Monday, January 22, 2007

Defining Basic Writing

What is basic writing? More importantly, who is it for? The underprivileged? The unmotivated? The unintelligent? As I've never actually taken a basic writing class, my perspective comes from teaching high school English for a very brief moment in history. Many times writing was "fluff." Do the assignment and you get an A. Rewrite? Why? What does "sp" mean? Who cares what I have to say? I don’t get this assignment…
But there must be a much more important role for the college level basic writing class. After all, how will they survive in college without being able to write a decent paper and express their thoughts clearly? This may be one of the most important classes they’ll ever take.

After my experience with teenagers from lower economic backgrounds whose parents did poorly in high school or didn’t even graduate but “are making it just fine,” I can definitely see why the need for basic writing classes in college exists. It is a frustrating situation however, because if the problems could be addressed from the very beginning… in kindergarten, then perhaps when students reached college they would be prepared to go immediately into regular classes. But while we can attempt to change curriculum and teaching styles, we cannot change the experience and background of our students, even at the kindergarten level. And therein lies our main problem, if it is a “problem” that we need to find to make ourselves (teachers) feel better about having “unintelligent” “unmotivated” students who seem to care less about what we have to say.

After reading chapter one of Errors and Expectations, I was encouraged that the journey through this class this semester would be an enlightening one for teaching at the college level. I have no doubt that once students are in college and feel a little more responsibility and a little more adult-like I will be able to motivate and encourage them to understand the importance of writing… at least most of them! What I seem to be perpetually stuck on, however, is why they come to college in that condition in the first place. But I guess that’s not the point of this class, so I’ll have to put my grievances aside and focus on the here and now, the college attendees,

And so how would I define basic writing? A journey, not an easy one, that students will take during a semester to find themselves and their voice and make it heard in the written form, which will improve their lives immeasurably and often unbeknownst to those who succeed.