Rethinking Basic Writing: Exploring Identity, Politics, and Community in Interaction

Rethinking Basic Writing: Exploring Identity, Politics, and Community in Interaction

Rethinking Basic Writing: Exploring Identity, Politics, and Community in Interaction

Rethinking Basic Writing: Exploring Identity, Politics, and Community in Interaction

Synopsis

This volume surveys the history of basic writing scholarship, examining how basic writing construct self conceptions. An appropriate resource for administrators, curriculum developers, and teachers in basic writing.

Excerpt

Keith Gilyard
Pennsylvania State University

In retrospect, one should have expected Basic Writing, as it evolved from the 1960s, to be among the most chaotic areas of inquiry in higher education. Nontraditional students showed up in record numbers, with a new social urgency, embodying the most varied set of social demographics, on college campuses before teachers, researchers, and administrators who spanned the spectrums of experience, compassion, educational philosophy, and political ideology. There was no way this situation could have swiftly generated uniformly productive outlooks, policies, and procedures.

The field's Urtext, Mina Shaughnessy Errors and Expectations, reflects this confused state of affairs. Though compassionate, the book advances a grammar teaching approach (analytic), a process approach (developmental), and a personal growth model of instruction (developmental as well). It then suggests that teachers should not have to choose from among these pedagogies. However, a complication emerges when we realize that an analytic approach that focuses on objective diagnoses of "error" may imply little concern, if any, with student writers as subjects. While valuing many of Shaughnessy's ideas, many have argued rightly that the analytic approach cannot peacefully coexist with a developmental curriculum in which "error" is viewed as text produced by complex writing subjects who are at certain stages in a process of making meaning.

For the past 20 years, the field of Basic Writing has remained split pretty much along these lines, those who valued Shaughnessy's analytic approach and those who perceived it to be incompatible with the process approach and its valuation of students' identities. Though there are now additional subfissures and everything is talked about in more sophisti-

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