Self-censorship, Writing and Older Students In the College Classroom

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One of the ideas I came across when going back to college as an adult was the almost immediate identity crisis I felt. Obviously I don’t fit in with 20-year-old sorority gals (or, to be fair, not even the 20-year-old chubby nerd student). Here I am, late 30’s, and I’m just now getting my act together and going back to school. It’s a good thing I found writing as an outlet. However, I found quickly that even within writing there is taboo.

Self-censorship can often extend not only in relation to topics in the composition classroom, but in identity issues during the writing process. Annas writes, “I was going to be highly visible, I was going to be revealed as an alien, someone different. And although I was not in the least ashamed of my background, it was going to be very uncomfortable to be the one working-class specimen in the group” (Annas 169). This experience may lead to the attempted hiding of true identity.

Whether accidental or intentional, the creation and fostering of a sense of shame regarding identity may make the composition classroom a hostile place. If identity is suppressed, then writing becomes more difficult than necessary.

Writing is meant to be a form of expression, and suppression is the antithesis of expression. In some instances, a slight change in teaching style may help not only the southern female student, but others as well. Annas suggests that composition instructors should strive to “transform the way we teach writing, because in required writing courses we reach all students and not just English majors” (170). By making an effort to reach the southern female student where she lives, composition instructors take the extra step to reach out to create a learning space where there was at first only struggle.

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