Monday, January 22, 2007

Basic Writing

Basic Writing means different things to different people, but for those who have been labeled “basic writers” it can be a self-perpetuating stigma. Not only do they often end up on vocational or remedial tracks, too often they begin to think of themselves as incapable—not as lacking instruction or practice, but simply “too stupid” to ever learn. Educator Mike Rose explains in an episode of A World of Ideas with Bill Moyers entitled "Invitation to Education with Mike Rose” that being labeled a basic writer can be an undue source of frustration for many individuals who already struggle with the skills involved. He describes some of the many ways in which this frustration can manifest itself: withdrawing, acting out, getting "stoned," skipping class. However, he suggests that the most fundamental problem revolving around basic writers is not their lack of actual writing skill, but their sense of deserved disenfranchisement. Whether working with inner city youth or illiterate Vietnam veterans, Rose finds that a major obstacle is getting them to understand that they are entitled to be a part of the conversation—that they have something valid and valuable to add to the discussion. Rose tells Moyers, “Any kid that has been written off...has potential that we just don’t see.” For those for whom writing has been a “distant, foreign, frightening experience,” learning to write is about more than learning grammar and punctuation. It’s about learning to relate one’s own ideas, emotions, and experiences to others—and that requires not only writing skills but self-confidence. Therefore, he looks at his work with basic writers not so much in terms of remediation, but as extending an invitation to enter the conversation of our society.

1 comment:

Reader1 said...

I like how you pointed out that basic writers/students in general somehow feel that they do not deserve to add anything to the classroom, much less have the ability to.