Rose defines a basic writer as:

  • (96) labeling of students' abilities and the expectations that these labels have; a way to look at them and define them
  • (125, 128) internalization of labels and its negative effect on a student's self-esteem
  • (7) they don't meet some academic standard; underprepared students
  • (58) they lack a set of tools to approach academic discourse
  • (142) lacking fluency with the writing process
  • deficit of experience to build on, from
  • (102) in need of one-on-one interaction and immediate feedback (who isn't?)
  • (193) they need to use writing as a way to learn - not just a product to create (again, who doesn't?)
  • need positive reinforcement along with guidance/scaffolding
  • often get neglected by their teachers; pushing students with "problems" to the fringes for someone else to solve
  • can come from less stable environments where education is not directly connected to their home lives (not valued, far removed)
  • associated with lower class, impoverished areas
  • alienated, pushed to the fringe; shut-off
  • can be alienated from the academic community and later their own home community; double alienation
  • (110) their performance doesn't always align (usually exceeds) the expectations that are placed on them
  • mindset of the unattainable - something that other people do
  • paralyzing fear of failure
  • are stuck in a cycle of self-defeat (I haven't been able to do this in the past, I cannot do it now.)
  • are more capable than their label belies

The 1960s - The Rumblings

Who are "basic writers" and how are they being defined?

  • 1874 Harvard's written entrance exam
  • 1885 Freshman Composition at Harvard (Shor, p. 30) - the literacy crisis
  • the term "basic writer" hadn't been created yet, but...
  • "remedients," "cultural deficits" (Shor, p. 40)
  • in an academic limbo - "a no-credit curricular reservation" (Shor, p. 40)
  • "wrong color, wrong class, too dark and too low-income to get the same access to 4-year campuses and degrees enjoyed by an elite prior to 1970" (Shor, p. 40)
  • the 1960s brought uncertainty to the American system, the status quo (Shor, p. 39)
  • a dramatic increase in enrollment (BW, p. 4) open admissions at CUNY
  • below the standard set prior to open admissions standard and, therefore, "under-prepared"
  • literacy was narrowly defined to the academy (Shaughnessy fought against this with her students)
  • BW as a frontier, something that had never been dealt with before
  • some viewed remediation as a lowering of the standards of the university

Who are the scholars/teachers and major articles published?

Mina Shaughnessy

  • began working at CUNY in April 1976
  • she lacked a PhD?
  • began work with the SEEK Program - Search for Education, Elevation, and Knowledge for under-prepared college students
  • no articles published in the 1960s

Mainstreaming Model

  • puts all students into composition (English 1301) - the same class
    • the benefit of practice through immersion
    • the individual's use of the Writing Center and other tutoring resources
  • "elimination of the 'outsider' status of a segment of the student population" (Lalicker 37).
    • elimination of the Basic Writer
  • a united community


  • can leave some students overwhelmed
  • instructor-stress; mainstreaming demands that the instructor is willing to diagnose individuals and work with them in one-on-one meetings while also attending to the students who need to be challenged
  • individual factors - students with a bad attitude or who are resentful of others
  • lowered standards are a possibility


  • if a student does not earn the minimum score in math, reading, or writing, he/she will be labeled TSI liable
    • Texas Success Initiative
  • reading and math - remedial and developmental courses
  • writing - mainstream/studio model
    • enrolled in English 1301
    • using tutoring resources and the Writing Center to help themselves

Haswell - Chapter 7 Solecisms: Mistakes and Errors

Mistake and Error - What is the difference?

  • Mistakes are unsystematic; such as a stumble in haste, distraction, faulty memory, misunderstanding of the assignment
  • Errors are systematic; suggest a transitional competence - they are trying to correctly make use of what they have learned in a systematic way (which might not be "correct")
    • This distinction is crucial to writing instruction because if you lump mistakes and errors into the same category when assessing or working with your student, he/she may draw the wrong conclusions (interpretation) about their learning experience/process/development.
    • It is important to encourage student growth and allow them the opportunity to learn without fear of rejection.
    • This approach to mistakes and errors allows students to gain ground in writing by focusing on their learning rather than their surface mistakes.
    • Regression may occur when learning new concepts (197)
    • Transformative types
  • What is a solecism?
    • something perceived as a grammatical mistake or absurdity, or even a simply non-standard usage (wiki)
    • non-standard; a violation in writing

Haswell states that the most common formal solecisms in student writing are grammatical (193)

  • surface errors
  • misspellings
  • "Removal of blunders will better writing" (194).
  • "The writer errs, the errors are corrected, the result is a better essay and maybe a better writer" (194).

