Ruth Spack

RUTH SPACK

“Oh, you’ve read my work.  You sent me questions (pause) which I was almost hoping you weren’t gonna do.  And I took a look at them and I thought, ‘Oh my God, she’s actually read what I’ve written.  How scary this is!’ (Laughs)  I better remember what I’ve said. 
            “Ok.  Mmm hmm.  (Deep breath)  One of the most important things I’ve learned about the relationship between reading and writing and this comes from the experience of teaching is that they are both acts of revising.  There is a theory of reading that I was very interested in years ago called schemeotheory.  I mean it still exists it’s not not something in the past.  And my understanding of it is that uh everyone has greater access to reading if they have prior knowledge of the content.  That is one aspect of schemeotheory.  And one way that ESL professionals address that (pause) or try to implement that was to give students pre-knowledge before they read.  And so some of the writing textbooks have um a vocabulary ahead of time a lot of content ahead of time a lot of explanations.  And I know that I never could use that work.  I would first of all think well just in all this pre-reading um this is a challenge to a lot of the students that I teach.  They have to disentangle some of this.  They’re not gonna understand some of this.  Um and they’re learning the vocabulary really out of context which is actually the opposite of what some of this theory says.  Um and so again ff..and again fr..in my own experience experimenting trying I came to understand uh different things.  I do believe in schemeotheory in the sense that it’s important to activate your your own prior knowledge about to rec..about content.  To recognize that you do have some ownership of of the material that you’re about to read.  Most things are not completely alien.  Um even in college level courses.  Uh students uh have knowledge of history.  They have knowledge of literature.  They have knowledge of biology.  They are biology.  We are human bodies.  They know a great deal. (Pause)  And one of the things that I do for example is to before reading just have students write about the title.  Uh what the title means to them or a word in a title.  Uh if the word education is there um or what education should do.  Um I had a reading uh What True Education Should Do was one title and I just asked them what do you think true education should do?  Uh and they could write about that and that was based on their own experiences and then they could bring that into the reading which was titled What True Education Should Do.  It also made them curious to see what the writer had said so it’s also a good pre-reading strategy.  But I have discovered through experience that it’s more important to re-read.  And that reading is an act of revising just like writing is.  And so I give students multiple opportunities to go back into their reading and that’s how I think they learn to read and become better readers.  And that’s how uh literacy is acquired at a higher level.  I try to help them understand that even a person like myself who is highly literate by anybody’s standards as a reader and writer as an educated person um with the highest degree well no I don’t have a post-doc but a highest degree possible in the United States uh even I don’t get what I read all the time.  I sometimes even display this to students.  I take I bring in something that I’ve never read before and I re..start reading to them and s..start explaining to them the process I’m going through.  And show them that I’m going back over it.  And if I can give one s..uh specific example in this last uh semester I was teaching a literature course and one of the pieces we read was K. Chopan’s The Story of an Hour which was written in 1895.  So some of the language is is difficult.  And I didn’t begin with any pre-reading strategies except that I read the story aloud.  It’s only two pages.  It doesn’t take that long to read.  And one of the things I wanted the students to see is that they could get the story.  They could get the jest of it without uh knowing anything about it ahead of time.  Without going to the dictionary to try to figure out what all these uh archaic words meant.  Um I told them I had to go to the dictionary the first time I I read this work but it wasn’t necessary.  And then I asked them just to write their response to the story.  And this is a story of a woman who is told that her husband dies.  Uh she immediately cries uh but then goes to her bedroom to be alone and sitting there looking out the window at the birds and the new spring uh leaves on the tree uh she suddenly starts to feel something coming toward her and she’s trying to push it back and when it finally gets there it turns out that it’s freedom.  Her husband is dead and she says, ‘Free, free, free.  Body and soul free.’  And then she feels wonderful.  And uh she finally her sister forces her to come out of the room.  She comes down the stairs and lo and behold her husband walks in.  And the next thing we learn is that she died of a heart attack.  And I ask students to write their response to the story and I get multiple responses uh from students who were shocked that she would be happy that her husband was dead and think she’s a horrible person.  Uh to students who try to struggle to understand uh even what the story means.  They just don’t get it at all.  Uh and they share those responses and we talk about it and then I ask them to write again and to decide or not whether this is an insensitive woman for the way uh she responded and to pick uh quotations from the story to defend their answers.  This requires the students go back and re-read.  There’s no way to answer this without going back.  If you have to find quotations you have to read.  And then they also share those responses um with one another.  