But in order to do so, the students must still maintain a bit of their cultural perspective and have it mold to the university’s culture. Bawarshi writes, “the university too often with the help of the writing center, imposes on students one more subject position to which they ‘willingly’ consent because they are not conscious of it as being a subjective position, a particular, politically embedded, and discursive way of experiencing and articulating knowledge and reality” (87). Although learning to write at a university level is imperative, it’s just as important for the university to accept a subjective position differing from the norm and embracing the “Other.” The way a student perceives something has a lot to do with their background and it’s challenging for any student to assimilate to a particular point of view, especially when perspective is completely subjective. If the university cannot stray from this style of instruction, the writing center can certainly create this environment for all students. Even coming out of high school calls for a change in perspective writing, so coming from a “Other” culture can only be more demanding. I think if tutors can begin to look at instruction in this fashion – as a way to change the writer but maintain perspective – it could benefit students’ desire to acculturate.

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