Serving students and faculty since 1971

Since my time in grade school, high school, and even now in college I have been well aware of the system of hierarchy embedded within the education system and in all of academia. As I am presently experiencing the role of a writing tutor I have recently begun to question the hierarchy system in academia and whether or not it could actually be detrimental to the writer or student. In my recent experience of tutoring English 109 through the writing center I have seen the student/tutor hierarchy from the tutors’ point of view. So I ask the question where “the line” of hierarchy should be drawn between student and tutor. Should there even be a set standard of hierarchy?

In grade school I was always told what to do, what not to do, what is right, and what is wrong. By the time I reached high school I had developed a case of “red pen syndrome,” or the fear of getting back papers with red marks all over them telling me what I had done wrong. It became difficult to explore thoughts and ideas that were interesting or important to me. I found myself following the linear path that was set before me by my teachers. My state of mind was changed to that of satisfying the teachers’ needs in order to avoid the red marks and earn good grades. Although I have more freedom to express my thoughts and ideas in college there is still a system of hierarchy that at times seems to put me back on a linear path of satisfying an instructor.

As an English 109 tutor I have been able to view academic hierarchy from the perception of the tutor. As a tutor and student I have noticed that students (including myself) sometimes need specific direction and prefer a linear path to follow. I have also noticed that this need for direction comes from the fear of doing an assignment wrong and from the desire to earn a good grade. I have observed students far more concerned with the specific requirements of an assignment rather than the overall purpose of the assignment. Once the final result of a passing grade is reached the knowledge is easily forgotten in pursuit of the next passing grade. As students (including myself) it can be easy to lose priority of our reasons for being here.

During some of my best tutoring sessions I reached a “level playing field,” or equal level of hierarchy with the writer and we seemed to be able to talk to each other like a couple of friends sitting around a camp fire drinking a couple of cold ones. We would bounce ideas off of each other throughout the entire session. Our eyes would light up with excitement every time this exchange of information turned into a golden thought or idea and I knew that writer would not be losing that knowledge any time soon. I would like to see academia lean away from the structured hierarchy system and a little closer towards the pair of buddies having a good time around the fire.

Kris Price