The Necker Cube - viewers cannot see both perspectives at once (192)

  • the matters of language
  • matters of communication

If you want to help students "gain ground in writing," teachers must "absent themselves from felicity awhile and deliberately flip the Necker cube of solecism from its correctness face to its learning face" (205).

  • Haswell is arguing that teachers should focus less on grammatical or surface error and focus more on content and communication.
    • Students must also understand that they can communicate without fear of "loss of face" (205).
    • Teachers must "make the student aware that mistakes and errors are secondary, and keep them that way" (205).

As a teacher of English, you teach Standard American English. How can these texts inform your teaching?

  • Conscious of an individual's right to their own language
    • Anzaldua - "Attacks on one's form of expression with the intent to censor are a violation of the First Amendment" (302).
    • Jordan - valuing the of White English when Black English (and other forms of English) are commonly used as a means of communication among large (and small) populations of people
      • This valuing devalues other forms of language - even legitimate languages!
  • As teachers, we must be cognizant of the various backgrounds our students come from - this includes their languages/literacies
    • "We need to ask ourselves whether our rejection of students who do not adopt the dialect most familiar to us is based on any real merit in our dialect or whether we are actually rejecting the students themselves, rejecting them because of their racial, social, and cultural origins" (CCCC Statement 3).
    • Our preference of/elevation of/valuing of Standard American English is a continuation of power structures
    • It is also the only option to teach if we want our students to be able to communicate and question the dominant discourses of society
  • Teaching students to be aware of their multiple languages; to keep them, maintain them, and value them
    • Teaching students to think rhetorically - when to use which languages
    • Teach students that picking on someone's language is the same as picking on someone's identity - zeroing out language differences is essentially attacking individuals, their culture, their identity - their right to communicate and exist

In what ways in the information we've discussed about American English true of all languages?

  • All languages have different dialects to suit different populations of people separated by region, race, ethnic, religious, etc. differences.
    • These dialects are situated in a hierarchy - some forms are valued more than others in certain situations
    • Formal varieties, informal varieties - urban areas vs. rural areas
    • Argument of access, social status, economic/political background
  • Jordan (313) does mention that in India and Nicaragua, varieties of the standard language form are generally accepted in society

Lastly, what is the responsibility of the English teacher?

To society?

  • Creating literate students
  • To enable students to communicate effectively through writing
  • To enable students to fully (critically) participate in society
  • To educate students on the systems that determine which languages/forms are valued in society and what political processes these systems are connected to
    • Where they are in this system - empower them
  • Difference between what the general public THINKS it wants (ignorance) vs. what linguistic theory proves is beneficial

To his/her students?

  • The teacher has to respect the students as individuals
    • This includes their language - their cultural literacy
  • The teacher has to teach the students academic discourse - how to communicate effectively in this community
    • This includes Standard American English - the argument that they must learn this in order to communicate and be heard/respected in this academic community
    • Teaching them that there are different forms of usage for different situations - rhetorical elements of writing (audience, rhetor, exigence, context/constraints)
  • The teacher needs to stay abreast of the current research/pedagogy in this field

To this institution?

  • What the institution needs - as a societal system
    • Gatekeepers?
    • What is being asked of you as an educator is embedded in other systems - more complex
  • What the institution wants - in a broad way (as an academic institution)
  • Producing students who can succeed in the professional world
    • It would reflect poorly on the university if it created underprepared students/illiterate students
  • Issue of the divide between the academic world/professional world
    • Even if the whole academic world changed their attitudes toward using/respecting multiple languages/discourses, the professional world may continue to remain unchanged

To his/her colleagues?

  • Maintaining respect from your professional peers
  • Issue of (perceived) lower standards
  • Changing the status quo

Writers in the Sky

1. Create a writing assignment that requires students to think / write about their reading processes.

Assignment Read these two short pieces of writing on similar topics and write a response answering the following questions:

  • What is YOUR interpretation of the author's purpose in each of these pieces of writing?
  • Who do you think the audience for each of these pieces of writing is?
  • How do these pieces of writing connect to what YOU already know?
  • Discuss which piece was easier for you to understand - WHY?
  • How did you handle difficulties in comprehension? Did you look words up? Use context cues?