Now Live: Spring 2018 Issue
Hosted by Michigan State University
Culture & Language: Student Sovereignty in Expression and Identity
Language as a form of expression is an undeniable right, and it becomes increasingly relevant to use language and the written word as a means of sharing our cultures and backgrounds, expressing our beliefs, and calling others to action. As writing tutors, we understand that language and culture are closely entwined, and how we express ourselves says a lot about who we are and where we come from. In the writing center, an issue that often comes up is how to encourage students to use their own unique voice in their writing while also helping them meet their academic goals as well as academic standards set by the institution.Historically, there have some been some voices uplifted more than others because of the inequitable distribution of privileges, rights, and opportunities to various social identities. The Dangling Modifier wants to know about your experiences helping students incorporate culture and identity into their writing to help develop their voice. What challenges have you seen students experience regarding expression? How do you encourage students to draw upon their own identities and experiences in their writing? What are your excitements and frustrations about this issue? What experiences can you share to help create a new narrative about how culture informs language? How do you help students empower themselves with voice?Perhaps one of the most common situations we encounter in the writing center is working with international students who come in saying they want help sounding more “American.” They may have felt pressure from professors or peers to change their writing voice in order to blend in more, or perhaps they have even been marked down significantly on work solely because of non-standard grammatical usage. What experiences have you had working with international students trying to assimilate to American conventions? How do you navigate issues with grammar that hinder a student’s academic performance? How do we as writing tutors help such students meet professors’ standards while still allowing students to stay true to their own unique voices and identities?We also face similar issues of language with domestic students. Students write to their own voices, and as writing tutors, we want to acknowledge their individual sovereignty when it comes to using their voice. Despite historical attempts to standardize English–attempts which often privilege certain groups and marginalize others–there are many different Englishes and dialects based on our varied backgrounds and experiences. Domestic students often feel pressure to alter their voices to fit the standards set by a certain instructor or institution; they may also feel pressure to conform to a certain geographic or cultural norm. The Dangling Modifierwants to know how to cultivate an environment in both the writing center and the classroom that is accepting of different forms of expression. How do we as writing consultants acknowledge different dialects as valid and equal ways of speaking? How should we approach issues of frustration expressed by clients in this regard, to validate their unique voice while still helping them address their audience(s)?
Note from The Editors
The Michigan State University Writing Center, as the hosts of the Spring 2018 issue of The Dangling Modifier, are proud to present Volume 24:2 titled “Culture & Language: Student Sovereignty in Expression and Identity.” The focus of this issue grew out of the discussions that we have been having in our own center about client and consultant voices, respecting cultural and personal identities, and approaching consultations with English Language Learning students. The idea of sovereignty in the CFP is drawn from Scott Lyon’s work “Rhetorical Sovereignty: What Do American Indians Want from Writing?” In it, he writes that “[…] the pursuit of sovereignty is an attempt to revive not our past, but our possibilities. Rhetorical Sovereignty is the inherent right and abilities of peoples to determine their own communicative needs and desires in this pursuit, to decide for themselves the goals, modes, styles, and languages of public discourse.” This sense of respect, empowerment, and understanding is central to our publication and to the nineteen works that are featured in it. Ultimately, we hope that this issue of the Dangling Modifier encourages writing center practitioners and those who use writing centers to think critically about how we, as writing centers, approach language, culture, and identity.
Caitlin Vandermeulen – Lead Editor
I want to thank the editors of this volume, all undergraduate students at Michigan State University and consultants in The Writing Center. In particular, I would like to express my appreciation for our lead editor, Caitlin Vandermeulen. I would also like to recognize the time, effort, and thoughtfulness that was put in by our editors, including Cailin Haggerty, Grace Beltowski, Gaby Abalo, and Sarah Liddy. Working with these students, and seeing their commitment and dedication to this work, reinforces, for me, the important role that writing centers have in making positive impacts on the lives of consultants and students.
– Dr. Joseph Cheatle, Associate Director of The Writing Center at Michigan State University