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Drexel Writing Center Statement of Antiracist Pedagogy

Statement of Antiracist Pedagogy in the Drexel Writing Center

This statement is both an act of scholarship and an invitation. It was written collaboratively, over years of reading, writing, conversation, and thoughtful reflection on race and language. We see it as an invitation to you, the reader, a member of the Drexel community, to join us in antiracist work. We believe that, though talking about race can be difficult, it is necessary if we seek to create more equitable spaces. We offer you a way of seeing how antiracist values and actions operate in the writing center. We invite you to converse with us about race, language, and anti-racist pedagogy. We see that conversation in the context of structural racism1 and are concerned with the policies and practices that create inequity which we all have a responsibility to address.

What We Know

At the Drexel Writing Center, we’ve spent years thinking about language and how it functions to create personal and professional identities. If we are going to help writers succeed, we find it essential to acknowledge that systemic racism persists and is insidious in norms that shape attitudes about language, in the systems, rules and expectations that make up our classes, schools, institutions and society. In writing center work, this is most clearly exemplified in the persistent practice of requiring that students use only Standard Academic English in their academic writing.

We join a chorus of scholars in Linguistics and Writing Studies that have clearly shown that there is no inherent standard of English, a living language that is constantly changing.

We affirm the decades of research in which linguists have shown that no dialect of English is superior to any other.

We uphold the linguistic truth that all dialects have an inherent grammar and can be used for effective communication.

These truths make it illogical to elevate Standard Academic English over other dialects, but more importantly, limiting students’ access to all of their linguistic resources also limits their learning and disproportionately impacts students of color. We believe it also devalues the dialects, languages, and identities of writers.

While we all live, learn, and work within the context of structural racism, we do not need to do so uncritically. Writing Studies and Linguistics teaches us that access to all of our linguistic resources facilitates learning. We see it as part of our job to make these linguistic truths central to our work, taking a more expansive and inclusive approach to the ways we use language to make meaning. This means that we may explicitly talk about institutional, systemic racism and its effect on our languages, identities and the choices we can make to work towards a more just world.

Our antiracist and social justice work can help all of the Drexel community.

With students, we will:

  • Value all of your dialects and languages and help you to explore effective usage of them.We acknowledge the linguistic truth that no language or dialect of English is superior to another and we work with writing from that point of view.
  • Help you to master Standard Academic English, not as a superior dialect, but as another tool to use with your already abundant linguistic resources.
  • Learn new dialects and languages from and with you.
  • Talk with you about the racist structures that privilege one dialect of one language, and consequently one race, over other equally valid dialects.

With faculty and staff, we will:

  • Value all of your dialects and languages and help you to explore effective usage of them. We acknowledge the linguistic truth that no language or dialect of English is superior and we work with writing from that point of view.
  • Upon request, give workshops to your department and classes about linguistic diversity, antiracist pedagogy and writing.
  • Talk with you about the process of language acquisition and what that means for students who are still acquiring English as another language.
  • Introduce you to equitable linguistic practices that give students greater access to all of their language skills and greater ability to succeed, to learn new material, and engage in critical thought, inquiry, and writing.
  • Consult with you about how to incorporate practices—like codemeshing and translanguaging— that allow students access to all of their dialects and languages. These practices can make learning new subject matter easier for students and allow them to do more with what they learn.

1 A system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms work in various, often reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial group inequity… Structural racism is not something that a few people or institutions choose to practice. Instead, it has been a feature of the social, economic and political systems in which we all exist.