Reflecting on Mike Rose’s “The Language of Exclusion”

Rose is writing in 1985, but some of his concerns could easily apply to the university today as well. Freshman composition is often still treated as a place for student’s writing to be “remediated.” Writing instructors are still underpaid, and the position is not always valued. Rose works to problematize the words “illiteracy” and “remediation” in this article. Rose’s history of the term “illiteracy” was very illuminating. It was interesting to learn that the original Census counted anyone as literate who could write their name. The meaning of illiteracy has changed many times since then, with one of the later definitions meaning anyone who can read and write at sixth grade level. He realizes “how caught up we all are in a political-semantic web that restricts the way we think about the place of writing in the academy at the way people in academia” (342). He argues that to use the terms illiteracy and remediation are exclusionary, and that we can take steps to prioritize writing in the classroom in ways that do not stigmatize those whose writing does not meet academia’s stringent standards. I also found his section on the evolution of how we describe dyslexia to be interesting. I do agree that we should be careful about the words we use to describe how students may struggle with writing.

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