John Lamerson - Reading Response 4
My first thought upon finishing reading the Anzaldua and Bernstein readings was that there had to be a better way for the authors’ to prove their points other than the use of their subjective experiences, either firsthand or case studies. The main point of Anzaluda’s article was that her language was a primary characteristic of her being, and that basic writing classes that sought to erase native linguistic characteristics was akin to terrorism. But she fails to answer a single question: What should be done? Should we institute a “separate but equal” policy in schools so that cultural differences can be preserved? Do all ethnic groups, and not just Chicanos, have the right to their linguistic identity? How, exactly, does she intend for students who refuse to learn English to live and prosper without being able to speak English fluently? Anzaldua has carved a niche for herself an author, poet, and teacher. Will all students who follow her teachings be able to do the same? Isn’t she helping to perpetuate a cycle of poverty more than she is helping to end it? Her article seeks to inflame, not inform.
Bernstein’s case study of “Noah” was very interesting. Bernstein points out that Noah never received the ESL tutoring that was promised, and that the insistence on teaching the TAAS standardized test prevented them from receiving the proper textbooks. She surmised that ESL students are suffering in college basic writing courses because standardized testing prevented proper ESL teaching in high and middle schools. Mike Rose pointed out how standardized testing can harm children who cannot understand its importance. Laliker pointed out how standardized testing can pigeonhole basic writing students in college courses. Bernstein’s pointing out how standardized testing steamrolls ESL students as schools are forced to focus on the immediate test scores over long term literacy. I would greatly like to read the remainder of Bernstein’s article, as I found the material in her “Closing Concerns” to be more useful in describing the problems of ESL basing writing students than her case study of Noah.
As I referenced above, I was slightly surprised by Anzaldua’s inability to offer a solution to the problems she referenced. I was shocked, however, by the CCCC’s basic conclusion that the teaching of uniform English to students somehow “diminished their self-esteem.” How, exactly, does the CCCC expect students who have no knowledge of proper linguistic rules to succeed? People who cannot speak or write properly are almost always condemned to the status of have-nots. People who leave school being able to speak and write properly will have a major advantage over those who don’t in the marketplace, the courts, in medicine, and in almost every other field. What does the CCCC think the purpose of composition studies is? If students are not taught proper grammar and if composition is merely post-process cultural studies, then it has no purpose, other than to help students write purposeless papers unintelligible to the vast majority of people who might read them. And their division between writing and speaking is ludicrous. Do they really intend to avoid confusion in the mind of the student by trying to make him or her learn essentially two different languages?
Barbara Jaffe’s article regarding the Puenta project was fascinating and her advice on creating familia groups to teach students and to increase the number of post-secondary HSI instructors was both informative and practical. I thought this article had everything the others lacked. Jaffe identified a problem (poor academic success in Latino community college students), offered quantitative analysis to back up her claim that such a problem existed, and then provided a reasonable solution to the problem. She even included a curriculum for teaching students and training instructors.
Darcy Lewis - Reading Response 4
For me, this week’s reading really personalized the situation of the basic writer and talked about the need for teachers of writing to recognize and acknowledge the underlying issues behind why some students are labeled (or mislabeled, as the case may be) “basic writers” and to really question if that speaks of deficiencies in the student or perhaps deficiencies in the system that assessed and labeled them.
I read the CCC piece “Students’ Right to Their Own Language” and have to admit I was pretty surprised that this was indeed their position. It’s probably that I don’t know enough about the organization, but I would not have guessed the CCCC to be that progressive and proactive in taking a stance on accommodating different dialects in the classroom. Especially knowing that this came out in 1974, I wonder if this resolution had the widespread effect that they had hoped for. In any case, the language was very strong in regards to colonizing and/or marginalizing the students. It makes sense since Pedagogy of the Oppressed was published just four years prior and the process movement in writing was starting to gain serious momentum. I guess I had always envisioned the CCCC as being a bunch of stodgy traditionalists, but I stand corrected.
The CCC article raises the question as to why teachers have been inculcated with the idea that there is “a single American ‘standard English’ which could be isolated, identified, and accurately defined” (3). This is something I think many of us who have not been raised in areas with very much ethnic diversity take for granted. When everyone around you speaks nearly the exact same dialect, you simply don’t realize the problems this “standardization” of your own dialect causes on those who have grown up with a different dialect. Another important point made here was the difference between learning to speak a language and learning to write it. Because someone speaks a different dialect than EAE doesn’t mean he can’t write in EAE, and, conversely, just because someone can speak the “standard American” dialect well, this does not necessarily translate into being able to write it well.
I also appreciated the part where the CCCC indicates that “intelligence is not a factor in the child’s acquisition of a basic language system” (7). This pattern of attaching an intelligence quotient to the acquisition and/or usage of dialect or language reminds me of the same labeling that happens for kids with learning disabilities. As crazy as it seems, most people equate learning disabilities with lower intelligence. This is like saying if Hendrix broke his fingers, he was a bad guitar player--it’s an obstacle or an incapacitation, but not a reflection on ability. Besides, sometimes, through patience and hard work, people can learn to work past these disabilities (a good example in working with my previous metaphor would be Django Reinhardt, who adapted to playing guitar with only two fingers on his left hand). I think I’ve digressed a bit…
So back to the CCC piece…in the section on "Language Varieties and Learning," the example is given on how a student might read “Phillip’s mother is in Chicago” as “Phillip mother in Chicago” and has actually read correctly because he “translated the surface of an EAE sentence into a meaning and has used his own dialect to give a surface form to that meaning” (9). This reminded me of the part in Lives on the Boundary in which Rose is talking about embracing error as a sign of growth and movement on the part of the student: “Before we shake our heads at these errors, we should also consider the possibility that many such linguistic bungles are signs of growth, a stretching beyond what college freshmen can comfortably do with written language. In fact, we should welcome certain kinds of errors, make allowance for them in the curricula we develop, analyze rather than simply criticize them. Error marks the place where education begins” (188-189). An error isn’t always an error, per se. I am sure many errors are the result of laziness and bad proofing. But if a teacher can train herself to recognize the difference between an error of development and an error of laziness, much in this system of assessment will improve.
In everything we read, there is much said about the deficiencies in training teachers and preparing them to encounter multiple dialects and voices within a classroom. We see this in the CCCC piece, in which they call for teachers to pretty much revolutionize their way of thinking about students and dialects; we see it in Jaffe’s article in her blow-by-blow account of how she works to change this mentality through her workshops; we see it in Bernstein’s account of Noah and his experience, and she rails equally against standardized tests; and it’s implicit in Anzaldua’s anecdote about her experience in the classroom as a child (“If you want to be American, speak ‘American.’”).
