Perhaps I didn't make myself clear on why the term "diagnostician "
bothers me, and why the medical metaphor makes me uncomfortable.
I don't wish to see students looked on as somehow incompetent
merely because they've not yet had the opportunity to write the way
we feel they need to write to in order to do well in college.
And the idea that somehow we should be able to fix their "sickness"
with a "prescription," takes away the students' role in helping
themselves. Surely we do need to locate where our students are most
unfamiliar with this new discourse community. But this model
has extended into the mind of the student with quite depressing
results. I'm told by students they are "terminal," all the time. I
don't know how many times I've heard the phrase "I'm just not
a writer." Through this diagnosing, which often never gets farther
than the prescription "Do this and you'll improve," these students
have concluded that the prescriptions just fly fastly and furiously
and they never seem to come to a point in their writing where
they don't need further prescriptions.
Sure we do make analyses of our students; it's impossible to do otherwise.
But if we're going to continue to indulge this metaphor perhaps we
ought to decide who the physician is. Maybe our students are just
as good doctors as we are. I've seen peer group work that has
"fixed " problems faster than I've been able to.
I want to close with a quote from Mike Rose on this subject, from the
text "Lives on the Boundary." The text has its merits as well as
some oversights, but it's still an interesting examination.
"Our purpose, finally, is to root out disease--and, too often, to
punish. We write reductive prescriptions for excellence.... What
gets lost in all this are the real needs of children and adults working
to make written language their own. Every day in our schools and
colleges, young people confront reading and writing tasts that seem hard
or unusual, that confuse them, that they fail. But if you can get close
enough to their failure, you'll find knowledge that the assignment didn't
tap, ineffective rules and strategies that have a logic of their own..."