I wanted to further explore some connections I drew between the article Reading Classrooms as Texts by Jennie Nelson, and Inventing the University by Bartholome. For me, essentially Bartholome is taking the same problem addressed in Reading Classrooms as Texts and expanding in beyond the individual classroom. Bartholome is making the claim that students not only need to read individual classes and instructors as textbooks, but also entire fields of study, including mastering academic speaking and writing in a variety of genres. Students are reading their classrooms and inventing the university. According to Bartholome the students, “invent the university by assembling and mimicking its language, finding some compromise between idiosyncrasy, a personal history, and the requirements of convention, the history of a discipline.” What I find most interesting about this statement is that Bartholome suggests that the most successful students are constantly negotiating between their own idiosyncrasies and personal histories, or identity, and that of the university. As evident through the writing samples presented in Bartholome’s article, one characteristic of basic writers writing is their attempt to write with authority although, in all actuality they have almost no “power” in the university setting. What is the best voice for students to utilize in academic writing? Basic writers are often trying to “negotiate the transition between writer-based and reader-based prose. So, according to Bartholome, while students are still developing their academic language in their area of discipline they are forced to appropriate the discourse. “Learning, at least as it is defined in the liberal arts curriculum, becomes more a matter of imitation or parody than a matter of invention and discovery” (p.516) This process of imitation as Nelson points out in her article permeates almost every aspect of classroom curium, and Bartholome makes a strikingly similar claim, but he expands it to include entire academic disciplines within the university setting. Sometimes the imitations that a given discipline demands are explicitly stated as imitating a writing style of an academic field such as APA, MLA, Chicago ext, or it can be more implicit. For example, as a student in higher education I have learned that if you want to participate in academic discussions or writing the quicker you master the instructor catch phrases such as: “take away ideas”, “riff off that idea” ext. the better, and I know the rest of the successful students in the classroom do the same thing. So, are educators merely conditioning their students to be masters of imitation instead of masters of innovation?
I think that both Bartholome and Nelson would support the claim that the educational system is training students to essentially “play the role”. By asking students to assume the role of expert and impress their professors who carry the social capital and all of the power associated with it are obviously far more knowledgeable about their own classroom expectations are we are setting them up to fail, or merely tow the line of academic expectations. This line of questioning led me to think about a classroom or university free of these constraints, and honestly I can’t even imagine what that would look like or whether or not that would be a richer learning environment. Can we separate the active learning environment from the physical institution itself? Don’t we need these experts to teach and model for their students? Isn’t modeling one of the best ways for students to “ acquire” this academic language? The quote by Foucault that Bartholome article begins with is in effect saying education is the means to gain access to academic discourse and all the power privilege that accompanies it.