On Suppression of Expression of Marginalized Students


Writing is meant to be a form of expression, and suppression is the antithesis of expression. Professors should always keep in mind that 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.

Such a feat might be resisted at first. Annas argues that “students from marginalized groups often are suspicious or have a struck-dumb response to “high” language and they often quite rightly have a sense that the classroom itself and the reading and writing they’re supposed to be doing is alien and uncomfortable” (170). When a southern student is more comfortable with southern dialect than academic speak, it might take a bit more effort to bring them under the wing of academia.

Annas suggests that such students “feel powerless, dispossessed or unpossessed of a tradition in language and literature, the literature or writing classroom may be uncomfortable for them and may silence or mute them” creating a “more ambivalent, more problematic relation to middle-class academic language” (170).

So what then is the solution? Annas believes a closer look at academic discourse is the key (170). I think Annas’s scrutinization regarding academic discourse is admirable, but it is not enough. I would like to suggest that, if and when an instructor identifies such a need in this type of student the first step is acknowledgement of the issue and to reach out with understanding and kindness as well as a listening ear.

Kindness and communication are stressed as key by Casie Fedukovich, who teaches composition and comes from a poor working class background. Her essay discusses her working class roots and their relevance in the composition classroom, and how embracing these traits can create a link between instructor and student that fosters a healthy learning environment (Fedukovich 141). Highlighting the binaries of working class and education, the author believes that one is able to maintain both identities and find a place in both worlds. If an instructor comes from such a background, like I do, and is able to identify a student with a similar background, it seems that transparency regarding the topic might be seems to be a good approach to the problem.