What’s Basic About Growth?

writing-desk2

Basic writing is hollowed ground, it requires patience and reflection. What I found most interesting in the second chapter of our reading was the reference to certain marginalized students being thrust into a world of academia they could not progress in due to a lack of preparation instilled into them from New York public school systems. The ascertaining of English literature knowledge, language arts development, and honing in on writing skills was considered a form of social justice for them by their instructors.

I understand how educating learners who have not been exposed to various sets of information can be considered a form of social justice. However, the less prepared writers of ivy league schools were not considered a group of writers needing gradual elevation in the usage of the English language. Ivy league learners were considered ill-prepared due to some fault of their previous institutions and required swift adjustment in the mastery of the usage of the English language not in preparation for basic writing, but to continue writing on a high functioning level minus the “basic” errors. It is a unique and yet minute comparison only to point out that there could be a discrepancy in viewing marginalized writers as a form of case study requiring uplifting through writing. Does the instruction change to allow for a more in depth writer to emerge through concrete oral and written responses to works of literature if the concept of basic writing is taught from the perspective that marginalized students must first learn how to learn how to write?

Language use is a science; there are rules that must be followed and others that can and will be broken. Based on the structure of a “basic” writer’s essays, there can be an assessment of what level of functioning this learner is on. That doesn’t require a multiple choice test, it only requires skilled instructors, examiners, policy makers, and curriculum creators. Basic writing is not defined by the learner we deem as basic, but it is defined by the level of value we give the individual learner’s aptitude to succeed in writing as a whole based on solid instruction. The mechanisms of writing and language usage are vital to the marginalized student, but that does not mean that they are basic writers. When considering the multiple languages people speak and the many ways in which standard English language is used it’s almost arrogant to refer to learners who do not posses a high level of functioning in the writing of standard English language as “basic.”

In support of this notion, I refer to the end of page 74 of the text in chapter two which mentions an anonymous author’s opinion as being highly valued to the powers that be in defining basic writing. This author thought it was “pernicious” to classify students in such a way and definition makers agreed that the attempt does lend itself to danger in wrongly labeling groups of learners.

Nonetheless, there is a need for all learners to perfect the basic skill of writing, not for the purpose of being labeled a high functioning or low level writer, but for the skill set to be used to communicate effectively in a society built on the labeling of others based on what might be viewed as a disadvantage.
In considering what basic writing does for the learner, I’m taken back to my own freshman writing experience and can only recall the encouragement.

Encouragement can propel a student to success. Encouragement will allow the student the opportunity to revel in that praise and advance those skills, accept constructive feedback, and apply. A working definition of basic writing seems difficult to compose in one statement, but what is often left out is the purpose of basic writing. It’s purpose seems to be to develop strong writing skills by engaging with the learner’s own writing and incorporating the instructor’s feedback and fueling on encouragement to go back and try again and again until the basic concept of basic writing can be mastered to a level of high proficiency for that student’s learning outcome goal as well as the teacher’s learning outcome goal. Basic writing seems to be so much more personal than the realms of academia pay attention to. So, I wonder at this moment of reflection, what exactly is so basic about learning the fundamentals of writing. Perhaps the word “basic” is too simplistic of a word to classify so many of us who once started off as the writers we now attempt to teach and connect with.

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One thought on “What’s Basic About Growth?

  1. I want to first comment about this: “that doesn’t require a multiple choice test, it only requires skilled instructors, examiners, policy makers, and curriculum creators.” I find the word “only” here to be curious. This list of needs is extensive. Consider, for a moment, the makeup of a university, even one like AUM. Most rely heavily on adjuncts. Sometimes administrators get to a point where they need “bodies” because it’s so close to the start of a semester. While I have full faith in adjuncts (I used to be one), I have seen some of the work that the bodies do. When I worked at a community college in New Jersey, for example, I had a fellow adjunct ask me questions I had previously assumed were common knowledge. She hadn’t had any formal training on how to lesson plan, she was unaware of Bloom’s taxonomy, and she focused mostly on grammar during her lessons. This was in 2012. A skilled instructor is necessary, but just as students come out of high school at varying levels so do teachers. Policy makers and curriculum creators are in the same boat I think. What do you think?

    I like your critique of the word basic because it reminds me of conversations I’ve had in committee meetings. Would pre-composition be better? Did you think of something you’d rather see while you were reading? I think it would be a fun side project of this class to try and write a definition with a new term maybe.

    But don’t despair. There are many schools that have really supportive courses for students. Having worked at several colleges and universities, I can tell you that AUM has a very helpful and supportive basic writing program. While we use the term basic writing, the course isn’t a grammar drill or workbook course. These students work on the fundamentals of writing as they develop websites and zines – paper and digital.

    I don’t know that we can perfect writing skills. Writing is part of language, which is constantly evolving. Rules change and words are added. While I think it’s a great goal to attempt perfection, I’m not sure it can truly be achieved. But the need to effectively communicate is important. I tell my students all the time that one thing they will learn in my class is how to communicate an idea effectively (this is all courses by the way). It’s my job to help them learn ways they can accomplish that goal.

    Liked by 1 person

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