I had read another article on the Puente Project, and one of the things that impressed me the most from it was how the system was set up to involve the teacher, a counselor, and a community mentor. The article I read indicated that the community mentor was one of the key factors for success. Also, the Puente Project exaggerates the involvement of the parent or guardian of the student—they even sign contracts--and the mentors are asked to check in on the students really frequently…I think maybe once or twice a week, if I remember right. As Jaffe notes, “the majority of postsecondary students are unsuccessful, especially in basic education courses, due to nonacademic reasons, ranging from family problems to financial limitations” (170). Addressing those areas of concern and requiring the family and community to get involved are key reasons why the Puente Project has been so successful. I think that Bernstein’s article hits on the same theme when she talks about Noah and how “he felt often that college was too hard for him and that he ‘didn’t know how college worked’" (420). When students who are ESL or Gen 1.5 and/or those who are the first in their families to go to college try and navigate the world of academia, it can be overwhelming and lead to all sorts of problems. Mostly, I think they just give up and feel self-defeated, when really the system was set up to defeat them from the beginning.
Holly C. – Reading Response for February 11, 2009
- Anzaldua – I have read Anzaldua before, and find her perspective on language and language acquisition to be very honest and passionate. Anzaldua discusses her bilingual status as something that has made her a “cultural traitor”, speaking the language of the “oppressor” (331). One of the themes I noticed in Anzaldua’s article as I reread it during my post this afternoon is a statement she made on page 331 of the text. While she was making this statement about the Spanish language, I feel like what she is saying has certain universality to it, especially when it comes to the field of basic writing. She says, “Even our own people, other Spanish speakers nos quieren poner candados en la boca. They would hold us back with their bag of reglas de academia. Having never been great at Spanish, it took me a minute to translate this, but I quickly determined that what she meant by this statement was that Spanish speakers use the rules of the academy to subjugate other Spanish speakers. Basically, just like the different dialects of English, different dialects of Spanish indicate a different socio-economic status. The other thing that really spoke to me in Anzaldua’s article was when she said, “[…] when I started teaching High School English to Chicano students, I tried to supplement the required texts with works by Chicanos, only to be reprimanded and forbidden to do so by the principal. He claimed that I was supposed to teach “American” and English literature” (335). This statement brings up the very notion of the canonicity. What is the canon? What should it be? What should it include, and what should it exclude? Ins ome ways, the current “accepted canon”, with its stories like Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird works very well for some students, but not for all. In a classroom where engagement is often a difficult thing to come by, I know that part of the reason that my students are so removed from a piece of literature is that the literature, no matter what I do, has no relevance to them. If they cannot see themselves, their culture, and their faces within a piece of literature, they may not necessarily see any motivation to learn the piece or how that piece is relevant to them. This thought reminds me somewhat of what Mina Shaughnessey said in the piece titled “Abby’s Lament”. Because students do not see how the field of English is relevant for them, they are disconnected from the subject and just float through. This person who floats through has the potential to eventually become a basic writer because they have been alienated from English and writing simply because the education provided to them failed to focus on what was important or relevant to them.
- Bernstein – “Public schools give us the TAAS test, which seems to include material that I think is not beneficial for College” (422). Bernstein says that what really struck her about Noahs writing was the idea that reading and writing were being shaped by the TAAS test. Noah was hurt as a reader and writer because he was being prepared for a state assessment. While the article never indicated whether or not Noah passed the TAAS, I can assume that he did, since he went to college. However, Noah’s college experience was hindered because he was still trying to work to pass the test. As a high school teacher, it is hard not to read an article like this and get all charged up about the TAKS test. I see how it hurts students. They can take a TAKS test. They can take a benchmark. Pink scantrons, getting a goodnight’s sleep the night before, and the granola bar and water an hour and a half into the test is something that my students have known since probably the first grade. However, these students, like Noah, can also not do anything beyond “finding the right answer” (423). They are not ready for college. They are given false success in high school and struggle in college. I have plenty of students that can get “Commended” on the TAKS test. They are bright, intelligent young people. But, after they get commended on the TAKS test, they are still not ready to really critically analyze or write. An open-ended response is the only critical type writing they ever do for the TAKS test, and that requires them to only write a paragraph. The results of standardized tests are not really telling of anything other than the fact that the teachers crammed the TAKS test down every student’s throat and say 94% passed, therefore, 94% were able to work within a very restrictive and shallow curriculum while the other 6%, because of their inability to work within “one standardized methodology that was meant to apply to all students regardless of their needs and desires” (424) were classified as failures.
- Students Right to Their Own Language – The CCC’s manifesto about language and dialect takes a very firm stance on how the CCCC feels about the student and that student’s ability to speak language. On the first page, the article states “The claim that any one dialect is unacceptable amounts to an attempt to one social group to exert its dominance over another” (1). This is a very firm statement and I do agree that no dialect is good or bad, but I did find myself wondering how some of the ideas presented in the article would work. When it says, “We should structure and select materials geared to complex reading problems and oriented to the experience and sophistication our students” (9), I wonder which level of sophistication and which complex reading problems the article means. The stance the CCCC took on standardized testing was something I agreed with, and I also felt like it supported the assertions that Bernstein made as well. Standardized tests are not fair to students of all backgrounds and should therefore not be used as a labeling tool. However, the notion of assessing a student to see if a student can write, think, or speak in their own dialect is another instance where I get pessimistic about how that would work. In an environment where assessment in education has to be “true” and “common”, common meaning that it can be given as a benchmark, there is no room to assess a student in an individual dialect.
- Jaffe – The main thing I took from this article is the idea of creating a community of writers where students work together and learn to trust one another in their pursuit of better writing. I also see that Jaffe is saying that the teacher needs to make themselves more than just a facilitator of the community. The teacher needs to become a part of the community and be willing to trust in the community just as much as he or she is asking their students to. I know that I’ve noticed that the students are more willing to participate and engage in a lesson with me when I am actually working on it with them. If we are working on writing an essay about personal experience (I don’t like that we have to spend so much time teaching such an essay, but I like getting paid), I know that they become more willing and comfortable to share if I put some of my own experiences out there for discussion.
Andrea Montalvo RR 4
Anzaldua: I really liked this essay for two reasons. The first is that it reminded me of the stories my parents would tell me about being reprimanded for speaking Spanish, so I felt I could relate to it in a sense. The second reason is that she brings the variations of Spanish (standard, standard Mexican Spanish, Tex-Mex, etc...) to light and the struggles of speaking English with an accent. In other words, Spanish speakers have to deal with ridicule from English speakers as well as those who speak the other variations of Spanish. They can't all be lumped into one category. However, I think this applies to all ELL's, not just those who speak Spanish. Anzaldua is very passionate and straightforward about speaking the language of her oppressors; those who speak Spanish and those who do not. This hit home for me because I used to have an accent, but I learned to hide it when I was little when I quickly realized I didn't sound the same as the other students in elementary school. Some of her dialogue is reminiscent of La Frontera in my opinion. I also enjoyed reading thsi essay because it is taken from La Frontera and I haven't had the opportunity to read the entire book. It seems that despite her ability to speak English, she still remains on the "border" to English and standard Spanish speakers. This essay is important because we all (as future teachers) need to understand how difficult it is for ESL students to speak AND write in English.
