In this unit, we are exploring the various forms of English we use in different contexts and the power relationships that these forms of English create, acknowledging that “standard English” is not necessarily better, but is more appropriate in certain settings, especially academic and professional ones. Becoming a scholar and learning to use standard English correctly, however, does not mean people must set aside their other linguistic identities.
In a 6-8 page double-spaced essay in MLA format, make a persuasive argument, advising a specific group of people to make specific policy changes involving language and identity issues, backed up with compelling reasons and substantial support.
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Background: As a class, we have examined issues involving language and education, including the effects of education on family life, motivation of students with non-academic interests, cultural literacy, national curriculum, agency within one’s inherited narratives, ethnic chauvinism, gender hierarchies in the classroom, the effects of new media on literacy, and grade inflation. We have read and discussed the importance of starting with inquiry, integrating reading and writing, identifying claims, analyzing arguments, identifying issues, forming questions, summarizing and synthesizing. Now we are going to use these academic skills to address an issue of language and identity in an argumentative essay.
Goal: To practice typical essay format, argumentation, support, summary, paraphrase, quotation, citation, analysis of claims, synthesis, grammar, punctuation, and writing skills.
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Scholastic writing used to be disconnected. From research: reading and writing took place in different spaces at different times. From other writers: writing was a solitary activity. From previous steps of the process: each piece of writing produced along the way was discarded. From a real audience: students wrote to prove something to a professor who claimed they were engaged in an imaginary “academic discourse.” From authentic purpose: writing ended up in the garbage can and all the student’s hard work, knowledge, insights and craftsmanship were wasted.
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Who is I? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “I” is “used by the speaker or writer to refer to himself or herself.” Simple enough, but let’s think this out. The dictionary says that “I” is “used by the speaker or writer,” implying that “I” and “the speaker or writer” are not the same. How can this be? Well, one is a word and the other is a person. That “I” appears in the dictionary proves that “I” is a written or spoken symbol. Okay, so? The problem is that we confuse ourselves with that symbol. I think I am the “I.”
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Borges’ “Borges and I” is such a wonderful piece of metafiction that I will just reproduce it whole for you here, with just enough of a comment to suggest that writing writes the writer, as I discussed in Who is Writing This? and It’s All Fiction, in which I discuss how every piece of writing requires the invention of a speaker, even a dictionary entry (the “nobody” speaker), so the requirements of the piece determines the voice and therefore the speaker. In the short fiction below, Borges is talking about how his fame has taken over his life (or, as Foucault would put it, his author function, his reputation as a great writer, has erased the real person).
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