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Defending Access is a timely and important counter-argument to the proliferating cries for literacy standards, cries that Tom Fox argues are more about excluding students than raising instructors' expectations. Most of our talk about the supposed declining literacy of students, Fox maintains, "implicitly or explicitly refers to immigrant students or students of color whose difference - cultural and/or linguistic - is more at issue than their performance." His book critiques the seemingly automatic move to acontextual standards each time new groups of students press for access and redirects our attention to the urgent need to make our schools more available to students of color.
The first three chapters of Defending Access take a critical look at standards in higher education, demonstrating how these standards have been - and still are - misused. Fox examines contemporary uses of standards and challenges the relationship between language standards and access. He goes on to explore the ways that the history of standards and access in higher education has shaped our curriculum and pedagogy. In the two concluding chapters, Fox suggests ways that writing programs and writing teachers can subvert institutional pressures for standardization.
Throughout Defending Access, Fox focuses on African-American students and their writing. Though he believes virtually none of his argument is exclusively relevant to African-American students, he is also convinced that mainstream American society and the educational establishment consistently ignore the ways that school has not worked well for many African Americans. "We suffer from a destructive forgetfulness. While an event such as the Los Angeles riots may provoke a storm of concern for the state of urban education and the broken promises of justice, the storm is a summer shower: briefly drenching the soil, but not ending the drought."
1. The Backlash Against Access
The Dialectic of Standards and Access in Nineteenth-Century Writing Instruction
Ideologies of Access and Exclusion: Basic Writing and Cultural Conflict
Standards and Political Change
Access and Classroom Practice Conclusion: Staying Around