Bernstein: The study of Noah was very interesting (as a student from Texas forced to take the TAAS) and I also thought it was interesting how she included excerpts from his essays. She notes, "Noah received no assistance in dealing with language issues as he began fourth grade. Although the school told Noah that he could be enrolled in a program to learn English, this program never materialized" (419). After reading this quote, I wondered how often this happens to ELL's. I remember in my high school, you always heard Spanish when you walked through the halls, and we had strong ESL teachers (from what I understood). I'm not sure if it's because we're in South Texas, or because ESL programs have gotten more support over the years. So, how efficient are ESL programs throughout the rest of Texas and around the country? I was fortunate to speak English and Spanish by the time I started school (because my parents speak both) but I know that many students like Noah are not exposed to English until they reach school. But, despite his struggles through school, he attended college and, as a student in Berstein's class, learned how to become a successful writer. She quotes Sternglass, "learning self-advocacy and self-efficacy can benefit students as they face the transitions between moving away from standards-based education to the intellectual challenges and long-term goals of becoming fluent in academic discourse" (424). I think it's unfair to put all of the responsibility of learning on the student, I think we as teachers need to have a strong part as well.
CCCC article: This article discusses how language and dialect are a crucial part of one's cultural identity, and that having students assimilate would be the same as telling them to accept another culture. But, it is also mentioned in the article how teaching students "standard American English" differs from actually writing in standard American English. This has always been a problem of course, because there are students who write how they speak. There is also the current dilemma of students writing their essays as lengthy text messages. I agree with the notion that "until standardized tests fair to all students from all backgrounds can be developed, they should not be used for admitting, placing, or labeling students" (17). This is the same problem that is discussed in Berstein's article. But, standardized tests are still used despite their bias! I think this is a big problem in education and some students will always (unfairly) get left behind.
Jaffe: I thought her "familias" were a great way to bring students together and strengthen their writing skills and confidence. The students in my seminar that are also enrolled on comp have been placed in writing groups of three to four students. When we do group activities, the students, because they have become comfortable with one another, are more willing to voice their ideas and participate in large group discussions. The groups are also competitive with one another, so we spend too much time on specific topics or actitivies because everyone is eager to participate. Although this is not quite what Jaffe suggests, I feel that having students, especially first year students, have little familias is an efficient way to coax them out of their shells. I also like how Jaffe suggests that the teacher is also an important part of these families because they do need some facilitation.
Amanda Hartman- RR 4
CCCC The language that is used in this document amuses me because it is very blatant in its discussion of those people who would oppose the idea of language integration. When speaking of integration critics, the “Lack of reliable information, however, seldom prevents people from discussing language questions with an air of absolute authority” (3), and that “…values taught by the schools must reflect the prejudices held by they public” (3). This is a harsh condemnation of the public ideals behind the argument.
After this, the article asks for, “English teachers at all levels, from kindergarten through college, must uncover and examine some of the assumptions on which our teaching has rested” (3). Teachers have been supporting the underlying authority of a “standard English”, and further enforcing the idea that there is a hierarchy among English language speakers.
As teachers, should we encourage diversity when we know that it will not lead to the “rewards” that society offers to those who speak “standard English”? What are we trying to accomplish? If our efforts are to better prepare students who plan to enter the business/academic world, then I think that “standard English” is unavoidable. It is one thing to encourage diversity within the literary community, where diversity is accepted (sometimes), but to encourage something that we know will not help, but actually hinder students in the “real” world seems unconscionable.
The idea of fashion versus function seems to be the underlying root of this debate. Do we do what is considered fashionable, and by that, I mean Politically Correct, or do we do what is functional, and prepare students for a business world that they are expected to enter?
Anzaldua “Chicana feminists often skirt around each other with suspicion and hesitation. For the longest time I could not figure it out. Then it dawned on me. To be close to another Chicana is like looking into the mirror. We are afraid to of what we will see there. Pena. Shame” (334). The idea of English as a “neutral language” between people who speak another language is strange to think of. I would think that English would be a catalyst for argument instead of a safe haven. “We oppress each other…” (334). It is strange to think of members of the same linguistic population taking on the role of the oppressor. Shame and competitiveness are curious emotions to associate with the language process. To think that students feel this is disconcerting at best, but I do not know how to avoid emotional landmines that are inherent in the “language” conversation, especially when they occur between people who share the “other” language.
“People who were to amount to something didn’t go to Mexican movies, or bailes or tune their radios to bolero, rancherita, and corridomusic” (336).
Bernstein I found it interesting that the idea of student failures based on “nonacademic reasons, ranging from family problems to financial limitations” (Jaffe 170) is reflected in Noah’s inability to learn English. In his case, Noah misses an opportunity to learn English because his “…parents were afraid to allow him to play outside” (Bernstein 420).
Other than this observation, I think that this article tell us much of what we already believe. Standardized testing is the devil. It does not prepare students for college. It proves that students are aware of the problem. I think that it just provokes the same questions that we are already debating.
Jaffe I find the idea of the familia very interesting. Many of us use group work within the classroom, but this set up seems very organic in the way that it is meant to represent a family or community. Each member is responsible for contributing to the others, and they monitor themselves as opposed to the teacher. A self-sustaining organism, I guess. This leaves the teacher free to focus on observing the students, and analyzing how they actually work together. There is a trust that is built between members of each familia, and that they come to value each other’s input.
Another idea that I found interesting was the fact that the teachers adopted the term familia and made it their own, and “The internalization of acceptance of the familia unit was significant because it provided a glimpse into what students feel in their own classrooms…” (176). These teachers also used journaling to reflect on their own feelings and address their concerns about the new teaching techniques. The article points out that this emotional connection was helpful to teachers as well as their students, and that “…in order for the teachers to feel comfortable in introducing and integrating personal skills within their writing courses, the have to first feel a level of comfort in experiencing this process themselves”(178). I think that this creates an interesting idea of teachers as guinea pigs for their own material.
CCCC. I remember the "Students Right to Their Own Language" article from reading it last semester in Bib. and Research. I am also a person who agrees that all dialects of English should be accepted as means of communication, but I also espouse the idea that standard English needs to be taught to people who do not know it very well for precisely the rationale John suggested in his posting. At the University, we may agree that all forms of communication should be accepted and that we should not judge people based on their vocabulary or their usage, but the fact is that people do make those judgements all the time whether they think it is right or not. for example, it is okay to write a text message to a friend and use a combination of text shorthand and ebonics, but it would be insane if a grad student wrote his/her graduate comp responses like that because a grad student is expected to communicate those responses in the primary language that is spoken and written in the University English classes (standard English).
