Language diversity and the responsibility of the WPA

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

7 Scopus citations


As a writing teacher and writing program administrator, I often find myself struggling to respond to a perplexing dilemma: the more I understand about my students' complex linguistic backgrounds and literacy histories, the more I question the long-accepted practices and assumptions of the profession. I question the ways in which we structure programs, place students into classes, design curricula, and prepare graduate students. Shondel J. Nero points out in this collection that "teaching writing in the twenty-first-century composition classroom is, and will continue to be, about coming to terms with linguistic diversity as the norm rather than the exception." The paradox is that, as Scott Richard Lyons reveals in his chapter, most writing programs are in the business of assimilation yet at the same time say that they value diversity. Therefore, writing programs and writing program administrators (WPAs) are caught in a dilemma that Nero eloquently articulates. We want to honor (and if possible, preserve) students' home languages and cultures, but we are expected to teach them "Standard Academic English." While I sometimes find myself blaming the nature of the first-year writing requirement and its function as a "gate-keeping" course (Crowley), I don't necessarily see the existence of the paradox as negative. Rather, I see it as a step on the way toward developing a better approach to teaching writing and structuring writing programs. But acknowledging the paradox, and realizing that our classes are much more linguistically diverse spaces than we might have previously recognized, is the first step in a process that can lead to change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCross-Language Relations in Composition
PublisherSouthern Illinois University Press
Number of pages9
ISBN (Print)0809329824, 9780809329823
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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