(Re)envisioning the Writing Center: Pragmatic Steps for Dismantling While Language Supremacy from Praxis: A Writing Center Journal vol.19 no.1




Basta, Hidy
Smith, Alexandra

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Writing center work has long been haunted by the mandate to either fix the writing or fix the writer--both approaches share an assumption of a deficit model. As critical writing center scholarship has made clear, this is an assimilationist practice that re-enacts colonialist views of English. This paper expands the writing center work to reflect on effective strategies for interrupting this assimilationist methodology in order to create the kind of change that prioritizes making it make sense (Demand). We suggest making sense--true sense of writing center practices--means dispelling the myth of the superiority of standardized English and occupying braver spaces to hold honest conversations about languages and effective writing. These honest conversations are grounded in a critical examination of what we know of effective writing and what has long been taken for granted about the role of writing support and assessment. In this paper, we recount a brief history of the writing center as an institution--and our specific positionality within this history--to provide context for how our practices create and sustain change. We share the pragmatic steps of 1) revising tutor education curriculum to focus on antiracist approaches to writing, 2) facilitating conversations with faculty about antiracist writing assessment strategies, and 3) continuing professional development of writing center student staff. The writing center’s role in this broader communal work is essential, we argue, and necessary for dismantling white language supremacy in the ways we teach, mentor, and assess writing.


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