And then uh I gave them a reading uh a piece of history a very short reading of three pages on the context of K. Chopan’s work and what the roles and opportunities and laws were relating to women’s lives um in the late nineteenth century.  And then I ask them to write again about the story given what they knew now.  And so in each case um they were building knowledge uh from each other their own reactions uh more informed reactions after class discussion.  Uh taking actual historical material and applying it and they built a body of knowledge about the story.  They kept re-reading and re-reading the story until finally they felt some ownership of it.  But also each time they were revising their reading they were revising their writing.  And their writing also grew.  And that to me is almost the perfect example of of the interrelationship between reading and writing and that one could not have happened without the other.  To give the students this sort of ownership over um their reading and their writing.  And someone else’s writing. 
            “I am often asked what academic writing is and I’ve often written about it.  And it means different things to different people.  (Pause)  I think from students’ perspective if their in school and they are asked to write whatever they are asked to write is academic writing.  If it’s a poem if it’s an autobiography if it’s a book report if it’s an analytical piece if it’s a research paper it’s all the same it’s academic writing.  And we need to be sensitive to that.  And I do..I agree with them.  It’s all academic writing.  And I think different pieces of all of that find it’s way even in to scholarly writing.  More so today we see academic uh discourse that includes personal reflections on the part of scholars.  Uh our qualitative research studies include interviews observations of students uh which tell compelling stories of the classroom scenes from the classroom.  Uh teachers story teachers loo..lore.  And um poetry is in some of those.  Not only teachers showing poems that they have used in their classrooms but also poetry that the students are producing and that is all placed within a framework of academic discourse that gets published in a journal for teachers or for other scholars.  (Pause)  I think of academic writing also uh for most people is more connected to uh writing about other people’s writing.  And integrating all of that into one’s writing and other people’s research.  Or doing research such as qualitative research doing interviews observationals observational studies and incorporating those findings into one tex..one’s text.  But for me a..o overall academic writing is a building on knowledge.  It’s constructing knowledge.  And however that happens it happens in different ways for different uh writers and and in different classrooms.  But I think of it as constructing knowledge so that when students are uh writing about their own experiences their adding to the lore they’re adding to our knowledge about language and literacy.  And when they read what other people have said they add to their own body of knowledge.  And when they incorporate that in to their own writing other people’s writing they build on that body of knowledge that has existed before.  And probably that is what I would say for me most is the most academic of of academic writing.  Um but it’s for me it’s it’s much more fluid and I think patically teaching a population of second language learners we need to have uh a more (pause) we need to be more open to what that looks like.  I think we have some very limited notions in some of our textbooks uh in some of our teacher training programs about what academic writing is.  And it sometimes flies in the face of what’s actually published.  I know that um I have seen many textbooks that says every essay has to have a thesis uh at the end of the first paragraph of the introduction.  Every first paragraph..s has to have a topic sentence that tells you what the paragraph is about.  And I understand that as a useful framework.  Uh but for me it’s a framework to play with.  The irony for me is that when I put together my own textbook and I tried to find and I initially tried to find uh tried to fit that framework of thesis topic sentence I couldn’t find essays that matched it.  And that made me question uh what this framework was.  I noticed sometimes that in the textbooks the same essay over and over uh was used by different textbook authors because it conveniently fit the framework.  Or that it was an excerpt from a book or a chapter really not even a whole piece of academic discourse that was used because it neatly fit a framework but that for me was false because um really the it was part of a larger piece and it really wasn’t an essay.  Um and I uh..uh again I do think it’s a useful framework for students.  Uh but I actually hardly use the word thesis.  I have students who do because their previous English teachers have.  And I think that uh when we have students from multiple cultures and also the lines are blurred.  Students are multi-cultural themselves.  It is false to to even think that there is such a thing as a Chinese student.  Um I have Chinese students in my class right now who grew up in Brazil and Venezuela.  I have Chinese students who identify as Chinese but who have one parent who is not Chinese and they’re really bilingual and bicultural.  Uh I had students who were Chinese who were educated in China uh Taiwan Hong Kong uh Malaysia uh who have very different cultures.  Uh there are similarities across those cultures but they’ve been exposed to many different things.  I have Chinese students who were educated in the United States Chinese students educated in American or international students overseas.  Again and again I remind myself to find out who the students are uh sitting in front of me.  