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INBOX is a weekly e-mail wrap-up of the most important stories in English language arts education, ideas for your classroom, and news from NCTE.

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Language is Powerful

December 6, 2016

Over the last several weeks, teachers have grappled with what it means to teach reading and writing in these times. 

The Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC), a group within NCTE, has just issued a Statement on Language, Power, and Action that reaffirms CCCC’s commitment to its core values. Here is a quote from the statement: 

“CCCC is proud to support its members, who every day engage writers from all backgrounds and cultures to explore how writing can be used to foster responsible and respectful inquiry and discussion across a range of public, academic, and civic contexts.”

But “fostering responsible and respectful inquiry and discussion” is sometimes fraught with roadblocks, as a very recent book challenge in Virginia makes clear. You can read about it in this article from The Atlanta Journal Constitution, and another from the Washington Post. The challenge led to the removal of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird from a school’s curriculum because a parent complained about the use of racial slurs in the texts and the effect she says they have had on her biracial son. NCTE is joining a number of First Amendment organizations to send the superintendent a letter arguing for the value of the texts and against the district’s policy of pulling the books out of everyone’s hands after one complaint is received. 

A series of articles in the November issue of English Journal by Peter Smagorinsky, Leigh Patel, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, and Jocelyn Chadwick addresses the role these words play in texts. The editors preface the articles saying: 

“We trust that our readership will appreciate how words, especially those that stretch us into areas of discomfort and even pain, can lead to learning and, perhaps, healing.”

So much of the work we have always done as teachers is to promote civil discourse and a deeper understanding of the power that words hold. In a blog posted today, Jonna Perrillo argues that this facet of our work has never been more important. 

“As citizens who seek greater civility than we have seen, we need to support teachers in the cause, letting them know we value it and the larger goal at hand.” 



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