The Gap Between ESL Programs and Mainstream Academics

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The Gap Between ESL Programs and Mainstream Academics The world of Academia is daunting even for one who speaks the language of the culture in which it is embedded. As I set about writing this paper, I must – as I imagine Ryuko Kubota must also have done in her crusade against stereotypical theories – make this subject real for me. This process of making sense of what has already been written, of my own and others’ responses to them, of how it applies to what I have observed in the real life of a Japanese student grappling through the rhetorical and cultural jungles, and how to synthesis it all into a crisp-written thesis, feels very much like preparing to birth a perfect, unwieldy egg. I have a vague vision of how it might look, yet I’ve no idea how it is supposed to come out of me. And, furthermore, what might hatch from it once it is in the world. This allows me a new appreciation for those going through this process without the advantage of their first language. This also stirs a sense of responsibility brought to my attention by Ruth Spack regarding the integrity of researchers – or anyone actively utilizing the discourse of dominance – who have in their hands not only the power of influencing individuals’ experiences learning a language, but swaying the course of social perception. In her criticism of the intellectual irresponsibility of colleagues such as Murphy, Carson & Nelson, whose poorly-supported generalizations about eastern cultures created a “snowball effect” in succeeding literature, she warned of the danger of seemingly harmless assertions being “treated as cultural truths and then applied inappropriately to other cases” (Spack, 769). It is with such particular acts that dangerous assumptions can debilitate core efforts toward clearer communication. It is therefore both with a sense of compassion for those having to situate themselves – and succeed – in a discourse not their own, and a sense of duty to contribute to a vaster understanding and acceptance of our world’s multiple consciousnesses, that I approach the issue of contrastive rhetoric and L2 writing. With unabashed contempt for the tendencies toward mass stereotyping found in much of the literature on contrastive rhetoric (except for recent criticism from Spack, Kubota and the like), I wanted to narrow the scope of my thesis as much as possible – to ground it in the directly-observable, and to strip away any supposition that my views are anything other than subjective.
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