This week’s readings really hit on a lot of insecurities I have as a Writing Partner.
First, to begin with Diab et. al, I really resonated with the example of the Writing Partner who has to help a student with a paper on outlawing bilingual schools. At the beginning of the semester, I had to help a student with a paper arguing against safe spaces on campus. My experience was a little different than the example given, because the student himself identified as a racial minority, and he had talked about his argument with his professor a lot, and nuanced it a lot. It was a thoughtfully constructed argument, but to me it was based in a premise that I just simply didn’t agree with. I also admit that I think it did influence my consultation with the student, in that I was simply less-engaged. It was my first consultation with someone who had different ideological beliefs than me, and I think that since then I have grown as a Writing Partner and am better equipped to deal with such a consultation. But that consultation was a learning curve for me, and I will admit that it made me uncomfortable.
At the same time, I don’t know if it would have been my place to say to the student that I didn’t agree with his idea and therefore he should change it. He had discussed it in-depth with his professor and had obviously put a lot of work into the idea. I’m unsure about exactly how much Diab’s article advocates for Writing Partners to actually work to change their student’s minds. Specifically about the example the authors give about the student who is advocating for outlawing bilingual schools, Diab et al writes 4 points that the tutor can ask the student to evaluate: “(1) the warrants that inform the argument; (2) the implications of the causal chain he constructs among immigration, English, school dropout rates, and criminal activity; (3) the subsequent image of the Mexican immigrant his argument constructs; and (4) the impact–intended and unintended—on Latino/as in his class, in the writing center, and in other locations as well” (Diab et al 5). I think a lot of these questions are very pointed, and while perhaps useful in a debate about bilingual schools, is the Writing Center really the place for this?? I don’t know.
Obviously, I want to make our campus a safe place for everyone, but I’ll admit that I DO prioritize minority viewpoints because of historical and (let’s be honest) current-day discrimination and alienation. BUT I also am unsure whether the Writing Center is the place for this kind of ideological questioning. The fact is, as a woman of color I am TIRED of educating people about these kinds of things. It’s so important but I really can’t, for my own mental health, do this kind of educating ON TOP of my regular work in the Writing Center. If someone comes in with an essay, I’m going to work on improving that essay and not on changing their ideological beliefs. Yes, I will be critical of all their ideas whether they line up with my own or not, but solely with the intent to help improve the arguments and ideas in the paper.
I think Diab et al are asking too much of student Writing Partners, and too much of one consultation. I would not have felt comfortable asking that student writing against safe spaces to change his mind, because I think he was constructing a thoughtful argument rather than a racist raving. I think the greatest issue with Diab et al’s argument is that they do not make this distinction. It is ok to question someone’s argument if it simply is one-sided and has not been thought-through. But if this is not the case, then what is our role??