Writing Centers as Training Wheels: What Message Are We Sending Our Students?
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Over twenty years ago, Stephen North began his famous essay, “The Idea of a Writing Center,” by admitting that This is an essay that began out of frustration [. . .]. The source of my frustration? Ignorance: the members of my professions, my colleagues, people I might see at MLA or CCCC or read in the pages of College English do not understand what I do. They do not understand what does happen, what can happen, in a writing center. (433) Like North, I began this essay out of frustration, but my frustration is with my writing center colleagues. I have spent a good deal of my (albeit brief) academic career thinking about and researching the marginalization of writing centers, and I am tired of fighting the good fight for respect and recognition in composition studies, English departments, and the institution at large when writing centers sabotage themselves everyday by continuing practices that feed into our perpetual marginalization. I am tired of running up against practices that directly counter attempts I and others make to take writing centers seriously. In particular, I am concerned with the common practice of using “forced” labor in the writing center, especially when this involves using the writing center as “training wheels” for new graduate students until they are ready to ride solo in their own classrooms.