As someone coming from a privileged, educated upbringing, Peter Elbow proves a good candidate to know what makes good english. He also knows what makes English bad and understands that sometimes the reason for bad english isn’t stupidity so much as foreignness.
This comes as little surprise, seeing as how what is intelligent and right in one langauge, may sound as broken and incorrect in another.
What was surprising is the fact that Elbow observed that when teaching students how to spruce up their writing, it was the native english speakers that were the most reluctant to translate their work into the language of privilege and education. Strange, considering those that spoke english as a second language have a good deal more work to do in order to make their writing acceptable.
Personally, I think it is because foreign does not equate to wrong. Just foreign. However, those who have english as a native language, are essentially being told their english is wrong. It’s more of a personal attack than just accepting a difference from one country’s language to another, and I theorize it is that personal attack that makes so many students feel poorly about their writing and wish to distance themselves from it. Understandable, considering how hard the language of the educated is to grasp, but if it is not that language we write in, what language is it? A certain organization must exist in order for academic writing to translate to a wider audience. However, is the current system the right one if even native speakers struggle? Perhaps a compromise can be found on the matter for students to speak mostly naturally before they clean up their reading, as it seems Elbow is searching for.