On the Basic Writing: Students’ Perspectives by Valerie Kinloch, she defended the students’ rights. I felt connected to this quote “Some students, for instance, may have graduated from under-funded inner-city or rural high schools; other students maybe returning to school after several years away and need extra support as they begin college. (39) I have had all these obstacles but continue to overcome them. I coming from the era of 60’s and 70’s, there was only one background and it was the white and elite. But after that time, the academia was slammed with a cultural shock with Blacks, Browns, women, and other historically marginalized groups. (47) According to Anzaldúa, they all came with their own “mother tongue” into the classroom. As Kinlock says, “I explained the students that there are many ways of saying the same thing; the significance of which expressive form to use depends on defining the audience and the context. (52) That is what Gloria Anzaldúa did and the academia did not approve of it. She was ahead of her time. What I have realized in this article is that there are different ways of language but in order to be in college, in the English writing classes, we have to learn the academic English.
In the Engaging Difference by Gloria Anzaldúa, the article was a little too much. Even though I am a Mexican, Mexican-American, Chicana, Tex-Mex, Latina, Anzaldúa writing upsets me because I can not read much Spanish. She writes Spanish words in her English article. I know very limited Spanish reading and I can imagine how others feel not understanding some parts in the article. I read where she and “other Chicano students were required to take two speech classes. Their purpose: to get rid of our accents. (330) I did not know that was the reason for taking speech classes. I was a victim of that when in elementary school and did not know why I was placed in speech classes. They wanted to take out the Mexican out of me. With this article, I realized how many languages are been used in the Mexican’s culture. I speak (am trying) to speak Standard English, working hard in academic English, Working-class and slang English, Chicano Spanish and Tex-Mex. All this time, I did not know that I was speaking Chicano Spanish. Other Spanish speaking individuals have told me that “we speak poor Spanish.” (334) Now, I know why they said that. I did not like reading about when Anzaldúa was told “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) Imagine how times have changed and will continue to change. With different perceptive going into the college world, the curriculum has to change.
I like the quote “We call ourselves Mexican-American to signify we are neither Mexican nor American, but more the noun “American” than the adjective “Mexican” (and when copping out). (338) I feel the same way. I do not fit completely Mexican or completely American. I feel right in the middle creating a new culture. I am brown, not fitting with Mexico’s culture. And been brown, I am not fitting with the white’s culture. Then this makes me think about the adjective word “Mexican.” Who am I? On “-who we were, what we were, how we had evolved. We began to get glimpses of what we might eventually become. (338) I have created a new inspiring culture. Have I become Gloria Anzaldúa Jr? With all this, the cultural is shifting. In concluding, I see how Kinloch, Green, and Maher talked about the “mother tongue.” According to Kinloch, “I explained to students that there are many ways of saying the same thing: the significance of which expressive form to use depends on defining the audience and the context. (52) There is a place for the different kinds of language. It depends where you are at and with whom.
ENGL 5361--Response Jan 30
From Kinloch’s “Pedagogical Strategies” and Anzaldua’s “…Wild Tongue”
Everyone always wants “rights”: Blacks, Whites, Chicanos, Asians, gay, poor, rich, overweight, short, students, teachers, young, old, spillers of hot coffee. Victims of war, natural disaster or disease want someone to make it right. A congressman wants the right to sit during the pledge because he doesn’t like a policy. A handicapped professional golfer wants the right to ride in a cart on the tour. Does it ever occur to anyone, to say just once, we understand but you have to meet the requirements? Are we so afraid to tell someone no? “I’m sorry, you can enjoy a full life and play golf all you want, but not on the tour, because it’s the rule.” “I’m sorry you don’t like the policy, congressman, but get your ass up out of respect to the country and those who died defending it?” I would like to play basketball in the WNBA. It didn’t exist when I was young and good enough. So I think they should let me play now. It’s age discrimination. It’s my right to play.
That’s the kind of thing I kept thinking as I read the articles for the week. Kinloch’s students’ resolution was amusing. If it makes everyone feel better and fosters a better classroom atmosphere, which enhances learning, sure, by all means adopt a resolution. But really, do students have those “rights”? “Rights” are not the same as common sense classroom courtesy and mutual respect. “Humanity tells us that we should allow every person the dignity of his or her own way of talking.” Sure we should, but in an academic setting, we don’t have to. It’s a choice we make. It may be the respectful and compassionate choice – I can’t imagine disparaging my students or showing favoritism based on dialect, home life, economic situations, or moral belief systems that may be different than mine. But the question must be asked, throughout this entire debate, for what purpose will the student be writing? What one hopes to accomplish will dictate how he will speak or write (or teach) – not “rights.” As teachers we must not do our students a disservice in the name of equality, affirmative action, or “social location.”
