So much emphasis is placed on the vernacular versus print in basic writing discourse, as is the case with Basic Writing by George Otte and Rebecca Williams Mlynarczyk. The authors support the idea of tolerance in varied forms of English and a reference to comfortably code switching from academic discourse to more relaxed language usage. But, I argue for acceptance. Acceptance shuns the notion that one form of English is better than the other, but establishes a base line of communication all parties can agree on. Unfortunately, all who helped in the evolution of English language rules were not all parties who must learn the rules now.
Otte claims students should be taught how to engage with and produce academic writing, but not to disregard their natural spoken dialect as “inferior” when compared to print (84). The concept of acceptance sort of rebuttals Shaughnessy’s approach to errors in basic writing. Although the author commonly refers to this process as “tolerance” the term has a negative connotation to begrudgingly accepting something deemed as outside of the norm. To classify basic writers as substandard and to then harp on Black English Vernacular (as Shaughnessy does) negates dialectical studies of regional language usage, such as the infamous Northern “can I have a gum” or “may I have a coffee” as opposed to the Southern “cup of coffee” or “piece of gum.” I’ve heard various genders of a variety of races of all socioeconomic classes in the North say “a coffee, a gum” and have never heard a Southerner of any race or socioeconomic status to say the same. Shaughnessy’s theories conclude these errors as being “wrong” only and not also simply different (84).
Although, one could argue if a student is American and taught to be more comfortable with code switching then that learner could be labeled as an ESL student. If this situation were the case then are not most basic learners close to being labeled ESL students? According to the article, the ESL department had not experienced an increase in participation just yet and so in defining the basic writer must have included elements of foreign learners. Otte points out that basic writers have a number of “incalculable variables” contributing to overall writing other than Standard English (88). Since George Otte is more concerned with digital scholarship and blended learning this text seems to forge his own journey to ‘seeing’ the writer and the writer’s language and not so much the writer’s racial or economic status. Basic writing instructors deal with “cognitive development and social identity” while Otte and Mlynarczyk also point out that the lack of enlightened approaches to addressing errors could have also led to the use of technology as a “medium” to correcting errors (89, 90). As the focus of error shifts from “oversimplification” to the students’ actual thinking process Otte has moved the field of basic writing to a pedestal other theories can reach for.
New methods can be utilized to enrich the basic writer and avoid errors. Christy l. Wenger in Yoga Minds, Writing Bodies: Contemplative Writing Pedagogy argues that the entire student must be engaged to avoid errors. To engage fully, mind and body develops the cognitove functioning of the student. Indeed, students are simply too “different” and “diverse” to be measured by standardized means (94). The statement seems to contradict the discourse of basic writing because the very essence of instruction still comes down to correcting the different and diverse “errors” teachers encounter.