Anzaldua. This article was interesting to me mostly because the author uses a good deal of Spanish while still making her point primarily in English. I am fascinated by the ability to shift back and forth between two languages, and I wonder if I would appreciate the reasoning behind it more if I knew more Spanish or if I were Mexican-American. At any rate, her point seems to be that the Mexican culture is strongly tied to the language of Spanish, but that it becomes complicated in the borderland regions because of the mixing of culture and language with predominant American culture and language (the Anglicized and English). When she says at the end that her race is the only one that has held on to its language, I can't help but think that it has more to do with the border being so close; it seems like it is the same around borders in Europe (two or three languages spoken being the norm, and even with countries like Spain and Portugal where Spanish and Portuguese are exceptionally similar). I also think about my own heritage and all other races and ethnicities that have come overseas, and most of us have given up our culture to an Anglicized one and given up our languages for English. I think of my heritage, and I wonder what it would be like if the Czech Republic or Ireland bordered the United States just to the south. Wouldn't I be making the same argument as Anzaldua for the importance of my own native tongue? (Also, there is a certain practicality to hanging on to a native language from a country in close proximity to one's own since being bilingual can be a huge advantage when job hunting).
Bernstein. This is an article that really resonated with me because I encountered the same scenario while teaching last year at a school that was struggling to make their AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) as mandated by the state of Texas. If TAKS scores are a focus for all public schools, they are even more so for schools that are failing to make the cut-off in terms of percentage of students passing. I thought the bit about how important it is to learn and comprehend different perspectives was very much the same as an experience we had doing cross-curriculum teaching with social studies. The correct version of history in the way of historical "fact" was taught in social studies class, and we, the English teachers, would reinforce those "facts" with related TAKS reading passages that conveyed the same point-of-view. Also, we did no longer works like novels because there was not time (another point in the article). We had to get as many kids passing the test as possible in order to avoid having the state occupy the school (ha - sounds like war doesn't it?). So, no, standardized testing does not prepare students for college, at least not anymore. In reading for this class and Comp. Theory, I am coming to the realization that public schools and universities have seemingly never been in sync with one another. I am quite suspicious that the reasons for this are mostly, if not purely, economical in nature since, if public school ever prepared students for the university, there would be not be much need for the university. It is like my professor for grammar said to some students who just weren't understanding how something worked, "It's fine that you and lots of people don't get it. That's what I'm here for. If you all got it before taking this class, I'd be out of a job!"
Jaffe. The familia concept sounds like an excellent idea, and it seems to have had some excellent results in the state of CA. I think it sounds, in many respects, like the buddy system in the military. So, in some ways, basic writing is like basic training. All of the members gain a sense of accountability and responsibility to one another while getting the mission accomplished. It's also an interesting way of the teacher delegating out some of the insane workload to the students. Lest it seem like laziness, the saying goes, "If the teacher is working harder than the students, the students aren't learning." So, the benefits are twofold; by working smarter rather than harder, the teacher gets better results out of his/her students and, effectively, has less work to do in terms of reading and commenting upon every single draft. If I read it correctly, the teacher only reads and comments on later and final drafts of student work.
Anzaldua’s reading connects to Rose’s book because it addresses the “challenges of culturally diverse classrooms” (328). Rose addresses the variety of students he’s helped to write, and he has seen the role teachers have played in students’ lives, unfortunately often in a negative way. Anzaldua’s reading illustrates how she has experienced “fear and conflict rather than understanding and harmony” (328). In “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” I see that she her language has cause for those educating, at least trying to, have caused her to write about the variety of Spanish dialects she is able to speak. I think many, if not most, teachers do not know or choose not to acknowledge that people near the border towns do speak more than one type of Spanish. And often don’t realize that there are certain activities should be done in a basic writing course or program. For example, an instructor should probably take into consideration the student’s background and not assume that English is their first language. Many probably already know the difference between the word order such as adjective then noun, whereas in Spanish it is the noun then the adjective. The example I mentioned is actually something the instructor, I observed, told me that many other instructors don’t take into consideration when grading the students’ papers/essays. Instead of teaching them something the assignment is immediately marked with a low grade. I think that for every subject matter, an assignment can change, and that includes considering how the instructor is because whether it’s right or wrong, some instructors “force” students to write to their style. And often the student will write to please the instructor. The point to this reading is that there is a lot of history, cultural history, to a person/student who is Latino and that instructors of other ethnicities should keep that in mind, so they can better help the basic writer improve on his/her writing skills.
Susan Naomi Bernstein
The next reading leads me to the point I was trying to make about Latino students and the role an instructor has in their education. This is the story of Noah, a Mexican American student, trying to achieve success in a higher education. Noah a repeat in basic writing course makes every effort to pass, but he can’t, until one teacher was actually willing to help him, his art teacher. And again, the role that teachers play is or can be very significant. I probably sound like a commercial, but I do believe that unless a teacher takes the time to at least help a struggling student with something it can go a long way. I’m not claiming that every teacher holds their hand, but more often than not, it is obvious when a student is struggling. There were a lot of obstacles throughout Noah’s education, such as him not receiving no assistance in dealing with language issues, in the fourth grade; the program designed to help him learn English never happened and his language art classes were taught in Spanish (Bernstein 419). Although this only one study, many in the teaching field know there are cases like this one by the thousands or more. However, I think that if students “had access to a variety of approaches to learning, rather than one standardized methodology that was meant to apply to all students regardless of their needs and desires” (Bernstein 424) then perhaps there would be more success stories with Latino students.
I can see a lot of connections with this particular reading assignment with the discussions we have had in class. Some of those discussions have to do with the mentoring part and the role that a teacher has. I found interesting that Jaffe found the connection that instructors lack an emotional component. I do believe there should be “trust and mutual respect” (176). The interview I had with the instructor from South Texas College told me that the school is now holding annual seminars that deal with being emotional. Basically, this Puente Project Model seems to be working because there are three people who are significant in a student’s life, counseling, writing, and mentoring (171).
All of these readings address the issue of seeing more into the students’ lives and identities to understand their backgrounds and cultures and, in turn, to allow them to use their multiple voices in the academic setting. Moreso than some of the previous articles we have read, I thought these gave more glimpses into real student writing and an insider’s viewpoint on how students of diverse backgrounds perceive entering academia.