So that’s sort of a a cautionary note to what I am about to say which is that there are differences um across cultures in how people write how people are trained to write.  And we need to be sensitive to that.  And it can be extremely difficult for someone who has been writing a certain way all of their lives to switch um to a different way of writing which is often just that particular teacher’s uh different requirements.  Because I know in my own program in a relatively small college uh we all each of the writing teachers has a different way of teaching uh different demands.  Uh students are doing different things in different writing classes.  Uh it’s important to remind ourselves and students that what we’re asking them to do is to write for us uh for our uh eyes and ears.  And um so my underlying principle with students is you have something to say.  And I am an audience.  If I understand your point if I understand what you’re trying to get across if it is clear to me we’re fine.  Uh if the rest of the class with whom you’re sharing the writing understands what you’re saying we’re all fine.  We’ve got it.  Um if I don’t understand if they don’t understand this needs revising.  Uh but it isn’t necessarily that it has to fit into a stiff format.  Uh sometimes at that point that that format does help a student um to say you know finish that introduction what’s the  what are you focusing on?  What is the idea here?  What is it that you’re trying to say?  Put it right here as a guide.  That will really help.  But I have other students who haven’t done that.  And yet I and their classmates and other professors I’ve shown the work to get it.  They understand it.  And I think we need to uh really uh accept diversity truly.  Not just put a diverse body of students in our classroom uh and say we have diversity.  But diver..wha think about what diversity really looks like and it’s not just the color of people’s skin.  It’s not just the culture.  We need to embrace linguistic diversity too.  It’s not all going to look the same.  We need time and patience.  Some of these students will never write like the..s ideal native writer.  And we need to accept that.  And I can accept that and that is one thing I really do try to help other teachers administrators accept.  Um and that is extremely difficult.  It’s really radical.  But I think that one one way to understand it is really to look at academic discourse uh in our schools and in our universities.  And there are different discourses.  The way people write for science is not the way they write for history and it’s not the way they write English papers.  It’s not the way you write a personal autobiographical piece or a literary analysis.  It’s not a la..a literary analysis is not a lab report.  So we’ve already accepted diversity of academic discourse.  Uh and we go from one professor to another.  I followed one student for three years um in her college classes and I spent a lot of time studying partically her political science work cuz that was her major.  And in one year she had two political science courses and the professors were remarkably di..different in their lecturing styles uh in the reading assignments they gave and especially in the writing assignments they gave.  So I would not have been able to say even from that research which was in depth this is how you write for political science.  I could say this is how you write for Professor A and this is how you write forpf..for Professor B.  And even that I couldn’t say because each of those professors assigned different kinds of writing assignments.  So what I need to do is to teach students to pay attention to what they’re being asked to do.  To deconstruct the assignment.  To analyze it to think about how it’s connected to the work of the course.  What the teacher is asking for at that particular moment.  What would be the appropriate evidence to fulfill that assignment?  How do they go about doing that?  I can’t teach them how to write for political science because I don’t know how to do that.  I don’t do it myself.  But I can teach them general strategies that one applies to writing or to writing assignments across the curriculum.  How do you think about it?  What are you being asked to do?  Uh and it I tell them it’s diverse.  They’re writing English papers for me I’m teaching them how to construct knowledge uh how to view a way to view reading and ra..writing.  But not the only way.  Uh and so I can only hope that some of the strategies they’re learning in my class will transfer.  Uh but I’m not even (pause) I shouldn’t say this on tape.  I’m not that worried about the other professors.  I’m not there to serve them.  I’m there to serve the students.  And my job as an English professor is in my mind is to help students to love language and love reading and love writing the way that I do.  And if the students leave my class and they feel better about themselves as writers and readers because they’re a….ah so deeply connected ah for me.  Uh and they enjoy language and they think about language in a different way.  And they understand that language has power and that they need to know it to gain access to the power um in society at large partically the students who don’t have access to it even in a first language uh or especially so if they live in the United States unfortunately.  And they are not going to be able to build careers for the most part on their first language but only on English.  But if they understand the power of that and I have helped them gain access to that to see how language works why it’s important um then I have served them well I think.  And I don’t need to think about whether they can do a lab report.  But they will leave my class understanding that it’s important to know how to do that lab report and to figure out ways to do it.  Uh and to find out from the professor how to do that uh then I think I I will have done my job.
