Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Bruce Horner: Redefining and Rethinking

I thought Bruce Horner’s “Rethinking the ‘Sociality’ of Error” made some fine points about the way basic writing has been discussed in the past. I find it refreshing to read a growing number of authors who quote Shaughnessy without also breaking their arm patting her on the back—not that I don’t value Shaughnessy’s contribution, but conflict is a healthy part of discourse, I think. Horner also references Lu and a cast of others to essentially reiterate a lot of what has already been said in the readings for this semester (one of the disadvantages of being listed on the syllabus in March as opposed to January or February, I suppose). He emphasizes that just as history is written by the victors, so has the establishment of standards for language “favored the syntactic forms of dialects spoken by more powerful social groups” (172). He argues that the forms spoken by basic writers are just as valid in their own contexts, and therefore, colonial terms like “frontier” need to be replaced by terms that more accurately reflect the social situation that occurs in the basic writing classroom. Specifically, he recommends the term “borderland” be used so that the term no longer implies incivility, but the meeting or joining of two cultures for a negotiation of language. He explains that “definitions of error in writing must similarly involve what counts as an ‘error’ in some given social context” so that “the status of the form as an error depends largely on the relationship between a particular writer and a particular reader at a particular time” (174). Furthermore he points out that basic writers do not necessarily recognize their forms as errors and that an agreement on what constitutes an error must first be reached, not by “bully[ing] students into confessing the status of certain notations as errors” but “achieving” those notations as an “agreement reached between the writer and reader” (175). I think the most important point he makes about this negotiation process is that, although students may seem to have less power, power always works both ways. The teacher has the power to deny credit, but ultimately his or her job rests on his or her ability to teach, and therefore they must rely somewhat on their ability to negotiate with the students.

F.Y.I.: Other well-known Bruces: Bruce Springsteen, Bruce Willis, Bruce Lee, Bruce Banner, Bruce Almighty, Bruce Wayne, Bruce the mechanical shark, Lenny Bruce, and Robert the Bruce. Statistical analysis suggests that if all the Bruce's featured in this entry were involved in a celebrity death match style tournament--we'll call it the Battle of the Bruces--Bruce Horner would finish dead last. But his writing theory is still pretty good.

Above: Bruce Lee "negotiating" the martial arts with his students.
(I'm not sure, but I think that might be Bruce Horner on the left.)

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
-Bruce Lee

Horner, Bruce. "Rethinking the 'Sociality' of Error: Teaching Editing as Negotiation." Rhetoric Review 11:1 (1992): 172-199.

1 comment:

Gabe Isackson said...

How did such an awesome post go without comment. Much thanks for the "Bruces" and the Bruce Lee moment! Wonderful. Yeah, I can agree with negotiations, and understanding where a student is coming from when mistakes are made. I have made that teacher mistake to assume a student made a mistake when the writing was intentional - that would be me not being a very good teacher, and it just happens after enough opportunities. If you are a good teacher negotiation happens - can I assume that? Thanks again for Bruce(s) :)