Meaningful Recognition of Race in Tutoring

“Addressing Racial Diversity in a Writing Center,” by Nancy Baron and Nancy Grimm, initially seemed to promise me some insight into how I should recognize race differences as a white (or Anglo) writing tutor.  Instead, I was left with questions.  The belief that we should not be colorblind but instead embrace our cultural differences is not new to me; my high school English department emphasized how much richer our understanding of texts is when we consider it from various viewpoints.  I was saddened by the first story’s tale of “white prose;” I would hope that we can read the opinions of others without rejecting them.  However, I have to ask: what if the professors do not recognize alternative voices as valid? Can I, as a writing tutor, encourage a student to write in his or her own way if that will negatively impact their grade in a course?  Do grades or personal integrity take priority, and how can I help a student with that terrible choice?  I would hope, indeed I believe, that a professor at a university as diverse as ours would be able to accept alternative views and ways of writing, but what if that is not the case?

I found little in the way of actual advice in this article.  I found the anecdote about a diverse writing center somewhat helpful and rather heartening, but I do not understand how the authors would have me change my tutoring.  Quite simply, I found this article interesting and informative on the subject of race in academia and in general.  It certainly made me think about my own attitudes towards race, and I appreciate it in that sense.  However, as an article for learning about race in the writing center, I would have appreciated more concrete discussions of what changed for individual tutors and for the center as a whole.  Without those components, I found it hard to see what exactly I should do to address race in writing.


Emily Kohn, Class of 2015

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2 Responses to Meaningful Recognition of Race in Tutoring

  1. Gladys Lui says:

    I think Emily has pointed out an important question: should we write something opposing our own views but just to please our professor in order to get high grades?
    University is supposed to be a place where critical thinking is encouraged and valued. Thinking from an opposite angle may bring new ideas to the issue. No one can say something is always true. This reminds me a recent Western Culture class I have attained. The professor told us that Pre-Socratics in ancient Greek believed in Flat Earth Model while nowadays we can know that Earth is spherical. Galileo Galilei was arrested by the Church because he wrote a book about his scientific findings which was contacdictory to the beliefs of the Church at that time. However, some of his findings were found to be true many years later. Without questioning, truth maybe covered. Therefore, to answer Emily’s question, personal integrity should be more important.
    However, I understand Emily’s concern that stubborn professors may not like althernative answers. Therefore, if I have opposing ideas, I prefer writing comments about the “correct” answers first in order to to express my understanding of the professors’ view than I start providing my own critical views in a humble way. Luckily, in my university, many professors accept opinions from different viewpoints.

    Lui Wing Sum

  2. Ieong I Cheng (Alice) says:

    Although I am still a student , I understand the dilemma of a tutor pointed out by Emily. As a tutor, she is struggling between expressing our own perspectives versus following the idea of the professor. In the end of the paragraph, she asked for concrete advice for this issue.
    As a student, my opinion is to communicate the whole picture to the students in the class. Tell them what the professor required but also the importance of expressing one’s own view. I supposed that university students are able to make their own decisions according to their values. In this case, I would say that the tutor has fulfilled his or her obligation.
    Studying in a result-oriented society, Hong Kong, I have already followed the so-called “correct answer” for numerous times in different examinations. I would not say that following those “correct answers” is wrong. It is because following those sample answers gave me a chance to gain good result and enter University. Nevertheless, after admitted into University, I agree with Gladys that University should be a place that encourage critical thinking. Being pioneers of various academic fields, learn to voice out own comments rather than following others is indeed important.

    Ieong I Cheng

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