A Defense of Dualism: The Writing Center and the Classroom
Writing Center Journal
People who work in writing centers often fall prey to professional insecurity. We feel misunderstood and unappreciated in our own departments (if we even have ą department) and in the larger academy. Our marginal status makes us feel exploited by those with more institutional power and vulnerable in times of retrenchment. Our insecurity has led, as Thomas Hemmeter observes, to ongoing attempts at self-definition. Since no one else recognizes or understands us, we feel the need to continually
... ounce and invent ourselves. And we do so, says Hemmeter, through "a discourse articulated in dualities," the fundamental one being a "contrast of writing center instruction to classroom instruction" (37). To give ourselves a distinctive identity, we oppose ourselves to something with which everyone is familiar: the classroom. Hemmeter is critical of these efforts, arguing that our self-definition is self-defeating. His way out of the logical trap writing center apologists find themselves in is to eliminate that pesky "self." Perhaps the writing center is not a thing at all, but rather an "idea ... a linguistic phenomenon ... a text still in the process of composition" (44). But this is sheer evasion. Whatever its phenomenology, the place where I work is a place. Until the writing center gives up its locational status altogether in favor of virtual reality (a not unimaginable prospect, but one Hemmeter doesn't imagine), the work that writing center people do, like the work that classroom teachers do, will take place somewhere, and denying or ignoring the where-ness of that work won't help us much-either in the quest for self-awareness or in the attempt to improve our services.