I really enjoyed chatting with Amie Wolf on Monday, however one of her answers to a question that seemed very poignant. When we asked what was her biggest problem in teaching BW, she responded that people have negative perceptions of the basic writing courses. Since she is at a largely athletic school, people seem to think that the program is strictly for athletes.
It struck me as odd that people would still see athletes as being “dumb”. It’s almost laughable that we create a dichotomy of having a healthy mind OR a healthy body. People can and do have both, but I think we tend to think of college life in terms of absolute, you either spend all your time studying or all your time playing a sport, period. It was also very interesting to me that she decided to talk to her students early on in the semester about the fact that they are not “dumb” but perhaps just need extra help, but it doesn’t help when tutors are outright calling the students stupid.
I almost can’t imagine how it must have felt to be a student in her class the day of the meltdown over the perceptions of how others see basic writers. However, I think there is light at the end of the tunnel. If the students are allowed to choose to go into that class, then they understand, recognize and are trying to correct the things that could possibly hold them back. That is a lot more than I can say for most first year students. These students (the basic writers) are the true learners. They have missed a step somewhere along the way and are willing to go back and lean the skills they need regardless (however sensitive to them they may be) of other’s perceptions. That in itself takes more courage than anything.
I commend the basic writing students for having the courage and the strength to attend a class that makes them feel badly in order to become something they desire. I commend Ms. Wolf as well for fighting stereotypes and giving her students confidence. I think that by letting her students know “they are intelligent people and that they just need to work on expressing that intelligence to others” is brilliant. Because EVERY scholar, whether basic writer of not still needs a little reassurance every now and then