            “Yes.  There is something important that I learned from studying one student for three years.  (Pause)  One..in one sense one should never generalize about all students on the basis of one so this is how I like to talk about having studied this student.  Her case was so complicated.  Her experiences were so diverse that I would say to everyone multiply that by every student you ever teach.  Uh and understand that it’s really complicated out there when students go into all of their other courses outside of our ESL courses.  It’s unpredictable.  It’s complex.  It depends on individual teachers and it depends on the student.  But what probably struck me most I think the thing that I learned most from that that I didn’t go into knowing obviously when one undertakes a study you have a lot of your own knowledge um assumptions one tries to stay completely open-minded and objective it’s impossible I’ve discovered.  But one thing I discovered was that the student had her own theories um about language and literacy and about what it meant to succeed in college in the United States.  And those theories kept changing but they were very powerful and they initially stood in her way and eventually empowered her to become a better learner.  They initially stood in her way because uh she had a theory that American writing was opinion writing.  That Americans expressed their opinion and said just what they thought.  And the country she was from she claimed in Japan um that’s not what they did in writing.  And so that theory somehow stood in her way because when she was asked to write in college it turned although she didn’t even see it because she her this theory was so uh dominant in her mind she was not being asked to write her opinion...very much.  And so when she wrote a straight forward um book report type uh or summary type writing for many of her classes um she thought she wasn’t learning how to write like an American writer and she was very disappointed in herself.  Uh she also had a theory that she couldn’t do some of the work.  She dropped out on an International Relations course for example as a first year student because she didn’t have background knowledge because she hadn’t grown up in the United States and she therefore couldn’t do the work so she dropped out.  Uh but then the next year she did take courses where she had no more background knowledge about these um areas of history and culture um that she still hadn’t studied nor did she have the vocabulary that she thought she would need.  She obviously couldn’t get it that fast.  Um and yet she succeeded.  And so she had to change her theory.  Uh and she also by third year of college changed her theory about opinion and decided that uh acquisition of literacy meant uh constructing knowledge uh which was another place where I learned more from the student uh than I thought I would.  And so I think that’s another thing we need to be thinking about.  That’s complicated and hard to untangle.  But what is going on in the mind of the student not just what is the background the student come with.  But what is the students interpretation of that background?  And how is that helping or hurting the student?  How is that uh promoting language acquisition or standing in the way of language acquisition?  And one of the interesting things that has happened and I hope someday to write a follow-up on this study is that this student has long since graduated college and been out in the work place and she has since written to me uh and spoken to me she’s actually back in Japan now uh about her own theories.  And she has read my published um she had read drafts of it before but she has now read the published piece again uh as a young adult and reflected back on it.  And she is amazed that she went into college thinking that in Japan they don’t give their opinions and don’t do it in writing.  Uh and that in the United States they never have just summary type writing and book report because she realized as result of college and going back to Japan uh that she just hadn’t done it yet in Japan.  She’d never been in college in Japan.  And she didn’t even know that this was going on.  And so her own experience had completely disrupted her ideas about what we call contrastive rhetoric.  Uh which also leads me to say that although it’s important to interview students and and find out we also have to be cautious because they have a limited knowledge.  A very specific knowledge.  And we need to always test our uh sources against other sources um to triangulate as I learn they say in qualitative research um to look at many different uh areas of input about how language and literacy are acquired and what it means to write and read across cultures uh in order to develop our own theory about that.  And we’re still in a very early stage of understanding that area of writing.
