Why the PWC?
Every democracy demands a space for communities of writers who are organizing for social justice, as well as offer high-quality writing instruction to those on the margins of access. Too often, the people who most need writing support can least afford it, and as a result, only the best-resourced can pay for the kind of writing help that leads to greater economic opportunity and political power. Without services like the PWC, the wealth gap can be expected to increase as only the rich gain access to the services which will professionally advance them, and only the rich will be able to do the kind of writing which advocates for their political interests. The PWC instead equips organizers with the all-powerful skill of written communication so that they can gain a foothold politically.
What is Pop Ed?
The PWC is in the "pop ed" (popular education) tradition of the Highlander Folk School--the school for direct action in Tennessee--in that the PWC teaches the skills needed to build grassroots democracy. The PWC is also in the tradition of the experimental college, which began in the 1960’s at institutions like Oberlin and Berkeley, in that both are radical democratizations of education. The experimental college in the U.S. offers a free education within an accredited body. For example, the University of Minnesota chapter of EXCO-TC (the Experimental College of the Twin Cities) is a place “where everyone is a teacher and everyone is a learner.” The PWC is like EXCO in that it is free and politically radical, but the PWC focuses on writing in particular.
What To Expect
Our philosophy of writing consultation is based on a model of education which is anti-oppressive and anti-hierarchical and strives to reimage education as liberation. This often means that we “de-school” each other on what we have been taught “good writing” is, or what “good teaching” is. Too often, “good writing” means “correct,” and “good teaching” means authoritarianism. To us, good writing is the kind of writing that works best in a particular situation. To us, good teaching is working against the hierarchies that structure social relations in too many educational settings. And good writing consultation means:
1. We have as much to learn from you as you do from us. For example, you know what you want to say, and you know the subject area more than we do.
2. We ask a lot of questions of you (to determine what your intention was) before we make recommendations.
3. We encourage you to take ownership over your own writing, so we’re not offended if you reject any of our suggestions.
An Anti-Racist Writing Center
Championing Linguistic Diversity
At the PWC, we think of writing as not just a discrete skill used to communicate. We see writing as a path to self-discovery, to making social change, and to re-imagining what’s possible in our world. As we have seen so often, texts can both reflect the world, and change it.
For this reason, we are committed to a holistic approach of writing instruction and consultation: as a writer at the PWC, you will learn not just the skill necessary to complete a particular writing project; you will also practice writing as a way of making change within yourself and in the world.
Because we are committed to reimaging our world, we are committed to an explicitly anti-racist writing center. This certainly requires a commitment to racial diversity in our consultants, writers, committee members, partners, and staff. But building an anti-racist space in a white supremacist world requires much more than that. We are committed to:
1. Talking to writers and community partners about race and racism.
2. Educating ourselves as consultants, committee members, and staff members about how racism and equity show up in the world and at the PWC.
3. Pointing out that writing is “rhetorical”—that is, there is no such thing as “correct” or “incorrect” language use; what’s best in a text depends on context and the writer’s purpose.
4. Embracing linguistic diversity: we believe that all languages are equal, and all vernaculars are equal. For example, African-American Vernacular English is honored at the PWC, where we believe that AAVE is a full-fledged language that should be used in the contexts in which the writer elects to use it.
The PWC embraces other kinds of diversity as well. For example, we identify our pronouns, and ask you if you’d like to identify yours. This is because we believe the foundation of teaching is embracing who our writers are.
Thanks to Dr. Asao Inoue and the writing consultants at the University of Washington-Tacoma for inspiring these tenets of anti-racist writing center work through the Inclusivity Statement at UW’s Writing Center.