Friday, February 16, 2007

College Acculturation

In her article “Conflict and Struggle,” Min-zhan Lu talks about some of the ways in which teachers might view basic writers and help them develop into academic writers. While each theory has good points, there are also places where each can be seen as lacking.

For example, in the section about acculturation Lu relates the experiences of basic writing teachers’ feelings of “being in but not of the English profession” (138, LE) to those of the students they were teaching. The students were in academia, but not of academia. Herein lies the debate of how to assimilate the students into academia. Lu overviews a few theories about assimilation which range from moving students form “orality” to “literacy”(141) to the idea that a student’s anxiety about writing will go away over time as the student is assimilated to the world of academia (141).

Moving from “orality” to literacy is a great idea, if the student has an academic oral base. The idea assumes that the transition is easy and leaves out the possibility that the student has no academic “oral” base. Where, then, do we begin the transition? Can we as teachers teach an oral base before we begin an academic literacy base?

Also the idea that the anxiety over academic writing subsides after the students has made the transition is fair, but not completely correct. Academic writing can be scary even after the transition is “finished.” Several students as far up as PhD candidates and professors still worry and stress over their writing, the anxiety is still there and these people are considered far beyond the days of basic writing. It seems absurd to dismiss anxiety as “passing” while “students get comfortably settled in the new community and sever or diminish their ties with the old” (142). How then does this account for the anxiety of non-basic writers who are well within the “community of academia”? When and where is the line set for assimilation?

While I understand that Lu does not necessarily agree with these theories, and adds some suggestions of her own, it seems as though Lu is still trying to come up with better strategies then assimilation or accommodation as she looks into the future of her craft.