Ain’t nothing basic about it… 1/9

In my next post, I’ll write about the troubling history of the word “basic” when applied to writing classes and what came before. For today, I want to explain the name of my blog.

This thing--I sort of like it.

This thing–I sort of like it.

I saw this “meme” on Pinterest and it piqued my interest because it struck me as funny. I knew that a new definition of “basic” had become current–see the Urban Dictionary for details: “An adjective used to describe any person, place, activity involving obscenely obvious behavior, dress, action. Unsophisticated. Transparent motives.”

I quibble with the use of basic as applied to writing and to life, for a lot of reasons–one has to do with this largely negative definition. I suggest most basic writing classes should be called “Introduction to Composition” or “Introduction to College Writing.” You know. Like how they do it in Math Departments, calling the class before College Algebra, “Introduction to Algebra.” No stigma there. I took that class. (A few times, actually.)

Another reason I don’t like this current definition is that it belittles the obvious. Sometimes the obvious is perfection. I certainly don’t value vaguery or the obscure or the ambiguous for their own sakes’; I like to work straightforward, straight up, and honor straight talk. In my attempt to own “basic” again, I’m saying “basic” pirates are good enough to be pirates. One doesn’t need to be spectacular or extraordinary to be a pirate. AND I like to think pirates have it going on when it comes to principles of higher education.

Check out these phrases from Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl:

  • Take what you can; give nothing back.
  • Well! I think this has been a very good experience for all of us, eh? Spiritually? Ecumenically? Grammatically?
  • The only rules that really matter are these: what a man can do and what a man can’t do.
  • Keep to the code. // Aye the Code.
  • Any man who falls behind is left behind.
  • Every crew member is to have an equal share in any treasure found.
  • Knowingly targeting and sinking other pirate ships is strictly forbidden.
  • Everyone who invokes the right of parlay shall be granted parlay: temporary protection while brought before an enemy (captain) to “negotiate” without being attacked until the parlay is complete.
  • There’s the Code to consider. // The Code? You’re pirates. Hang the Code, and hang the rules! They’re more like guidelines anyway.

Is there anyway we can see these as applicable to the best practices of higher education? Think about it.

In the meantime, please check out our own codes. These will be listed on the page, The Pirate Code. These are guidelines by which 21st century writing curriculum should be based (created by writers, writing teachers, writing professors, and writing program administrators and librarians). All worth knowing.

Writing Program Administrators’ Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition (if this is what students should know after Freshman year–then these are outcomes we need to be aware of when crafting curriculum for “basic” writing classes):

Framework for Success in Post-Secondary Writing

With these two documents in hand, you will have a solid foundation that will bridge the gap between those who have and those who don’t–and if our students “don’t have” we need to get them in a position where they can “take all they can; and give nothing back.” Approaching the business of the Pedagogy of Basic Writing like pirates is powerful. (Like the best of the romanticized pirates–and open source/open access/copyleft folks–more on this later.)

So reclaim the word basic for your semester of piracy–every pirate equally shares in booty. We’re going to own “basic,” rethink it, revise it, and rework it, until it makes sense for the 21st century online, on paper, in person, and any way we like. Know the guidelines that govern the best we can do for our students who could use a little of the chutzpah romanticized pirates have. We’ll be epic this term. Yo ho.