I’ve read Anzaldua’s article before and discussed it in multiple contexts, but not so much particularly in the context of basic writing. Garrett, Sean, and I were discussing the article a bit during Capstone on Monday and saw the connection between addressing diverse backgrounds and the discourse communities we implemented in our classrooms last semester in teaching 1301. Back to the article, though…I particularly liked the code-switching Anzaldua uses to emphasize her point about language and culture. When she was describing some of the differences in pronunciations, I found myself trying to mouth the words to say them as she describes them, and this brought me back all the way to the undergraduate linguistics course, where we used lollipops to feel the difference in how words changed the shapes of our mouths. I think I’m digressing a bit, though. Her list of languages that Chicanos speak illustrates what she’s trying to say about the multiple identities that make up a person. It also reminded me somewhat of the article we read last week about Contessa, about how the conflicting identities influencing her created incongruities in forming a cohesive paper. Although that’s veering off from what Anzaldua’s saying, I think this idea is closely related. Anzaldua’s article, to me, seems mostly like an attempt to raise awareness of the “struggle of identities” and she presents the concept well (338).
The CCC statement I had also read before, and putting out a statement so strongly shows the amount of support this idea of accepting multiple/diverse backgrounds and identities has in the field of composition and rhetoric. After all of the linguistic classes with Dr. Sullivan I’ve taken, though, in which ELL and acceptance of all dialects, etc. has been emphasized, and doing a class project on English-Only Legislation, I feel kind of like I’ve been beat over the head with this idea of learning more about your students’ identities/culture/background and working with the students to see where they are coming from. It’s good to see this in the basic writing context, though, to understand how it affects the students in the specific setting.
Bernstein’s story about Noah brought us an experience as an example of the things we have been reading. She really demonstrates some of the struggles that ELL students face as they enter a writing classroom, especially because he has great understanding and good ideas when writing, but his product does not fit the academic standards. His awareness of his situation is impressive, and it also reminds me vaguely of Contessa’s struggle. He seems to be aware of his difficulty, while Contessa really wasn’t so much. I found it interesting to hear Noah’s perspective on education, especially his statements about the standardized testing and instructional focus:
“As Noah continued to think through this interference, he considered how students were not given full or accurate information about history” (422).
This bit about the materials on the TAAS test remind me of a conversation I just had with Mrs. Stoner, an English teacher at Miller HS who I have been observing lately. We were discussing the TAKS test preparation, and she was telling me that it was upsetting to her that because they had to review the concepts of taking the test so much that she did not have any time to fulfill the students’ curiosity about the content of the reading passages. For example, one of the passages they read was about rockets and the students were interested to learn more about the rockets and how they functioned, etc., but they did not have time because the focus was on answering the questions, not learning the information. This is why I really like the idea of teaching concepts in context of literature or something…it allows the students to get more interested in the content, which makes them more engaged overall. Without that engagement, it is hard to teach anything, especially to kids who don’t like to read in the first place. Bernstein also says that Noah “suggested that students needed solid preparation for college that focused on more intellectual aims, rather than on preparation for testing” (423). I completely agree with this because usually (from what I’ve observed) the preparation for the testing is not done in a way that shows the students the benefits of learning the concepts or writing processes (other than passing the test).
From Jaffe’s article, I really like the idea of the familia as a support system, especially with the example of the Strong Line activity, which puts extreme emphasis on the positive aspects of the students’ writing. From my observation of the basic writing class, I came away feeling like a lot of the focus was on the negative, on what the students were doing wrong, on what their problems were with writing, etc. Looking at the good points of a paper and giving the students the sense of “empowerment” really helps promote the use of their own voice to construct good writing, showing them that they can do something good in an academic system where they are typically seen as underprepared or behind the rest. I have felt, since the beginning of this course, and especially after my observation, that collaboration is especially useful in the basic writing classroom, and this familia concept really emphasizes collaboration. For our comps group this past week, we studied the basic writing readings, which included Bruffee’s “Collaboration and the Conversation of Mankind.” So, obviously, it is nothing new that collaboration works well to enter the academic realm of writing, but I like this integration of culture and identity with the concept of collaboration to really promote student success.
I was happy to reread Anzaldua's "How to Tame a Wild Tongue" because it allowed me the opportunity to rethink some of the things she implies through her poetic and non-traditional form. I used this piece in my classroom last semester and found it remarkable how easy it was for non-Hispanic or non-Spanish-speaking students to relate the things she says about language to their own experiences with dialect and lingo. In the context of discourse communities (which is what our classes had been discussing immediately prior to this reading), her personal account translated as a common ground for the way each student communicates in different circumstances. Consequently, it allowed me to transition the discussion into an investigation of what "academic discourse" is and how it is used by students who have never been in contact with it, or only marginally so. Many of the students in my class were especially moved by the "Linguistic Terrorism" section, because they had all felt the forces of alienation and outsiderism that can lead writers to feel inadequate or inconsequential. This kind of experience, I think, can be directly related to the idea of a basic writer as someone who believes, in earnest, that they cannot write. And in that sense, it is important for any skill level of writer to be able to recognize their experience with comunication as unique to them, but universal in terms of the capability to be effective.
The Bernstein article seems to echo this sentiment, at least, after reading Rose, in regard to how we have posited the role of teachers in the writing process. The case of Noah reflects the tragedy of administrative roadblocks to individual student needs and how it is important that teachers have the means necessary to help develop the ability to cross boundaries in language norms as well as foster better cognitive skills and intuitive recognition of signification differences. Standardized testing certainly doesn't allow for that in instances where the language of the testing is as foreign as an LSAT or other specialized test would be to me! Like Rose suggests, we need to be able to understand the influences that play on the students in order for them to be given the right kind of challenges, and teching to a test does not provide that kind of flexibility.
The CCCC document reflects what I understood from Anzaldua and Bernstein; understanding that "deviation from handbook rules seldom interferes with communication" is integral to creating willing writers who progress individually and successfully (15). Also, adoption of standardized rules becomes easier to accomplish, knowing first that they are, first and foremost, "serviceable within the framework of a flexible rhetoric" (15). This basic understanding about the nature of communication in diverse and multicultural schools (which can be said of more schools than not, i would imagine) allows us to embrace diversity and give priority to better writing skills like critical thinking and adaptation, instead of conformation and subjugative stylistic standards.
Jaffe's article, then, demonstrates to me how this practice can benefit writing instruction across the curriculum. By giving teachers the resources and training to incorporate their students' individual knowledge and social practices into the curriculum, the Puente Project addresses head-on the problems demonstrated in the Anzaldua and Bernstein articles. And this can be a meaningful breakthrough for teaching writing to students whose interests in the sciences or math or whatever else lead them to devalue the kind of writing that is usually attributed solely to English professors and the "dead white guys" of the literary canon. By understanding individual literacies, teachers can better prepare students for the kind of decisions they have to make in terms of effectively communicating to a particular audience, in addition to creating an environment where writing is valued by all and students' participation is meaningful and consistent.