Doesn’t a lot of this belong in a cultural class, with Sacred Stories and other books about how language and stories and myths speak to culture, instead of in a basic writing American English class? Did we adopt all this language learning and basic learner rhetoric so we could water down the quality or difficulty of the curriculum so more students in our melting pot can pass? I don’t have a lot of experience with this. I enjoyed the “Wild Tongue” article but am not even sure what it has to do with American public education. As teachers, we should accept students where they are and help them reach academic goals – theirs, and by the very nature of public education, ours. Sometimes that may squash a perceived “right,” but in the end, I hope if I show up to the WNBA tryout, someone will tell me no.
Butch's Response// January 30 response to Anzaldua & Kinloch's readings//
I’ll begin this response by addressing Gloria Anzaldua’s essay because I found it most insightful with respect to the creation of a language and its cultural and social consequences. Having been born and raised in South Texas as a Mexican American during the 1950s and 60s, I view the language of her discourse as being akin to putting on an old, comfortable coat that I have not worn in a while. Her reference to “Chicano Spanish” being linguistically and regionally diverse are true and I have been witness to that contention while serving as a Marine halfway around the world and one who always sought out other Tejano Marines to share our regional Chicano dialect and culture. The uniqueness of her discourse on what she calls Chicano Spanish and what today is called Tejano can be best illustrated with one of the phrases she uses, which is ponte águila that means to watch out (332). In my hometown of Beeville 60 miles northwest of Corpus Christi, our dialectical phrase for watch out is ponte alálva while in Bishop some 30 miles south of Corpus Christi Tejanos say ponte trucha and 25 miles from there in Alice the phrase is ponte clavo. I agree with Anzaldua when she posits that one must take pride in one’s language and celebrate its diversity, but such a language must be used among those who understand and enjoy its cultural uniqueness or risk sounding like a fool. Having lived and worked on the border in Laredo as a news reporter, I covered numerous news events where the Mexican national press was present. After covering my first press conference in Nuevo Laredo I realized that I was going to have to learn not only the proper way to speak and write in Spanish, but I was also going to have to learn the political as well as journalism jargon. This point was reemphasized repeatedly when I’d hear a Chicano reporter ask questions while using his Tejano dialect and raising smirks and snickers from the press corps. The Tejano dialect has gained literary acceptance in Chicano literature and for that I am glad because it serves as a medium to highlight and preserve this regional language and its culture. Meanwhile, Kinloch’s article was extremely informative when it comes to culture and language in the classroom, and because we have such conditions at this university that is an Hispanic Serving Institution. I enjoyed the various student perspectives that were noted in this article, but by the same token I would have liked to have read about the reaction from those Anglos students and how they view this issue and in turn, how Kinloch views this aspect. The student’s resolution concerning their participation in the academic community was admirable and it covered some very interesting points that serves to empower their writing. I found the fourth point in their resolution to be the most important one as it expresses an honest desire to adopt language diversity as a way of preparing themselves for other diversities that exist out in the big world of reality. Most important is the reiteration of their contention that these students adopting this document will not believe that they are linguistically inferior to any other student. The author’s own strategies for teaching in culturally diverse classrooms are also promising and I found the suggestions both innovative, like point number four that uses today’s music as a medium for recognizing differences between East and West coast language styles.
I agree with Kinloch in several respects: First, a simple accent can harm a person. I've known people, really smart people who have met all qualifications for a job, but have been rejected because of their "Mexican accent." Minh's teacher who said, "You know, Minh, if you want to one day live in power, then you'll have to work on downplaying your accent" (41), is right. I didn't necessarily see Minh's teacher as a bad teacher for saying that, but rather as honest. We can't be too ideal and have students believe that all they need for survival in America is their language.
So Kinloch goes on to say that students have the right to use their language in the classroom, and I think that's great, but students do need to be told the truth as well. Yes, language is identity, but the "right" identity in America is key to success. I am glad that there are teachers such as Kinloch who address language issues out in the open. Students should feel comfortable speaking their language within the classroom, but as I said, they cannot be denied the truth which is that Standard English will always be viewed as superior by those in power (those who dominate the workforce).
