Our statement on Equity and Social Justice in the Writing Center is divided into two parts: beliefs and values. We see our beliefs as the philosophical underpinnings of our actions, which are embodied in our values. As consultants, we want to work together with our peers, our teachers, our administrators, and our community to reduce systemic inequities within public education.
As an organization, we have four foundational beliefs that form the basis of our continuing work of building an inclusive, equitable writing center:
- Expanding Growth Mindset + “Pedagogy of Hope:” We believe that with effort and support, students can find their strengths and reach higher levels of academic achievement, closing existing gaps and preventing new ones. In addition to promoting a growth orientation, we will continue to work for structural and systemic changes within our school and broader communities to reduce the structural inequities that a mindset can’t solve.
- Multiplying Funds of Knowledge: We can’t “fix” anyone. Students don’t need to be fixed; they need to find their strengths and be able to use them on assignments.
- Sharing Vulnerability: Writing Center consultants are not “experts,” but instead co-learners who are working as agents of change against traditional education. Writing Center is not a stand-in for curricular power or teacher control.
- Amplifying Student Voice + Community Engagement: We will take actions that result in increased student engagement, ownership, involvement, empowerment, and effort.
The consultants of the Skyline Writing Center are committed to working against the pervasive ideology of deficit thinking in schools that has cast students as needing to be “fixed” or “remediated” because their everyday literacy, language, and social practices have been deemed incongruent with institutional standards. We believe that institutional standards are systemically aligned with the voices and values of dominant people, which forces marginalized students to conform to their social, linguistic, and literacy practices or risk academic failure, which can impact college admissions and scholarship offers, employment and program opportunities, and, perhaps most of all, a student’s sense of self-efficacy and agency. The systemic privileging of dominant discursive practices mirrors and edifies existing power imbalances, sending a clear signal about the kinds of critical knowledge and social capital that are and are not valued in a given space. Additionally, the tacit message here is that the “problem” or “deficit” resides within the student, but the solution—the “fix”—lies outside of the student, further limiting agency and self-efficacy by fostering tendencies related to fixed mindset where students write to please the grader rather than writing to learn.
As consultants, we believe that deficit thinking—the idea that students need to “fixed” or “saved”—is problematically colonial because it invalidates whole identities and their social and cultural capital from finding a place in the institution. As consultants, we believe it is vital that we work against deficit thinking where we see it by offering students a critical and physical space to find and use their existing cultural and social capital—their “funds of knowledge”—as a legitimate, valued basis for completing school assignments.
As consultants, we must actively work to confront any personal biases and systemic discrimination that prevents any Skyline student from using their own strengths and abilities to succeed, even if they are outside the dominant culture’s funds of knowledge. Indeed, we cannot avoid discussing issues of social injustice or social inequity because silence leads to inaction and the continuation of the current system. No person, race, or culture needs to be “fixed,” but their funds of knowledge—their social and cultural capital—must be multiplied, celebrated, and valued within the Writing Center and in our school in order to encourage empowerment through what Nancy Grimm calls a “pedagogy of hope.”
We believe that writing centers do more than simply help students with writing, as writing is not an ideologically neutral act, especially as students must often balance the demands of school and teachers with their own social, political, and cultural realities. The Writing Center can be the site where important peer-to-peer conversations about the systemic tensions in the education system and their possible solutions can take place.
We know that our work will be ongoing, but we are committed to standing with our community for social justice and equity.
- We will avoid establishing power hierarchies that further notions of deficit thinking in the Writing Center by sharing vulnerability with our classmates and valuing their language and knowledge.
- We will avoid language that cause microaggressions in order to foster equity and inclusion in sessions, in training, and in the Writing Center.
- We will use a student’s preferred first name and preferred pronouns at all times in sessions, in training, and in the Writing Center.
- We will use person-first language when working with writers with disabilities to ensure inclusivity for all learners at Skyline.
- We will also use language that fosters growth mindset and “pedagogy of hope” for all students allowing them to continue strength-based improvement as part of our commitment to reducing systemic achievement gaps. We believe that we all can learn and achieve.
- We will run sessions that ask our classmates growth-minded questions that help them to unlock, unpack, and use their strengths in writing.
- We will not interfere with a classmate’s right to express themselves in the ways that best reflect their social, cultural, and political realities.
- We will continue to discuss issues and artifacts of social injustice and inequity to ensure that we are aware of systemic and personal biases, learning additional strategies to support students impacted by discrimination, and focusing on how we can ensure that our Writing Center practices support all of our classmates.
- We will continue to publish, promote, and amplify student voices in an effort to empower them to use their words, art, photography, and multimedia skills to confront issues of social inequity and injustice in our community.
- We will engage with community partners to support literacy in our area to help reduce inequities and close the achievement gap.