SRTOL: This was fantastic, very rarely do we get to look at things from a linguistics perspective. I very much enjoyed how they brought in some of the arguments that other had presented on inequality created by dialect and the prejudices involved. I also thought it was interesting they way they showed the demise of the culture and the language, as people strive to meet the requirements of being educated and indoctrinated into academia. I have been seeing and reading a great deal about the inequality that is created by forcing students to assimilate and function in one language or format only. I am not sure that the myriad of formats is a plausible outcome, but I can completely see where they are coming from. I have had three years of Spanish, and I did rather well in the course, but I can hardly conjure a phrase, let alone carry on a conversation. I began to think what it must be like to try to actually function in another language or try to give up what is familiar. I began to realize I probably wouldn’t do so well myself. I think it is powerful that the CCCC’s found this a valid issue and released this. It says a great deal about the organization as well as the discipline, but I think we still have a ways to go.
I think this has some great elements. I first think the practical information she gives that could actually be used in teaching individuals was great. I also found the information on the research information grounded the study and gave it credibility; something I have wanted from a few other writers. I like the idea of the family based class experience, and making the class comfortable. I make sure that my students understand that in any situation where you must share and expose yourself the environment needs to be one of trust and support, and it is something I attempt to foster in my labs. I didn’t hear as much about some of the basics, but a great deal about the writing. I still think there needs to be a balance, but some of the writing ideas, especially the strong sentence idea was great.
Noah: This was sad and good at the same time. His writing suffered, but I have to agree with his stance on the teaching methods. I also go back to what I stated early on, about learning Spanish, if I was in his situation, I think I would have been in far worse shape. I have never worked with ESL and second language acquisition is not my specialty, but I can see the challenge, outside of even the testing. What gets me about this article is he talks about how good he was doing later on in high school. He graduated in the top 10% of his class and ended up in developmental writing and unprepared for college. What does that say for those who are not doing as well as he did?
This was just sad… We have talked about this in other classes, as well as the views on English Only. I do agree that it is a violent replacement of culture and creates self doubt in who people are and what it is ok to do. I must admit I had never looked at it so strongly before. It was painful to see some of the heartache over the loss of not being able to be ones self. I wonder at times what the outcome will be. I grew up borrowing heritages. Everything is such a mishmash, that we weren’t sure what exactly we were, so my parents celebrated a few cultural holidays that they thought fit. It this the destiny of other cultures to become and obscure entity in the mishmash of other cultures so that we can pick and chose what we like. I also have no clue what it feels like to be told that my language or a part of who I am is less than and I must get rid of it to succeed, not really. I look back on experiences with students and other classmates and wonder if their experiences were similar, and if that is why some of them seemed to hold back some or fade out of the picture all together.
The problem with the readings is how to make the changes… Despite the CCCC’s article very little along those lines seems to have changed. Is change plausible? What can we do to promote, outside of not accepting or promoting the stereotypes and prejudices.
As I read the CCCC article, several things came to mind: I was surprised at date which it was written. I think it is a fairly old piece and although much has been done to make this a reality, we still have a long way to go. This is an issue that is important to teachers, students, parents, and communities. I think accepting language diversity is a step in the right direction. There are many different dialects, and although EAE has a firm place which will be difficult to change, we can at least start in the classroom by accepting different forms of English there. From Linguistics class, I know that there are many different "Englishes" It could be difficult for instructors but it is more important for students. We are there for them, not the other way around.
The Jaffe article shows how strategies can be implemented and can actually work. Change is a difficult thing for people to accept. This article presents steps for reaching those goals. I like the "workshop" idea. It gives people new perspectives for dealing with problems. I think the article shows how to find solutions and get real results.
I love reading Anzaldua. She really practices what she preaches, so to speak. I remember when I took Spanish and we were ONLY allowed to speak in Spanish in class. Wow! What a culture shock that was. I can imagine how students feel when they are told not to speak the language of their parents, grandparents, etc. While English obviously must be taught for the students' benefit, teachers should never try to change their culture or language. I only wish that Spanish was taught to my daughter along with her English. We all know that bilingualism is a benefit not a hinderance. Obviously, these attitudes do not exist everywhere, I think here in So. Tx. we all know the value of having two languages and even two cultures.
When will things change with standardized tests, etc? As stated in Bernstein, "we can use our own positions as teachers and researchers to not only challenge systemic inequalities...but to advocate for change as well" (424).
CHRISTINE CASHION READINGS RESPONSE
Conference on College Composition and Communication – I remember studying about this subject in Sociolinguistics with Dr. Sullivan. The right to speak the language of your own dialect is a hot issue and has been for many years. There have been movements to make English the official language of America. Some other countries have done this but have also added more than one language to their list of official languages.
Some of the debate is, of course, is that the schools teach English in the school systems here in America. I don’t just mean teach the subject of English – I mean they teach every subject in English. When others do not speak English as a first language, herein lays the problem. At one time, if a student did not speak English in the schools, it became enforced to do so. I have heard speakers of others languages tell me they were told to only speak language in the classroom.
The authors of the articles make comments such as, “Realizing that the resolution would be controversial,” and this issue is a “major problem confronting teachers…” to argue their points. They speak of teaching “to erase differences” amongst each other yet find it difficult to throw entire support behind dialect diversity. Many questions have been raised regarding the dialect debate.
Although the writers of this article state repeatedly, “dialect is the variety of language” used by a group of people, it is important to recognize that it can interfere with enforced instruction in a single language. I do not know that there is a solution to this debate. Students are required to get an education in this country. Schools teach courses in English. There are always ESOL classes.
Anzaldua – I believe she has been a guest speaker at Texas A&M – Corpus Christi – several years ago. I believe I remember studying something she wrote in Dr. Mermann’s class, Literary Theories. I would have to research that. However, if I remember correctly as compared to the required reading this week, “How to Tame a Wild Tongue,” she (Anzaldua) uses the same tongue-in-cheek style. She wants to make points about “Spanglish.” In this area, I believe you can hear this dialect spoken almost anywhere. I hear it at work, from students, and in line at the grocery store. I think Anzaldua is doing the world a favor by bringing up this issue of interconnections between languages. I am sure that our area is not the only one that mixes several languages together in the same sentences or to create expressions unique to their group.
I like the way Anzaldua writes because she explains things as she goes. Of course, she is expressively speaking of Chicano Spanish. She also takes the time to offer how other speakers of “Spanish” languages, such as Puerto Rican and Cuban speak dialect combination variances. It is all very interesting especially when you consider the culture that America is. We are made of no one ethnicity.
I particularly liked Anzaldua’s list of all of the derived Chicano Spanish types (331). I think it is ironic that she states “words distorted by English are known as anglicisms…” (332). I am not sure how to interpret this remark. I have never heard of a word being “distorted” by English. I believe that speakers of other languages are allowed to “construe” whatever they like about the dominant language of the world (English) in whichever way suits their needs for explanations.
