Friday, October 15, 2004

Who Cares?

Well I am just going to try and clarify what I was saying in class on Monday. I agree that there is a fine line between indoctrination and education. I like to think that I have it figured out though.

Growing up in New York I was forced to understand that people were going to think how they were going to think despite what I believed or hoped that they would come to believe. I am Mormon and so I don’t drink, smoke, do drugs, fool around with women, or anything like that. My friends on the other hand did. There was a common understanding that I was going to live how I wanted live and that everyone else was going to live the way they wanted to live and that such things shouldn’t really be an issue in our friendship. We often had opportunities to explain our view points, why we did things, or how we felt about certain issues, but it was on a strictly informational level. There really isn’t much sense in arguing with someone who isn’t going to change.

As a tutor I believe that I am employed to help students make solid arguments for whatever there view may be, even if it is racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, anti-education, politically bias, or anything like that. A student could write an essay directly attacking me as a person and I would have to help them form something that fit inside the bounds of a sound argument. They have a right to their opinion. It’s my job to objectively help them understand the rules of argument and writing.

I understand that there is the possibility of having to tutor someone with a completely irrational view. If their argument is only based on their opinion then it is obviously going to be ineffective. If it is not possible to make a rational argument in support of their opinion then as a tutor I should be able to explain the basic components of a logical argument and then point out to the student how their paper doesn’t contain those components.

When I was in English 2010 I decided to write all of my papers opposing the view of my teacher. A few times the view of my paper contradicted my own view as well. I did this for a few reasons. First I did it to test my teacher, who, to my surprise, was very objective. I also did it to try and get a reaction from the other students in my class that would be grading my paper. That was fun. I also did it to see if I could argue something that I didn’t agree with or believe in. I found the whole exercise very rewarding because it helped me to understand that no matter what your view is there is information somewhere to support it. I also found that it is just an essay. No one is going to read it except for the teacher, and then it will be put in the garbage or lost somewhere on the writer’s computer. Who cares if someone has written a pro-drug paper or a racist paper? Or, in Layne’s case an Anti- Bush paper. It is not going to affect anything. No one is going to read it. The reasons they are writing, whether they understand it or not, are to learn how to argue a view point and write clearly. So I might as well help them do that, Right?

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Necessary evil or common good?

To effectively write on this issue I had to look up the word indoctrination and I found in most of the definitions provided that education and indoctrination are the same thing. That they are the same really makes sense because anytime that anyone teaches us anything are they not teaching us their own way of thinking? When we sit down to tutor someone are we not teaching him or her to write according to how we, or their teacher, or their audience want them to write? Is not our job to teach students to write and think a certain way? When some of them (I admit not many because most are attempting to work from the indoctrination of their teachers) come in have they not brought in a paper full of their ideas and in their own style and form of writing only to have us tear it apart and teach them a new way, our way, of doing things? According to most definitions indoctrination is our job. We are the indoctrinators! We are here to make sure that they are adhering to the indoctrination of their teachers so they can get the teachers stamp of approval (their grade) that says that this person has become sufficiently indoctrinated. This person thinks and writes and knows what I want them to think and write and know. They have taken tests that show that they now think the way I do so they pass. For example I was marked down on a math test the other day, not because I got the wrong answer (because the answer was correct) but because I did not work the problem the way that the teacher wanted me to. When I went in to see the tutor for math they facilitated the teacher by teaching me the correct way to work the problem. The tutor reinforced the indoctrination of the teacher.
An even better example is when I took an oral exam for my Spanish teacher. He corrected me on something that I said that I had heard Hispanic people say all the time. When I asked my Spanish tutor about it, she said, “well it means the same thing people will understand what you are saying either way, the way you said it was just more slang then the way he wanted you to say it.”
Have we ever said anything similar to our students?
I could go off on discourse communities here, I suppose, but I will not.
I am not saying that teachers are evil or that they way we do things are wrong, but I am saying the whether we choose to acknowledge it or not we are taught by indoctrination. When we are being indoctrinated we are being educated. So where does that leave us as tutors? I suppose we choose how far we take that indoctrination. So maybe a better question would be; how far is too far?

I know that is not the argument that is being asked for but it is something interesting to think about.

Edumucation vs. Indoctrination

Anyone who has been around me for more than ten seconds knows that I am a very opinionated person. I feel strongly about most issues and will gladly discuss those issues with anyone at any time. However, I do feel that as a tutor it is not my job to 'indoctrinate' or attempt to convince others of my way of thinking. The line is thin here, but I think it is well defined.
1) This issue may crop up when a student is writing an argument paper. In my tutoring 'threesome' I had students whose topics I highly disagreed with and let them know I disagreed. However, I used my disagreement to help their project. We discussed playing devil's advocate with our students to make them really believe what they are saying or strengthen their arguments with facts and not their opinions.

Argument papers are my favorite to help with. I like helping with all the different aspects of argument writing: development, drafts, polishing. But you'll never see me try to push my own beliefs on a person. I try to follow what Dr. Rogers said in our first class and that is ask the student what they are trying to say. Find out their topic. Find out where they stand and go from there. If they have some falsehoods, it is my job as a tutor to point those out. If I think they need more solid research, it is my job as tutor to help them- not just by pointing it out, but showing them places where they can find solid information.