I think Kinloch addresses the language issue appropriately: "Diversity of dialects will not degrade language nor hasten deletorious changes" (46). I think students need to be assured that learning a different language (the academic, standard English) does not mean that they are betraying their primary dialect but instead learning another one that is appropriate for different settings.
The Anzaldua reading sort of reaffirmed the learning and practicing of multiple languages. I believe Anzaldua went through this identity crisis Kinloch described. However, she realized also that knowing and speaking different languages and dialects is necessary for survival.
"Pocho, cultural traitor, you're speaking the oppressor's language by speaking English" (331) is indeed the attitude some have towards speaking Standard English. It is important for teachers to realize that this belief may be the reasoning behind students in the basic writing classroom that refuse to write "academically." To deal with this, I would use Kinloch's approach: Openly talk about different dialects, assuring students that writing "academically" does not mean that are acting as traitors.
Erica Rangel's Responses to Kinloch and Anzaldua
This is going to sound totally off topic, but I have a point--just go with me. I was watching America's Next Top Model once, and there was an African American girl on who was from New Orleans. Beautiful girl, but she couldn't speak English "correctly." As they kept telling her, if she really wanted to become a successful model, she had to learn how to speak without her accent. Ah! So when I was reading Valerie Kinloch's article, and I read what Minh was talking about, "if you want to one day live in power, then you'll have to work on downplaying your accent..." something in me totally clicked. People don't neccessarily have to write the way they talk. It isn't as if I speak academically all the time, and to all you highbrows out there, well I'm not talking to you.
In any case, I liked the idea that a basic writing class is supposed to be welcoming. It is supposed to be democratic. If there is a certain English that we are all supposed to be speaking, doesn't that also go with the model that there is a certain magic formula of writing? Doesn't that completely go against freedom and education and all that stuff? I think it's important for students to be exposed to very different people, or else I think they are having a very sheltered education. Education is experience. I'm not saying it has to be all "hard knock life" but we each see the world differently, and we communicate our ideas differently.
I have always been interested in the silence that seems to follow when classses talk about language and class issues. In fact, what is the best way to go about this? don't we need to embrace the differences? I think that more attention needs to be paid to the "reality" in each separate classroom. It won't always be the same dynamics, but in a sense, we have to roll with the punches. I think that students, and I am trying to do this in seminar, need to be trained to read the politics of language and understand that bias and class are inherently in everything that we do. We are inately opinionated, and their opinion is no less important than anyone else's. I guess this goes back to assimilation. to a certain point, education played the role of assimilator, but it doesn't have to be that way all the time, in fact, if anything, it should be that we as instructors have to get over it, and let our students do the same thing. I really connected to the ideas that hey had to stimulate discussion on language. I'm a sucker for popular songs. Music is supposed to be a very communal language. I want to know of they think it really is.
Anzaldua's article was cool in the sense that I could relate. There isn't a standard form of spanish, so what is a basic writer in mexico like? Education cannot be monolingual. I think that's the bottom line. If we try to make their experiences into something they aren't, then the only thing that we have is a one voiced community in respect to the students.
Pedagogy of the Possessed
--Appropriating Identities in the Name of Empowerment
I have mixed feelings about these readings. If I read them one way, they seem inspiring and liberating; read differently, the depiction of “empowerment” and the appropriation of language the readings themselves represent are frustrating and disappointing.