Bernstein – Headline: Another student falls through the cracks in the educational system of Texas – Noah. Where does the guilt fall? The author states that she does not want to harp on Noah’s experience; however, she wants to document his metamorphosis. Hurray. We all need to learn from our experiences. No pun intended. I truly believe that Noah, regardless of his schooling experiences, is a success story. All children are given the opportunity to go to school. Regardless of whether or not the “system” is perfect, it exists and is mandated. If a student cannot keep up with instruction because of language differences than the student will obviously have to face additional challenges.
If I move to Africa and I do not speak Swahili, then I will have to learn some so that I can function in their school system. I will have double the work as other students who speak the native language in which the subjects are being taught. I think that Noah really said it best himself by iterating his sentiments for the reasons he realized he needed to enroll at the university. By not going to college, he “wouldn’t have the opportunity to express my feelings and nothing would change about my life” (420). I could not agree more.
I understand Noah had some concerns about standardized testing. Bernstein states Noah felt his reading and writing skills were shaped somewhat by TAAS. My question here is if there is really anything wrong with this. No testing system is perfect. Is there a better one the school systems should use? Using a standardized system of testing is better than not using a system at all. I know people get upset that a snow question is asked of southerners but in the big picture, is it about the content of the question or the skills being assessed? Noah also states that he needed skills in critical thinking and related skills to succeed in college. I believe those skills are taught. There are many inferred questions on the reading comprehension part of the exam. Also, math subjects teach analytical thinking. By all means, literature teaches the most critical and analytical thinking of them all. I appreciate Noah’s willingness to share his story and Bernstein’s efforts to document it. I am an advocate for the educational system in its entirety, despite perceived faults. I believe it does what it is supposed to do – educate students.
Jaffe - The "Familia" approach is interesting because it incorporates both students and teacher in the writing process. Ultimately, it is ideal to be able to get feedback from groups of students in the class who can assist one another with each other's strengths and weaknesses. Some students are not open to peer input because of embarrassment of skills, shyness, or other. However, the totality of sharing what someone has written can be a bonding experience, even emotional. Encouraging attachments to your own piece of writing can be developed through cooperative learning, which is a point I believe Jaffe made.
I can totally understand what Anzaldua is saying about identity and the struggles that many people with competing languages, cultures, identities, etc. have to face. As an instructor, I am all for students holding onto their individuality. I do not expect that they should enter the academic world and be forced to learn the ways of the “Power” culture. (Here comes the dreaded “but.”) There is also the fact that I cannot change that I do not know Chinese, Korean, Russian, or even that much Spanish so I cannot encourage my students to write in their mother tongue. The “mother tongue” is a huge issue when it comes to postcolonialism and borderlands. Gloria Anzaldua and Sandra Cisneros are two examples of Latina writers who choose to embrace their cultures regardless of who is alienated. They feel that if someone wants to read their stories then the reader should be the one to make the effort to learn the language or make the translations. They may use Spanish, Spanglish, Slang-words, and even Aztec or Mayan words. I don’t think that students feel that they can do that. They don’t really have the right to say, “If you don’t like it – tough!” I have had conversations with some of them who write in their native language for their parents (or just because they can) when they are outside of school but they don’t express anger over being told they need to speak English at the university level. I think that is understood upon entering college.
It seems that the biggest issue (one that is addressed in Berstein’s article with Noah’s story) would be with students in K-12. Many times, those students do not have a choice in where they attend school. They are thrown into a classroom all day where they might not encounter anyone else who speaks their language. The university setting allows students the opportunity to socialize with others who might be from the same culture and can also help with the transition to English AND keep hold of the mother tongue. Perhaps we need to show students how to incorporate code-switching into their writing and also utilize “notes” at the end so that it becomes a learning process for the reader and writer. In Noah’s case, it was clear that he had all of these intelligent thoughts in his head but he did not have an outlet. He was, in essence, drowning in his mind.
As I read this, I kept thinking about an article we read in practicum by Fan Shen - "The Classroom and the Wider Culture: Identity as a Key to Learning English Composition" and I was remembering how Shen discussed that his English composition experience was not only about learning writing but also about learning an entirely new set of “rules” for this new identity that he was having to shape. I don’t think that some teachers take these things into consideration when thinking about students. Not all students are the same – yes, here is the “we need to get to know the students through personal writing” pitch. Some might express very important information in these personal essays and unlock a wealth of knowledge!
I don’t know much about ESL and I understand that there is only so much that we can do to help students with language differences but we also need to agree to try. As far as the other cultural differences, there has to be a way to allow students to incorporate or explore some aspect of their culture in a composition classroom – it will just take talk to find the right outlet.
The resolution states: “We affirm strongly that teachers must have the experiences and training that will enable them to respect diversity and uphold the right of students to their own language.”
I found this to be the most significant statement within the whole resolution. I hate when we start dealing with things that can’t be boiled down into simple binaries because it makes my head feel like it’s going to explode. I like answers, and I hate situations where there isn’t a clear cut answer, where there isn’t one trick that will work for everything. I chose this particular statement to focus on because it puts the responsibility on the teachers, rather than the students. It’s always hard for me because I grew up with my parents explaining “I don’t care how you talk around your friends, but you’re going to talk this way around me.” Sure, this was in reference to cussing and calling people “butt-heads,” but it feels like it should apply pretty much across the board. It’s the first experience most children have with the concept of audience awareness or the idea that you change your language to suit your company. Anzaldua would say that this is “being repressed,” but I don’t really feel that it is.
As such, these are the kind of frustrations I have to personally address while going into these discussions because it’s my easy answer to everything that I’ve developed over the years mostly out of a lack of wanting to think much. But back to the point, this resolution was passed in 1972 and addresses the fact that teachers need to be aware that their students are going to have different voices due to different upbringings, and that these unique voices shouldn’t necessarily be seen as hindering their ability to communicate (you know… as long as they’re somewhat readable). But the failure of this idea comes in the fact that we are expecting every teacher to have the ability to put her own opinions and predispositions aside and be accepting of students writing. This may not be a huge problem for a lot of us in our department, but a majority of people have a huge problem with things that don’t fit their little view of the world.
I guess I just feel like when I read stuff like this, it’s overly hopeful, like how I felt about Rose. These are all great ideas, but if they were really that practical, they’d be working, and we’d all be following them. We wouldn’t have problems with standardized testing or language repression, yadda yadda yadda. Obviously, there’s more to it than that, and I somehow feel like I’m expected to figure out what this missing puzzle piece is. I feel like I’m being presented with a conundrum and asked to solve it, and I get frustrated because I can’t. This is beyond me. I know it’s not really what’s being asked of me, I’m just supposed to be aware of what’s going on in discourse, but it really confuses me.
I see what Anzaldua is trying to say, but I only agree with her about half of the time. Obviously, she’s an extremist, but the more of her I have to read, the less I hate her. Anzaldua’s main argument (and main flaw I think) is that identity can only be reached through specific material components:
“For me food and certain smells are tied to my identity, to my homeland. Woodsmoke curling up to an immense blue sky; woodsmoke perfuming my grandmother’s clothes, her skin…” (337). “Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity – I am my language” (334).
