The Elephant in the Classroom: Race and Writing
While many works have been written about African American students and composition, they tend to examine the students themselves: their language, attitudes toward education, and successes and difficulties with writing. This collection examines the social construct of the classroom itself. African American students confront a complex situation in the composition classroom. Both their learning and their writing are made more difficult because in many instances, the instructor is White; while the instructor may have thought with some sensitivity about the problems African American students might face, he/she may not have thought critically about either his/her own “Whiteness” and its possible inpact on students or about the university as a “White” institution. When the language, the rhetoric, and the culture of some students is neither accepted nor understood by the instructor, and some traits are still stigmatized rather than seen as strengths, learning is made more difficult and in some cases impossible.
In examining the classroom as a social construct, chapters consider the academy’s traditions and expectations for writing and the teaching of writing; the role of Standard American English as a language that is typically privileged; the importance of understanding student writers; and ultimately, strategies and approaches that are more likely to help both instructors and students create a classroom community. Questions addressed include: Can one truly be “bidialectical” and “bicultural?” If so, how? Can both White and Black teachers as well as students begin to see the strengths of a blending of languages and cultures in academia? The university expects that students will come to it and change; however, to educate students respectfully and successfully, both the academy and individual instructors must be willing to listen and change with their students.
College of Arts and Sciences
African American, Reading, Race, Classroom, education