Writing Introduction

“Grammar [is] an indication of class and cultural background in the United States…there is a bias against people who do not use language ‘correctly’” – Linda Christensen, Reading, Writing, and Rising Up: Teaching About Social Justice and the Power of the Written Word

When I read this, I thought ‘yes,’ then ‘no, now I’m confused.’ As I discovered, after reading further, writing for the person who hasn’t been raised in the “language of power,” can be difficult because they stop and think about grammar. Their thoughts get stopped by the “grammar cop,” and their writing slows down, and becomes a laborious, dreadful thing. Always thinking about grammar and syntax and how to put words together as if it was a science project depletes and deflates the spirit and creativity of writing, or at least it can.

I grew up in a home that spoke the “language of power,” so my writing always was “acceptable” and academic. But, I hated writing, and struggled to get words on the page. Over the years my writing has improved, and I’ve gotten more confident in it, but even now I still doubt the veracity, or importance of my words. What has helped the most over the years hasn’t been grammar study (though it has helped), but rather the continuation of writing. Being in graduate school has forced me to write, then write some more. What used to be laborious isn’t as hard anymore, and based on the feedback from my professors, my writing has improved significantly.

As I finish up my studies at Arcadia, I understand more and more that writing is a tool for power and sharing your voice. For students of poverty, or students who are not of the dominant language group, writing can empower them, not only through raising awareness through their voice, but writing improves their overall literacy development. This development can’t be through learning how to write “correctly” first then write, but rather writing to improve writing. This is how it has been for me, and writing has become a tool for my voice, rather than a task to dread.

Why study English education? I think it’s because science is too boring (to me), and business is too meaningless (for me), history is too much (for me), but English is just right for me. Language means something, writing means something, and the importance of literacy has grown on me over the last couple of years.

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One thought on “Writing Introduction

  1. Hey Schuyler, I just wanted to say I know exactly what you mean about being frozen by grammar. In a one-day observation of a classroom, there was a little girl from the Ukraine who’s English was very good, certainly understandable, but not quite perfect. The class to write a little 3 sentence response to a prompt, and for at least a half our, she sat in silence looking down at her desk, not wanting to start. I tried to help her out, and help prompt her letter by letter until she had written one complete sentence.

    What was confusing to me is that although her spelling seemed slow (Ukrainian letters are somewhat different I suppose), her sentence was meaningful and addressed the prompt, without my having to guide her that much. It seemed very painful for her to move forward when she was not sure of the grammar though, and she panicked when she spelled something wrong. Since she was in first grade, lots of the other kids had similar issues, especially in the spelling, but it didn’t stop them like her because they were not self-conscious.

    I was very sympathetic, because I felt similarly frozen in my college Japanese classes, even though I have always been outspoken and fairly unafraid to make mistakes when I spoke in English in any other class. I would love to learn more about the issue of grammar and creative writing, and young writer’s confidence and feeling of agency, because I have experienced and seen that fear of being identified as the outsider, outside that “language of power,” as well as of miscommunication, is a very powerful one.

    Interesting intro!

    –Sara

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