            “In writing?  Recently connected to my work in ESL but really in a very different area I became interested in Native American Studies.  And it happened to me from uh reading a book uh by a native writer who had begun writing in nineteen hundred in English (pause) and I should back up a little bit to say I even became interested in in native studies because I was asked to consult in Canada a few years ago uh to come with my colleague Vivian Zammel to talk about linguistic diversity uh at an English language ca..college in Quebec.  And the person who invited us said uh that one of their issues was with Cree and Inuit students who were dropping out.  The government had had funded uh to have first nation people send their children to college and the students weren’t succeeding.  I had thought initially when they asked us to come that it just was about bilingual French students that coming to an English language college.  And I realized then that I knew very little about uh native people and their language background and it had not been an issue for me teaching ESL in the Northeast.  But I began to understand and I know a great deal now uh..I was terribly naive about it that in other parts of this country and in Canada um this is an enormous issue that uh whereas English is spoken by virtually all uh native American children today many of them enter school not knowing English.  And so we do have ESL instruction for native students all over uh America patically in the Southwest and and in the West.  And I became interested in that and became interested in this um writer writing in nineteen hundred and I started to do some of this work and I discovered um I..I think I understood this in some level but I discovered there were some people in the Native community who didn’t think I should be doing work because I was not a native scholar and myself.  Uh and I began to think about this uh and I guess I would identify myself primarily as a Jewish American woman and visibly as a white woman.  And what does it mean for a white Jewish American woman to be writing about native studies?  And it caused me to think a great deal about um teachers.  Who the teachers are.  I think we’ve done a lot of  work on who the students are in a c..in a diverse classroom and what the texts are in teaching multiculturalism what are we going to teach uh multicultural books to multicultural students.  Uh but then I began to think that well we have multicultural teachers and scholars and scholarships and where do I fit in to all of this?  Uh and I began to think about that and began to do some research in that area and become very aware that teaching was a lot more complicated uh as everything else is uh than I thought it was.  And I think in our particular field the ESL field one of the issues becomes who should teach (pause) ESL.  And traditionally in this country it has been those we call native speakers of English.  And I use the term native advisedly today.  Um and increasingly yet increasingly in our graduate schools in the United States non-native speakers of English are coming in to get graduate degrees in tee saw.  Uh in a course for example a methodology course I taught a few years ago one-third of the class identified themselves as non-native speakers of English.  They themselves did not feel comfortable writing uh academic English and needed to tap into my expertise in that area not just in my expertise in second language acquisition and methodology to help them become better academic writers.  And so a question uh has arisen about who should teach.  I’ve also spoken to some ESL uh scholars who identify themselves as non-native educators uh who tell me that many of the overseas jobs are listed as native speakers of English only um which I think in the United States we might not be allowed to advertise.  It might it it is a form of discrimination.  And I think that um many people who are second language speakers of English have been forced to become invisible to hide the fact that English is their second language.  To work on pronunciation and accent and all of this.  And I think their uh pushing the boundaries that group is pushing the boundaries for us uh the way that some immigrants are in the United States to say uh we we’re going to take ownership of our non-native status.  Um it is all right that we speak with an accent.  Uh it is fine that our pronunciation is not perfect.  Uh even that our language is not perfect.  