Sunday, April 1, 2007

Letters from Students

So far, we have read two letters from students to teachers. On was presented last week as a persuasive letter to change a grade which had yet to be determined, and the other is described by David Bartholomae in "The Tidy House: Basic Writing in the American Curriculum" (LE-172). To me, they both represent a culture gap between the home and academic identities. This idea has been described in previous chapters. There is a definite difficulty in adjusting to college life. I've blogged about my views on the differences of college and home life before, so I won't go in to much detail. But, these two letters just show how difficult it is to adjust to being outside of the comfort (home) zone. One letter represents those who are actually trying to understand how this whole "academic thing" works, while the other represents a rejection of the entire academic system. Mina Shaughnessy hints that students reject writing because so many errors are pointed out to them. Errors are the same as failure, so they believe they are failures as writers and should stop doing something at which they consistently fail (7). Though the two letters are radically different, I wonder if both problems could be solved (or, at least lessened) by having a class which focuses on the differences in expectations and demeanor between home and academic life. Now, we all took the IDS 150 course, which showed us where the library was and how we should go see our football games. But, I like the idea that someone brought up in class about their instructor telling the students that they are now "scholars." It is okay to say an opinion as long as it is backed-up by texts and evidence. This would no doubt boost the confidence of students to nearly narcissistic (yes, misspelled) levels! I mean, the students are in an alien atmosphere, and it is difficult to understand that they have to think differently, now. They can't keep one foot at home and one foot in academia, their habits have to shift altogether. Some, as is evident in the letter we read in class last week, have trouble with the fact that they will have to learn things which will challenge their beliefs and values. Of course, at home, everyone you meet agrees with you, so it comes as quite a shock when people in academia present a differing view. In academics, this leads to academic discourse, where "academic discourse" could lead to a bar fight at home. But, that's life.

4 comments:

kuertenccool said...

Before I've never connected the academic Basic writing with the home identity infuence, because in China I seldom heard about this issue, so right now I got to know more and more about the importance.And I agree with your point of telling the students they've already been the "scholars" although it's more like a great encouragement than the objective reality."People will become whom that others expect them to become."

S00nerfan1 said...

I think you are exactly right when you question how the student must think "how this whole ""academic thing"" works." I've brought the same assumption up in class when I refer back to high school students entering a new environment that they are unfamiliar with, but we expect so much from them.

Viking Girl said...

I like the idea that you should tell your students that they are scholars, but it seems a little strange to me that we would have to remind them that they are, in fact, scholars. What is it that they think 13 years of elementary, middle and high school were about? However, if you are placed in a situation where your values are tested you mght feel personally atacked as was the "uncomfortable" letter writer. It is easy to for get that you can have different opinions and when you do there is nothing wrong, its just another way to look at something.

scoutnell7 said...

I agree about how it is important to keep in mind the distance of home and college environs for basic writing students. Most students are probably not used to writing as much as they will be expected to in college. It is a good start to tell the students of their "scholar" status, in hopes that they will put on their thinking caps.