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officers and business people say that communications from applicants that are littered with grammatical errors send up red flags that cause the writers to lose opportunities they might have otherwise had. So, let’s admit that grammar is important . . . (Harris, “Re: Contextualizing”). Teachers “cannot afford” to let students believe surface errors are not important and should make students aware of the judgment their errors will receive outside academia: Although it may be easy for teachers to dismiss these features as merely “superficial,” the surface apparently has considerable importance to those who often hold the power to affect other people’s lives. . . . [We] may unnecessarily make our students’ writing vulnerable to disparagement—and, sometimes, severe ridicule—by people whom upwardly mobile students presumably seek most to impress. In particular, we disproportionately put at risk students who speak a nonstandard variety of English since they are the ones most likely to reproduce in their writing the “status marking” and “very serious” errors so roundly condemned by the professionals. (Noguchi 29). I make my students aware that the correct usage of proper English distinguishes “the language of privilege and prestige” from that of the uneducated (Weaver, Teaching143) and often measures social and cultural status. I encourage students to learn the formal English of academic discourse in order to access more freedom and power and accomplish goals that require education. I help them assimilate tenets of different
19learning communities and “invent the university by assembling and mimicking its language” in order to accomplish their goals (Bartholomae, “Inventing” 624). Increasing numbers of students starting college are required to take non-credit writing courses before they can take Composition; these basic, developmental, remedial, or preparatory writing courses are for students who can read and write but fail to reach academic standards of colleges or universities (Stotsky, Losing 149). Often, basic writers are those whose first language is not English, those who are not Native English Speaking (NES) but use English as a Foreign Language (EFL), English as a Second Language (ESL), or English for Speakers of Other Languages(ESOL); they are often designated as Non-Native Speakers (NNS) or Non-Native English Speakers (NNES) (Gillespie 119; Gallagher 51). Basic writers use a combination of “mixed linguistic and discursive resources” (Bizzell 9) and generally print rather than write, use simple punctuation (commas and periods), and sentences “awkwardly and . . . self-consciously constructed to honor correctness above all other virtues, including sense” (Weaver, Teaching23). Culture, ethnicity, gender, and class are often evidenced in their writing, which simulates their speaking. I warn them that minority dialects or non-privileged forms of writing or speaking are looked upon critically by academia and the business world; for example, the