It is a psychological theory that people look at things differently due to different factors like culture and context. For example, an image of a woman with a structure of a rectangular shape, with depth, above her head was shown to different groups of people in a study, and most of the East Africans responded that the woman was balancing a metal box or a can on her head, while the questioned Westerns thought that it was a window (Gregory & Gombrich 1997). When students go to college, a place where all sort of cultures meet, it is a whole new experience that require students to recognize their lacks in different skills and weakness. And when it comes to students expressing themselves, as David Bartholomae stresses out in his essay “Inventing the University”, a real invention shows up as students bring together their past experience to the new setting they are going for.
Inventing the University “illuminates what student could do with what they read, and potentially where and how they locate themselves” (reconsideration 268). Growing up and raised in Rwanda till my end of high school, it is a very different experience to be in an American college, and to some extent a rough integration for it demands a constant learning in a range of fields. Bartholomae brings to light this kind of experience which goes beyond just reading and writing for a given class. For instance, the first test of my chemistry class not only required me to answer questions that will be on the material the class will be covering, but also a background knowledge of American culture and context like identifying your answer in a favorite movie of most of my classmate that I did not have any knowledge about. Indeed, at the end of my college life, my experience will have been extended to the kind of discourse I would have been exposed to, movies as part of social life included.
Bartholomae restates how much he recognizes student effort in their writing, in the interview with John Schilb (reconsideration 269), a motivating note that some students hope they could get more of it in their classes. For instance, this friend of mine who was alienated by the judgement of his professor on his paper. The professor plainly told my friend that he could not avoid realizing that the paper was an “African” one. Obviously, what created a negative interpretation of that statement for my friend is not the context that his professor was reading his paper because actually the paper is unique and utter the voice of its author. However, recognizing “students’ writing rather than literature and moments rather than masterpieces” (reconsideration 290), like Bartholomae suggests, can make a difference in encouraging student to keep their voice.
It is a crucial lesson in Inventing the University to realize what “writing and schooling” is really about (Bartholomae 266) at the start of my college life. It is not an easy process to determine my experience in different lectures, research and works over the four years, but definitely applying my individual experience at each level creates that invention Bartholomae talks about.
Bartholomae, David. “Inventing the University”, Journal of Basic Writing, Vol. 5, No. 1, 1986
Bartholomew, David and John Schilb. “Reconsideration: “Inventing the university” at 25: An interview with David Barthelomae”, College English, Vol.73, No. 3, January 2011.
Psychological science 10th edition, pg. 231