This is a fine line, but compared to the other line we discussed earlier, this one is much easier for me to stay on the 'tutoring' side of. Of course I want people to agree with me, but when I clock in, I'm a tutor.

So to answer the question, yes, I think there is a marked difference between education and indoctrination within the context of being a tutor. Tutors method of education is helping their writing, not changing their topics. I can see how people in other realms of education- teachers, professors, ministers, etc- indoctrinate. Isn't that what philosophy professors do? Isn't that what teachers of writing theory do? (hope that was tongue in cheek enough)

By the way, isn't it funny that John Kerry's favorite baseball team- the Boston Red Sox- is going to lose to my beloved Yankees just two weeks before his own loss in the election?

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

A Paper with a Purpose

In trying to define the line where we begin to indoctrinate instead of teach, one must recognize that it moves just like the line we discussed in Wingate’s article. In accordance with the Wingate line, the indoctrination line will move with each student. However, we have a new variable to take into account in dealing with this line: Ourselves. In fact, we become the main variable in the equation. (I have been cramming for a math test if you can’t tell.)

The things that clue us in to whether or not we are near the line will require great discipline to identify and control on our part. Most of us have the ability to persuade the students greatly. They look at us as an authority. We therefore have the obligation to work for their best interest. Whether we agree with the content of the paper or not we have the opportunity to help them to become a better writer. I think that we need to make sure that their meaning of their paper is clear, if their meaning is a hot topic, help them realize the ramifications that their paper will have, and finally, help them reach their goal. Some writing has to be emotionally charged in order for it to be good. Not a loose cannon of emotions but a controlled display. I might explain this concept to a student in a session. We shouldn’t try to persuade the student to change the meaning of their paper. In helping a student in an emotionally charged session we can harness the power of their emotion and ours to help them create a paper with a purpose, otherwise we are wasting our time. These sessions should provide us as tutors the opportunity to be selfless but strong all at the same time. We should be secure enough to push the limits of their arguments and help them make them stronger. This all sounds great but it isn’t easy, if it comes down to loosing control of your emotions you might have to pass the session on to another tutor. Hopefully this will not occur. In any case you should realize that we should be able to act instead of react. A failed session should lead you to learn how to act in the future.
Well I am not going to say all my ideas are perfect or even for everyone. Heck they might even be wrong! But, this is what the blog is for, right?

The "late" Line

I have crossed over the line more than once in a tutoring session. I can’t stay away from the dang thing. I want to help the student badly and when I see them struggling to understand I want to do it for them. I have decided that I can help more in those situations if I am better able to explain what I want them to notice, or try doing. Sometimes when I cross the line I feel justified. The frustration from lack of understanding has driven me insane, pushed me to the edge and I have to cross.
The only way to identify that line is to cross it when it comes. You can identify that you are getting close, but won’t know until you are on the other side. I think that the main problem that I have is being able to communicate with the student. ( I am trying to avoid the word tutee!) In most of my tutoring sessions it is evident that I am the dominant one. I have a clear agenda to help them become a better writer. The problem that I have is assuming that I know what is best for the student. I am trying to combat this by keeping my mouth shut. In these situations the line gets lost, I don’t even try to recognize it. I think that we know most of the time that we have had a productive session. Inherent in trying to be a good tutor is the bad tutoring sessions. We are all going to have them. That is the only way that we can actually grow. As long as we realize this I think we are the right people for the job.
Well since I am behind a blog I am cutting it short, see ya next time!


On Monday we discussed several ethical issues surrounding tutoring, and much of our discussion revolved around the ethics of tutor bias. I'm interested in seeing what you all think about where the line is between education and indoctrination (political, moral, ethical, etc.). Where does education leave off and indoctrination begin? Is there even a difference between the two? How do we know which is which? Have you run into this dilemma in your tutoring?

Monday, October 11, 2004

'The Line'

Wingate's observations of there being an invisible line really made me think about how I approach tutoring. She talked about the body language of the tutee and how it shows whether the line had been crossed. Luckily for me, when I checked my tutee's body language, she was leaning both towards me and the table. Maybe it was because I was wearing Axxe that day (okay, I'm kidding about that).

Anyway, crossing the line that has had me concerned with my own tutoring. I've noticed that it is easier to stay behind the line when a person is coming in for help on the ideas for a paper rather than a 'proofreader'. If they want a proofreader, it's easier to take out the red pen and mark spelling, grammar, and verb agreement. This ties into the previous blogs that I have written where I think it's hard to help people become a better writer/thinker when they don't know the basic concepts of english.

This abstract line is very hard to see, especially when it changes from person to person. Some people hunch over their own papers like a dog that is guarding its last meal. Some people put their drafts in your hands and beg for help.

Okay, my question is, when a person is begging you for help, does that push the line a little further out, or bring it closer? Is it easier for tutors to just take the paper and 'do' it than help them with what we claim to help them with (becoming better writers)?

From my argument writing class I learned that critical thinking is important. You have to see issues from both sides. Do we cross the line when we help tutees do these things? When we tell them to make strong claims, support them with legitimate information?

Overall, when I'm with someone who has a basic grasp of the english language, I find it easier to stay on the right side of the line.