Friday, March 2, 2007

"Strangers" of the Frontier

Although this blog entry may read as if I have gone completely off tangent, I think the core of what I will try to get across is essential to Horner’s explanation of the vision of basic writing in the “frontier territory” of the past.

I will relate to it with this quick family history concerning language. My mother is one-half Cherokee Indian. She was raised in a home that was isolated from the “white” class by tradition, economics and some racism. The home was also inhabited by my grandmother and grand –uncles and –aunts, who were all full-blood Cherokee and spoke only the Cherokee language. My mother was not immersed in the English language (other than through the occasional visitor or trip to town for essentials) until she reached grade school at the age of 8. This becomes the point where Horner’s reflection ties this anecdote together. He states that “In the history of the American “frontier,” not everyone was a stranger, but the strangers, with the considerable firepower, on encountering native inhabitants of the territory, decided the natives were the strangers, “true outsiders,” “outlandish,” or “foreign.” These they tried to convert when they weren’t trying to eliminate them from the territory altogether” (123). Although this quotation deals with a historical time decades before my mother was born, it still held true when she was a child. When she began school, she was looked at as the “outsider” and not the native inhabitant. She was forced (a harsh word, maybe) to learn the language of the ruling class, and was encouraged to disregard her native tongue.

I think the point that Horner is making in the reading, relates to this disregard of native languages, and a “forced” inclusion of the English language onto all students of other languages who enter college classrooms. As teachers of basic writing, we must remember that we have no right to disregard the language that is indigenous to students, but should embrace other languages, and if needed, work them into the curriculum in order to help basic writers with foreign language backgrounds succeed. In doing so, we will help students become better basic writers, and by showing respect for their native languages, we will develop closer ties with the students, and that is a win-win situation for both teacher and student.

Works Cited

Horner, Bruce, and Min-Zhan Lu. Representing the "Other". Urbana, IL: National
Council of Teachers of English, 1999.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have a similar situation to relate though not nearly as "harsh" as what your mother may have gone through. My hometown church decided to rescue our representative missionary from Indonesia (lotta bad stuff going on there) as well as her Indonesian-acquired family (two women and a little boy). They know a little English but not enough to study for and pass the citizenship test. They are in a situation where they have had to learn our language in order to stay in this country. What is sad is that the little boy is beginning to forget his native language because everyone is forcing English on him. I told my sister that the church should not only help them learn our language, but that they should make an effort to learn their language as well. It's only fair, and that little boy should be able to retain his native language! Stepping off my soapbox now...