Defining basic writing can be difficult. For some people, basic writing is the ability to use written language in a way that enables them to function within the academic world. For others, it is the mastery of grammar, form, or any number of other technical features of writing that one might perceive as desirable. Still, for others it can simply be a new form of communication.
In class we watched an interview with Mike Rose in which he said, “Education is an invitation into a conversation.” I relate basic writing to this quote in that teaching basic writing is an invitation, on the teacher’s behalf, to the student, in the form of admittance into the academic conversation. During the interview Rose pointed out that students who feel as though they do not belong or are in some way inadequate tend to get frustrated and give up on education. Basic writing skills can give a student the invitation or competency needed to join in the education conversation.
In The Discovery of Competency, authors Kutz, Groden and Zamel point out that lamentations of teachers of basic writing often include: “‘they can’t think,’ ‘they can’t write,” or ‘they don’t know how to set standards’” ( 6). However, these lamentations are incorrect because the students can think, write, and set standards; they just haven’t developed their writing skills to the point of knowing and trusting their unique writing processes(15).
The development of writing skills and processes as well as trust in those processes is what makes basic writing so important. When the enormous pressure of perfection and correctness is taken away from students they will ultimately find a writing process that works for them and begin to develop into a more confident writer. In a sense, they will feel as though they have been invited into the conversation of education because they now possess the most basic ability to use written communication in a way which allows them to function academically.
Basic writing is a foundation education in which students are given the opportunity to gain access to the writing skills needed for conversation; it is the combination of necessary writing elements into a product that is most valuable to the student.