This makes sense, but I fail to see how so much of her identity is decided by the things that she is used to. It seems like there is nothing particularly personal about her identity, and so I feel like she claims culture and identity to be one and the same, which I don’t really feel to be completely accurate. One of the problems that I always have with Anzaldua is that I see where she’s coming from, and I understand how she feels, but it’s a product of such a different time than I feel like my generation deals with. Anzaldua seems to me to be one of those who believe by asking her to speak English, we are asking her not to speak Spanish, which I never really feel is the case. I don’t want to just flat out say “when in Rome,” or “if I were going to move to Mexico I’d learn Spanish,” but there is a little bit of truth in that, right? Regardless of which stance you take, someone is being alienated. Audience, again, comes into question.
Other than arguing with the extremist sides of Anzaldua’s writing, the rest is just an attempt to enlighten those of us from backgrounds different than her own, and that’s the part that’s hard to see if one simply focuses on how radical Anzaldua is. There really isn’t anything radical about these sections of the essay, and it’s kind of interesting to see all the interplay between different forms and dialects of the Spanish language, even if I don’t understand what half of it means.
I’m having a hard time figuring out what I’m supposed to be getting out of this one, other than augmenting the belief (that we already have) that the system is tragically flawed. This reading focuses mostly on the problems that Noah had throughout schooling based on standardized testing. Noah realizes how many opportunities to learn English he’s losing, but there’s really nothing he can do other than strive to educate himself through reading and art. Noah explains, “If I didn’t go to college, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to express my feelings and nothing would change about my life” (420). Bernstein explains further that Noah had trouble in college because he didn’t understand the way it worked, which is the problem that a lot of “basic writers” have, of not being proficient with SAE and not understanding what is wanted of academic writing as opposed to the TAAS or TAKS based writing that had been the sole purpose of their schooling until that point. Bernstein also addresses the problem with standardized writing prompts that has become so exaggerated recently (by exaggerated I mean the whole “well, we can’t ask them to write about boats, because what if a kid lived his whole life in Arizona and doesn’t know what a boat is?” thing that keeps coming up). What happens if a student is actually well read, but has learned an alternative history as to how something happened, such as Noah with his reading of Howard Zinn’s version of Columbus’s journey? This can be tied back to the assertion by the CCCC that teachers need to be better prepared to be aware of student’s needs, but standardized testing doesn’t allow for this. Standardized testing would be the binary-opposition to allowing teachers to tailor to students’ specific needs, so where do we go from here?
Anzaldua This article means different things to me and my situations as well my students, whom I had read this in class last semester. It is discouraging to read how some people consistently think that every piece of writing in theory MUST contain some kind of distinct answer otherwise it is unsuitable and lacking in credibility. Gloria Anzaldua is a many things, as she very well lets us know. But is no way is she inadequate in her field, to her sex, or within her many cultures.
In “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” Anzaldua performs a ritual of determination. She is not going to give you answers because she does not know your questions. What she is doing is describing situations. She is telling stories or herself and others. From there, the reader makes a determination. One tragic lack in English and composition these days is we don’t see enough of ourselves in our writing. In telling these stories and situations, like the Puerto Rican and the Cuban talking about nosotras,different sexes, different mentalities interpret shock and thievery or sexuality in different ways. Feminists interpret situations differently than Marxists, and Sctructuralists look at things differently than New Critics. It is our right. Just like is Gloria’s right to express her disdain with some Chicanos for “copping out” (337). What a discussion we had on this in Etheridge’s class. I still don’t necessarily know how to react to it, I think because I am not sure what it means. Because I am a white woman, maybe I am not meant to know what it means. Maybe that is the point. It is meant for a different audience. Someone who is questioning their heritage maybe? Someone who is Mexican and American, but not sure which comes first? She is trying to make people think about themselves and their position, not trying to tell them what to do. Anzaldua is a woman with many identities, so many in fact, she questions even if she even has one she holds on to more ferociously more than the others. In culture you can do that, it is a natural struggle. Aspects of each culture, identities of each culture, hold solutions to social problems. Understanding the culture in order to uncover the solution is the difficult journey. It’s not like she is making up multiple identities in order to make herself look worldly. It’s not like she is telling people she is a lawyer when in fact she is really a paralegal. That would be misidentification, and therefore grounds for questioning not only her credibility, but her sanity.
The CCC article is an ongoing discussion. I have my ups and downs about English Only legislation. In total, I think English Only is elitist and not at all beneficial to a continually globalizing America. Again, something where the government needs to learn their boundaries. Anzaldua has so many identities, but people keep like English Only legislation try and strip those identities away to further traditionalize and homogenize an America that is bursting at its borders. Dialects are important for not only diversity, but for learning. However in an English class, my traditional sense does come out a bit. I did have an African American basketball player last semester who wrote like he talked. Instead of saying, “I talked with my grandmother yesterday on the phone about my basketball game,” he wrote, “I talk my grandmother yesterday on the phone my game.” He was not necessarily a basic writer, but because of his Chicago dialect someone who is reading it and does not know him would think he is. It is a touchy subject, in my opinion, to try and work with a dialect like his while at the same time teaching him how to write an academic paper. He did get a tutor (studio!) and did well in the class, but there were hints of the dialect in his writing even in PIII. But the thing was, that was how I knew it was him writing it and not having someone else do it for him. It has his touch. And because of that individuality, I knew he was trying very hard to improve his skills. If that dialect had been completely gone, I would have definitely thought he was cheating. Individuality is key, we just have to mold that individuality for different audiences.
In Jaffe, collaboration is the key component. In basic writing, this collaboration can be viewed as a learning experience related to identities. In my classes, I mix the international students with the native speakers of English for that reason (not the only one, but one). Some students have a harder time than others understanding the assignment, and working with the native speakers has been extremely helpful. In anonymous evaluations, the majority of the students loved working in small groups on the assignments. Getting feedback from their peers is empowering, as well, especially for the international students who are shy and can typically be withdrawn.
I think this was echoed a bit in Bernstein through Noah’s story. I wonder about my international students and how they are going to fair with standardized tests later on if they want to continue on to grad school in the US. Do they have to take the GRE? Standardized tests are such a huge problem. I am going to defer back to a previous journal entry about the Foreign Service exam’s language test, that actually does not test language, but the ability to learn a language. It does not take into consideration your ability to speak a language, nor does it even test if you KNOW a second or third language fluently. It is not a fair process, which is why the Foreign Service is hurting for people right now since only about 10 percent get through the written and oral exams each year. Another thing I would definitely look into is WHO is actually writing these tests. Dr. Jaime Mejia has done some excellent research on the administration and the lack of preparedness of the people who are preparing the new “testing procedures” that will be implemented in Texas once the TAKS is axed.