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I. don't. know.

There's a lot going on in "Why Feminists Make Better Tutors..." and in trying to find something to say about it, all I can really think is how weak I think some of Lutes' arguments are:

I have a friend who thrives as a chemistry major but who can also successfully navigate literary analysis. With this example in mind, I agree with Lutes that tutors should be wary of the ways they think about working with students from other disciplines. Yet, I can't help thinking that using the reflections of one tutor in only two situations doesn't provide a very stable base for what she finally says; tutors adjust their styles in reaction to discipline AND gender stereotypes. Could it be coincidence that the engineer was male and the com arts student female?

And further, I don't agree that Rajit's not-exactly-prideful view of his collaborative tutoring experiences is an indication that collaboration is considered a feminine approach (and thus unworthy). I think this could be a fair conclusion, but the reflections of one fellow are not sufficient evidence. It isn't far fetched to say that many writing tutors feel more confident about sessions they understand. Whether or not collaboration is more beneficial to a student than knowledge of discipline (and I think it definitely is in many cases), the way consultants feel after a session doesn't always reflect this. It's natural to feel better about things you have some control over.

Unlike this post, which is quickly getting out of hand. I'm not sure what I want to do with it. I do think this topic is complicated and am interested in Lutes' claim that interdisciplinary subjects like Women's Studies advocate more collaborative ways of thinking and learning. This is a smart idea and I can see bits of it in our own center. One thing I would have liked is if Lutes had further pursued the role of the professor in the writing fellows program. I think this is something we might look into having had a lot less contact with faculty members than the tutors in this essay.

I wonder how much of our own methods of collaboration are fostered by minimal instructor interference. I constantly feel like I'm jumping into a pool of god-knows-what whenever I begin a consultation and I think this has a lot to do with the fact that the assignment is always new (with the exception of those pesky 1301/1401 kids. ha.).

So I guess I agree that feminists do make better tutors if you consider our own WRIT class. As a group of students jumping into a field we're not accustom to--a relatively new one--we've begun to think on fresh paths. Maybe this new-ness is what does it. I personally haven't seen the kind of gendered thinking Lutes describes in her essay, but maybe it is because our center is a place apart. Even SWS online is a new concept, something we're all trying to figure out. Maybe the reason it works is because we're all grappling with it. We have to start from the ground up and work together, without old rules, without professors.

I'm having trouble thinking through this. I'll just stop.

Comments

But! I know this is a small point in your entry, where you say that most people feel more comfortable in a session when they know the subject matter, but I think I personally have to disagree. A girl came into Appleby with an analysis of a graphic novel I had to read last year ("Persepolis," it's a good read..), and her interpretation on the book was...well not always correct, kind of like Jenna's consultee who misinterpreted "Dream of the Rood." And because I knew what the answer was supposed to be, I felt super uncomfortable saying anything for fear that I'd give her ideas.
Contrariwise, this guy who comes to see me Wednesdays and Fridays is an expert on plasma-cutting, and I of course have NO idea what that is. His goal is to have an outsider be able to understand his lab report, so he spends every session "teaching" me and modifying his text so I can understand it. Perhaps those are just two convenient examples, but still...

But then, you're (Maggie) raising the question of whether we should do anything when we know something is wrong (content wise) with the paper (wrong analysis, wrong answer, wrong direction, etc.) Sure, I can read chemistry labs for clarity, but if I know that the consultee is describing, say, plasma cutting, completely wrong, should I ignore that fact and still just read for clarity? I guess it's different between the sciences and English, facts and literary analysis, but I don't think I would feel super uncomfortable if I had to tell the consultee that maybe 2+2 isn't equal to 5. Then again, with English, my teacher used to tell us that as long as we adequately support our thesis, whatever interpretation we come up with is fine. Who knows...maybe we should just use the directing method that Helen used in Lute's article: "Oh, say more about that!"

Compromises...

similar to emily, i'm finding myself a bit unsure of how to articulate my reaction to this piece...i don't think it's so much that her reading of the tutor's reactions were "wrong" (i'd suggest that there's no way that lutes has access to what "really" happened...she can only interpret the situations in a way that might bring about productive dialogue. hmm...). that said, though, there's something off-putting about this article. i think jenna, in her post, touched on it-- while i appreciate lutes' call for critical inquiry that would challenge academic and disciplinary conventions, i don't feel i have a clear idea of what this challenge looks like, and i'm not sold on the idea that interdisciplinary perspectives like those in women's studies automatically create critical practices. as a person with 2 interdisciplinary majors that pride themselves on 'challenging' academic conventions, i'd say they just as often produce folks who uncritically accept rather rigid ideas of what a 'challenge' to academic authority looks like.

the part of her article i found most interesting was her description of "the paradoxical middle ground," where she suggested that tutors can simultaneously integrate people into the conventions of certain disciplines while challenging them. this is the thing that strikes me about my own practices as a consultant-- that i'm consistently doing both. for instance, while urging a student to consult with a teacher (and reinforcing, in some ways, their authority), i think i say little things that point out how this authority's rather arbitrary-- saying, for instance, something about how different instructors have different preferences for papers, or even different ways of interpreting material. i hear other consultants doing it all the time, too. any other thoughts about what the "paradoxical middle ground" looks like?

what a long beast of a comment. i guess the point of it, and something lutes brings out (too) briefly, is that it's good for us to try to articulate very specifically what we think things like "academic/disciplinary authority," challenges to this authority, and change actually look like.

i had a thought on my walk to class about my comment about lutes' interpretation of the tutors' comments. while i still think that it's not so important if she's figured out what "really" happened (i.e. she's not "wrong" per se), she does kind of present her interpretations as unambiguously "right"-- that is, she treats them as though they can be read neatly.

i feel like in some ways i'm off on an abstract tangent on this point, but i do think this distinction of how one both reads and presents interpretation of data is an important one (and how questions of what's "true" play into this). especially when it comes to qualitative work (and our inquiry papers will largely be qualitative). i wanted to add something here to clarify myself further, but i think i've lost it.

I think I know what you're saying...considering Lutes' argument for collaboration and steering clear of gendered thinking (which can advocate dichotomous thinking [right/wrong, black/white]), it seems strange that she would suggest her perceptions of other people's reflections as "right" or as parts of a certain category of thought, rather than as pathways to discussion...is that what you mean?

Miranda, your (first) post helped me articulate something I've been struggling with: What exactly is a feminist approach to writing center tutoring and why is it the alternative to the admittedly patriarchal academic style we are taught practically from the womb? I agree that disciplines which are meant to challenge these traditional notions of learning often churn out students who think just as uncritically as their more traditionally educated peers. Is this really a question of good conventions/bad conventions, or simply a question about understanding and thinking critically about the conventions of any discipline?

I join the club of people who are not sure what to think about this article. I guess to begin with I havent taken a womyn studies class so i dont know the philosophy, which it is assumed i know as i begin the article. I found it to be a typical study of a few examples presented in a way that proves whatever it is the author decided she wanted to prove before beginning. Don't get me wrong, I am not anti-feminist, i'm not sure what i am, but i think there may be an option c or d as emily lind brought up. Is the issue with the patriarchal style the fact that everything is skewed from a certain point of view? Isn't it the same for the feminist perspective? There is a right and wrong way to see things from a feminist view. As i said i may just be an idiot since i havent studied feminism in an academic setting (just lived it for many years)