This does not stop us from being good teachers of English.  Uh in fact and the scholar Elser Auerback has and teacher has written about this that perhaps some of the best people to teaching ESL are second language learners themselves because they understand so many of the issues.  I would say on the other hand though uh that the fact that I am a native speaker of English and I say that advisedly but I I am and for the most part now a monolingual speaker of English because I don’t use any of the other languages I have studied um that does not preclude me from being a good ESL teacher.  So I I would just say it’s another area um just as we need to open the gates to students and we need to open our eyes uh to linguistic diversity both in spoken and written English in our classrooms.  We need to open the gates to uh the numbers of non-native uh ESL people who want to teach ESL uh and who shouldn’t have to hide that.  They they it it it should be visible.  It should be something we promote and honor and and and privilege.  And I do want to say a wonderful thing happened to me at a tee saw conference two years ago.  Um a young I I went to a session to hear someone speak and a young woman in her late twenties or early thirties um turned around and saw my name tag uh and said, ‘Oh, Ruth Spack.  I’ve used your book.  Um so excited to meet you!’  And I said, ‘Oh, that’s so nice.  Where do you teach?’  And she looked at me and she said, ‘No I used your book when I was a student in college.  And now I’m studying to be an ESL teacher.’  And I thought that that had never occurred to me that any college student using my book um would actually become an ESL teacher.  But I’m I’m very proud of that um and proud that and happy um because I the book was written many years ago but the underlying principles for me are the same uh in terms of honoring students the languages and literacy’s in plural that they bring to the classroom and building on that.  Uh and it was very pleasing to hear a young woman feel that she had gained some confidence from that experience to want to do this work herself.
            “Mmm hmm.  (Pause)  We know a lot about writing in first and second language but we have a lot more to learn.  And I think this is true in both fields.  And both fields are relatively young I should say.  If one looks at the history of the teaching of English uh the teaching of writing is a relatively uh new field uh in in the United States um in English for native speakers of English.  Er..early on most writing instruction was grammar instruction.  Uh students who took placement exams in college um just um thirty years ago were often if they didn’t write well were put in grammar courses not in writing courses.  And yet today we have virtually every college and university has virtually every student taking at least one required writing course.  And we are still finding out how to teach that what that means uh doing research on that.  I think the future uh a future agenda is looking at the role of technology in helping to promote uh academic writing.  This unfortunately is going to or at least now uh does present a class divide because uh for those students who can afford or those schools that can afford the technology um we can forge ahead um experiment with that do research with that and really help I think tremendously.  I know that I I have that luxury and I have seen what it can mean for students to revise um on the screen uh looking at it.  Um I’m even afraid to tell teachers in in poor schools that I’m teaching at a school where every student is required to have a laptop.  And the students can actually bring them to class or come to my office and I can sit side by side or they sit side by side with each other uh and play with words which is I think what the great writers do.  And um they’re learning so much about writing through the technology and I think that is one um one area uh for the future to learn more about.  I think the most the most troubling thing for me as a teacher as a scholar as a researcher is that second language writing is so uh frustrating the product that students produce is so frustrating for so many people that instead of going forward a lot people are going backward.  And I think this has um (pause) excited my passions lately more than almost anything.  (Interviewer coughs)
            “Yeah.  That’s all right.  My nose is itchy.  (Laughs) 
            “Ok. 
