This e-mail message was posted by Carl Glover to wcenter on April 29, 1998:
Thanks to all of you who responded to my post about teaching editing and proofreading in the Writing Center. My post was prompted by what I had perceived as a reverse-Peter-Ramus-move on the part of some writing center professionals. During the 16th century, Peter Ramus removed invention and arrangement from the realm of rhetoric and assigned it to philosopy, especially to dialectic (logic). Rhetoric's main concern, according to Ramus, was style. Things in the world of rhetoric went downhill from there for quite a while, but we have since recovered the lost canons of invention and arrangement and our Ciceronian model now remains intact. But I began to think that some writing center folks were doing a reverse-Ramus by privileging [a post-modern nod] invention and arrangement (main ideas, coherence, big-picture stuff) to the near exclusion of style (word choice) and delivery (editing and proofreading). Clearly, your responding posts allayed my fears, suggesting yet again that I don't know what I am talking about.
Having said that, I want to move on to a point not unrelated to the issues raised above. The most important quality a writing center tutor can have, I think, is a sense of "kairos" (timeliness, appropriateness, the opportune moment, the ability to make the right decision in a moment of crisis, knowing when to speak and when to be silent). When a student arrives for an appointment at the writing center, the tutor must make an immediate decision how best to work with the student seeking help. This is a decision that must be made rather quickly, based on verbal interaction with the student and perhaps a quick gander at the paper.
The reason I think a sense of kairos is so important, though, is that I don't believe that any single approach to tutoring works in all situations. That's the beauty of writing center work, the variety of pedagogical techniques that are at our disposal to use according to the needs or our students and the demands of their assignments. Now. of course, we need policies and procedures. How could we function without them? But these policies and procedures ought to be our servants rather than our being their slaves. So while it may be writing center policy not to write on a student's paper, there may be a time when that is the appropriate pedagogical move, given the kairos of the situation.
I will trust my sense of kairos in every situation. For me, policies and procedures will be secondary to a sense of the opportune moment.
Carl W. Glover