Both Mina Shaughnessy and Sarah D’Eloia allude to one of the primary disconnects in the field of writing studies and pedagogy: how to make space for variable Englishes. While ca$h English is the currency valued by institutions and my FIQWS topic instructor, I want students to recognize and implement ca$h English, but not uncritically.
I want my students to use their variable English fluencies to get paid!
So, as fluidity of language use increases, so does the notion of “error.”
Error now depends almost entirely on context: I was struck by the visceral reaction to a student using “text speak” in one of Lynn’s sample essays last week. These uses of “2” and “u r” or “yr” are not incorrect; however, the student has implemented these techniques in an inappropriate context. This is probably because they are unable to recognize the specific rhetorical situation they were faced with, probably because high school English teachers were so obsessed with these perceived “errors.”
Shaughnessy asserts that we as future/current instructors are dealing with a whole new field of shifting multilingualism (and this was way before we all had little computers in our pockets all day). Whether y’all like it or not, digital communication is totally shifting the way we think and communicate, and a failure to respond to that is a failure to serve our students, basic writers or not.
James Sledd’s ideas, as presented by D’Eloia, mirror my own: instructors have no right to enforce these hegemonic linguistic ideologies onto our students, especially since perpetuating the neoliberal fantasy of bootstrapping is antithetical to our work as critical educators (8). However, engaging students in discussions of when to utilize ca$h English as a tool to access resources (grants, for example) is also necessary. I worry that writing instructors shy from the sociopolitical discussions surrounding education and communication, and this is a serious shortfall in how we view our gatekeeping roles. D’Eloia elaborates on the role of ideology in the classroom: “the values of the student must be given pre-eminence,” which also requires instructors to engage deeply with their own values and determine how best to serve the needs of the student without demanding assimilation (9).
Phew, y’all. That’s tough.