            “Uh..I um (pause) I think one of the most difficult things for anyone English teachers ESL teachers teachers across the curriculum in all subject areas when they look at student writing who are writing in a second language uh and they see error and they don’t quite unders…or they don’t quite understand what the student is is saying.  They they almost get it but it it doesn’t seem quite right to them.  Um people are not sure what to do with that.  And we have not solved that problem.  Certainly that has to be an area for the future.  Uh it it has been the area that has most engaged everyone’s attention in the field of ESL the production of error.  Uh initially that was the field in a sense uh certainly in my early training an error analysis and so forth.  And all that is important work.  Um we have yet to find out how to deal with that I should say.  That’s the place that we’re not.  Virtually every research study and studies of research studies have suggested to us that there is no error correction method that works.  Uh there is no universal way to address error.  And this is terribly frustrating to people.  It’s one of those levels of uh ambiguity uh that I can tolerate but some people can not.  And there was a time when uh twenty years or so ago when the idea of teaching writing as a process um came into being as kind of an entity.  For me it’s more of a philosophy by the way than a technique or or or a method.  For me it’s a principle.  Education is a process.  Writing is a process.  Reading is a process.  It just makes sense to me so that it for me is a writing is a process is not a certain uh number of steps we follow.  But when it came in and people adopted it as a way of teaching writing of having students draft and revise and then edit.  A lot of people thought this is going to fix that error problem.  And it didn’t.  And what has happened recently is that some people are saying well let’s go back.  Let’s go back to teaching the five paragraph theme um and having students use a rigid format.  And let’s go back to teaching grammar and focusing on grammar uh and error correction because this writing process thing didn’t work.  And this (pause) this disturbs me to the core because it’s going back to something that we know didn’t work.  We know it didn’t work.  And yet we have a growing body of evidence to suggest that teaching writing as a process in the best sense when it is truly done not as a set of lock step procedures um but when it really does engage students um in learning in thinking in reflecting in revising in rethinking what their doing uh in constructing knowledge when it works that way we have lots of evidence to suggest that students are becoming better writers more confident writers more careful writers.  So I hate to see uh that give up.  It’s not a technique it’s it’s a philosophy.  It’s almost an approach to life for me.  And so I am very very concerned about that seeing the field um turn in that direction and I think that one reason that it’s happenin..happening is that we can’t solve the error problem.  We may never solve the error problem unless we turn it around and not call it a problem.  And just see it as something as predictable natural understandable logical uh and and live with it.  And keep having people um work on it and I should add that this has not stopped people from graduating from college uh from becoming engaged learners from finding jobs and even fr..even from moving up in companies although it does stand in some people’s way.  Um but in the workforce uh people are looking for hard workers uh people who are engaged people who are motivated people who are willing to learn people who are willing to improve themselves uh improve their work um do their jobs and all of that can be accomplished even if there is error.  And when I hear conversations uh and this has had been in circles where people have said well we can’t let these students graduate our institution making language errors.  Um I’ve..I’m frightened for students.  And we also always have to look historically.  Who’s who is in college?  Who used to be there?  When was there a time that people didn’t make error?  I think we have to go back perhaps to the seventeenth or eighteenth century when only the the male children of propertied white men went into higher education uh and got the best jobs and got the leadership position.  But that’s not what this country is anymore.  And even at Harvard University in the eighteen seventies when they instituted their first writing exam they had never had one before um they discovered that even those students made a lot of errors and then they began to create um writing instruction uh to help students.  And as more and more people have come in uh there is more cultural diversity and more linguistic diversity in our schools and colleges and we have to embrace it.  We have to understand it um just as we embrace culture and justice as a nation for the most part we understand that people can become Americans without having to give up uh their core values their core cultural values and practices as we have increasingly allowed for that to happen.  I think we also need to embrace that kind of linguistic diversity and understand that just as people who come here as immigrants want to be Americans without giving up their essential Spanishness or Chineseness or Jewishness or whatever it is.  Um these people want to learn to write in English and they want to learn standard English uh but at some level they either won’t or can’t give up uh their essential ways of using language.  And I think if we can get to understand that and become more relaxed and make fewer demands for that um perfect idealized native standard English which exists only in the most rarified circles.  And even then if we look at academic writing open any journal in almost any field most of it is unreadable.  And yet that is sometimes what is called standard native English.  What the students in my classes write is so much more readable so much richer so much more engaged so much more thoughtful and meaningful and sincere than much of what I read in the journals um in our scholarly field.  Even though it has language error um than I think that’s a better standard um than something else uh that you know may not even exist.   
            “Thanks.  Ok.  No.  Oh.  (Laughs)  It’s it’s one of the things I hate the most about tee saw is all of the witty supposedly witty comments everybody has to outdo each other verbally, you know?…Shut up!  (Laughs)  I I do get tired