Kinloch’s vignette and her description of what the students say, do, and mean (!) seem to me like another variation of the heroic teacher bravely leading the students towards an epiphany that somehow solves all the problems and answers all the questions. What bothers me is the way the students appear to follow the “empowerment script” defined by the teacher; the discussions and the class may have been positive experiences for the students, but we are not allowed to find out. We only get to read them as Kinloch writes them, in a suspiciously 4C-able manner:
“This type of engagement, whereby teachers are embracing the politics of language identity and students are sharing their perspectives on language diversity, represents a vital intersection of Nino’s interpretive attitude, Jordan’s legitimization of black English and languages, and the adoption of the Students’ Right resolution: the availability of a public discourse to talk about educational and political concerns is often absent shared democratic values when groups of people do not participate in evaluating and reimagining the possibilities of our commitments.” (Kinloch, p. 43)
The buzzwords are all there: “engagement,” “politics of language identity,” “diversity,” “vital intersection,” “interpretive attitude,” “legitimization,” the hooks title, “public discourse.” (The availability…is often absent?) Rereading Kinloch, I see the students and their identities being used a placeholders or mouthpieces. Kinloch claims to take responsibility for the ways in which her teaching affects student identities (43), yet she also acknowledges that her own experience and perception sets the agenda for the writing (?) course:
“The struggles of my students to negotiate indicate my lifelong struggle to work at dismantling the social and political dimensions of power, politics, and literacy evident in the larger society (this is a lifelong struggle, indeed). My strategies, then, are influenced by my interpretive attitude (see Nino) to make public the very realities and struggles of students as they become comfortable with their academic identities.” (Kinloch, p. 50)
Is this a “rights rhetoric”? If the words and actions of the students are read and rewritten by the teacher/liberator, if the students become signifiers, how does this empower them? Is the goal of a writing class
“to repudiate the inequities of social class, language abuse, and racism. Let us affirm the rights of students to their own language by affirming the practices they bring into classrooms as they enhance their critical thinking, reading, writing, and performing skills”? (Kinloch, p. 53)
Anzaldua’s powerful and wonderfully written “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” is sanitized by Bernstein’s introduction. What could have threatened and challenged is appropriated by the Voice of Reason: “by demonstrating the interconnections of language and culture, the writers in this chapter document the persistence of racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, and the challenges of working for social justice and engaging difference through teaching and writing. In an excerpt from her groundbreaking book Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, Chican-tejana lesbian feminist poet, fiction writer, and teacher Gloria Anzaldua reflects on coming of age in the borderlands of the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas, and the inseparable intersections of language and culture” (Bernstein, p. 328). Oh, so that’s what Anzaldua is doing…and I thought she was trying to talk to me/us, trying to make me rethink who I am, trying to get me to take her and myself seriously as human beings. Thank goodness she was just “demonstrating interconnections” and not actually doing something real or something I would have to actually listen or respond to… And thanks also for providing all those handy labels that will allow me to put her in a category, “understand” her, and thus own her. “Wild tongues can’t be tamed, they can only be cut out” (Anzaldua, 330). Another option is to appropriate a person’s identity and make them say what you want to hear.
Valerie Kinloch from “Revisiting the Promise of Students’ Right to Their Own Language”
While reading about Kinloch’s students in “Classroom vignette 3,” I couldn’t help but wonder what class she was teaching and how she achieved such a high level of participation. Maybe I’m just a bit closed-minded because of my experiences with first-year students, but the class discussions that she recited, as well as the students’ involvement to the point that they were bringing in outside material, was just mind-boggling to me. I want to be Kinloch and achieve that kind of success in my classroom. It almost makes me question whether her recounting of the events is accurate.
I felt that many of the things the students said in her class were very similar to the articles that we have read previously but with a slightly different focus. We’ve been reading that “basic writers aren’t basic thinkers,” and I think that’s what the students are trying to say about their language: “just because I don’t speak Standard English, or because I have an accent, that shouldn’t be an indication that I am not intelligent, and it shouldn’t prevent me from achieving my full potential.”
One question that was constantly in the back of my mind when reading this is that although we are trying to “affirm the rights of students to their own language,” aren’t we also teaching them to abandon their voice and write a standard academic essay? By emphasizing voice, or using an expressivist theory to teach writing, some would say that at the university level we are doing our students a disservice because other professors value quality of writing (by academic/Standard English guidelines) rather than voice. I am an expressivist, but I am also fearful of using this theory to teach composition because if we pass students who code-switch or write non-standard essays, although they are more comfortable with their voice and their writing, they might also be at a disadvantage due to the requirements of other professors.
Gloria Anzaldua “How to Tame a Wild Tongue”
I have read Anzaldua many times, and one thing that I love about her argument is the history and personal narratives that she incorporates. I think the most important part of her argument, and the part that relates most to teaching writers, is getting the students to realize that their personal experiences and their voice is just as important as the ability to write academic essays. I think most students don’t realize that their personal experiences will actually help them—if they are passionate about what they are writing, the writing is easier as is the research. Creating a personal involvement is crucial to the students’ opinion of writing itself, so why not use personal writing as a writing technique?
