The readings this week seem to focus on the way the media portrays basic writing and the future of “remediation” based on the effects of that media portrayal and “the debate over whether BW students ha[ve] any business being in college” (O&M 164). The general message that I got is that the nation, both politically and socially, needs to stop playing the blaming game and sit down and focus on what college education is all about. O&M focus on the broader nature of the problem with education, placing blame not only on programs that “take whomever they can get in order to fill seats” (164) but also on the legislators that do not look realistically at all facets of the issue. The problems that come to light with programs and remediation are then shunted off to community colleges to falsely inflate the major universities numbers. Instead of fixing the problem the universities are constructing their programs to fit what people expect to see. In doing this, colleges fail to take into account individual needs of students and their strengths and weaknesses, which if they looked at basic writing pedagogies, they would know is not a good way to help people reach their potential. The “proof” that reflects this idea comes from the section on cost and benefit analysis, which discusses the graduation rates of basic writing students: “Long found that “students in remediation have better educational outcomes than do students with similar backgrounds and preparation who do not take remedial courses” (182-83). The idea then is to look at fairly unbiased research and see real numbers on who is graduating and who is not, despite how long it takes. In doing this the positive effects of basic writing classes becomes more apparent. Yet, it seems that the media not only influences how the general populace looks at remediation and its causes but also influences our measure of success in college.
This seems to be reflected in “Looking Outward: Basic Writing and Basic Writers in the Mainstream Media.” The two schools in this piece, CUNY and U of Minnesota, run similar pedagogies and systems for basic writers, yet one is labeled a failure and the other is a hero. This is accomplished purely through the use of rhetoric in the media. The measure of success for “iconic student figures” (63) is completion of a degree and integration in “middle-class society,” yet the politics and media seek to blame the people involved in the problem and not the school system itself for the seeming “drifting” from the traditional effective course, which is echoed in the O&M piece with the lack of a realistic look at the secondary education system, the resulting college structure, and Shaughnessy’s gap. Each instance in “Looking Outward” of the dominant political structure trying to return the schools to the traditional model has opposite effects that have nothing to do with the results of methodologies and everything to do with political maneuvering and back scratching. The solution it then seems from the positive outcome of U of Minnesota would be then to get the community involved with the media to show both sides of the issue, but this again fails to take into account the root of the problem, which is the system itself. The author notes that there is a need to question if “we want to participate in this narrative” (80), which goes back to the very definition of literacy (and what about the media created literacy crisis?). The bottom line that I took from both readings is that we (as a society) need to get our heads out of our collective rears and take a realistic look at the secondary education system and how it affects our college system. If “basic writing” classes are so detrimental, there needs to be a change in the system that creates the gap; then, these classes might be less necessary. This requires looking at people and education as an individual endeavor that does not fit the traditional mold. In essence we should apply basic writing pedagogies and methods to all of our education systems to help remove the classes that seem to upset the political bodies so much. Ironic isn’t it?