I like the ideas behind Valerie Kinloch’s article “From Revisiting the Promise of Students’ Right to Their Own Language: Pedagogical Strategies” because instead of forcing the curriculum on the students, she allowed the students to shape the curriculum based on their needs and interests. I also like the strategies that she lists, which often bring other language varieties (not just academic language) into the classroom. In turn this could demystify academic language, as students consider the conventions of each in relation to one another. It reminds me of an article I read last semester that I now can’t find (so I am not sure why I am mentioning it). But I will find it and link it here later.
However, reading this piece, I felt very much like I was watching another Michelle Pfieffer - Hillary Swank – Empower the students – Everyone is engaged – And loving the learning – movies. It is the same script. And I sometimes wonder how helpful that is when the main message seems to be that each situation is different and you have to adjust for your location and even your individual class in order to make things work.
It is not that I disagree with Kinloch, it is just that I dislike the way she (and others) get their points across by telling class stories that appear to follow this same script. And I wonder how much of the situation is changed to fit the script. For example, Minh is quoted several times as speaking something that translates to six or seven lines. She is even quoted as quoting her old high school teacher. Did Kinloch record her saying these things, or ask her to reconstruct them in writing, or did she just take really good notes of her students’ responses in class? It seems a bit contrived to me.
In addition, I wonder what reading account after account of engaged active learners is going to do for the teacher who gets the class that doesn’t bring in supplemental bell hooks articles voluntarily. It is great that things worked out so well for these teachers, but what about the rest of the classrooms?
I used Anzaldua's article as a basis for a lesson plan in my two 1302 classes. They went very differently in each class. I assigned Anzaldua's poem, "Borderlands," as a text for my students to do a rhetorical analysis on in preparation for their project document in portfolio one. Their assignment includes looking rhetoric from an activist movement, and I wanted them to start thinking of the different kinds of genres that can be used in/as a movement. I chose Anzaldua's poem because of the outsider-aspect of the piece, both in the confusion represented in the poem, and the potential confusion of those who do not know Spanglish. (Can we say highly intentional rhetoric?) As the intro into the article states: "She writes in 'Spaniglish,' a combination of Spanish and English, both to help the reader understand the rich cultural conditions of he borderlands and to demonstrate to Anglo and non-Spanish speaking readers what it means to be the "other" - outside of so-called mainstream language and culture" (329). My students definately picked up on that aspect of the poem.
For the most part, the students seemed to get the assignment. I saw a lot of really great dialogue develop from the discussion of the poem. This was noteable, because it's often hard to get a student-based dialogue running in my comp classes, as hard as I try. It sometimes makes me jealous of seminar. The majority of my students at Hispanic and/or have lived in South Texas, so they seemed to really "get" the play Anzaldua did with language. We talked as a whole class about the impact this had on the poem. Some felt validated by it, and others felt really confused. One student threw up his arms and said that he just didn't get it. We all had to look up one or two words. Others felt, like Marissa*, that even as Hispanic students, the poem did not represent their experiences. Others did.
Omar was the most truly interested individual in my second class. It is normally a quite class anyway, but that night they were particulary quite. Omar seemed to connect with the multiple identities and languages represented in the poem. He openly talked about being punished, and seeing friends be punished, for speaking Spanish or Spanglish in school and at recess. He talked about the realities the poem represented in his own life. (Because I am writing this in retrospect I can say this.) Since that lesson, he's seemed more interested in class. He's more willing to discuss in class, initiate discussion, and talk with me after class. I don't know if it was that poem in particular, but there was a change in his classroom attitude after that lesson. (Don't get me wrong, his attitude was by no means negative before hand, it just opened up more.)
I do not think I marginalized my students by bringing a poem written by a Chicana author. I did not walk in the class and say, "Here! I have a poem written by a Chicana author! I want you all to share your feelings about the poem and tell me about when you've been marginalized yourselves!" Instead we did something with the piece. We did a rhetorical analysis together to model what they would be doing in their papers. Out of that the students developed their own rich discourse about the issues addressed in the poems and how they related to their own lives. Minh, one of Valerie Kinloch's students stated that "students can easily be exposed to others and can feel so uncomfortable if the teacher does not provide the space and time for students to talk about their feelings and hear different reactions from other people in the classroom." I would like to think that I provided this for my students in a way that was not forced upon them. I also tried to fufill "[bell] hooks's implication that people need to talk about class distinctions by using language" (42).
- denotes that student names have been changed.