Reading and Writing for Social Action

Read this book.

“Too often, people think the idea of letting students choose their own topic or text comes from the romantic notion that adults shouldn’t interfere with children’s development, that it should be allowed to unfold naturally. Letting kids “do what they want” sometimes strikes observers as quaintly soft and naive. This may be because some teachers express the principle of choice as a negative: ‘In writer’s workshop, you don’t assign the topic. Kids get to choose their own.’ But the value of choice is something larger and more important in literacy education: intention and initiative in using language. This is not about letting things happen ‘naturally.’ Learning to use literacy to obtain or accomplish something is a cultured norm and a political disposition, one that adults must pass on to children.”
Randy and Katherine Bomer

Read it beside the Common Core Standards, even. Doing so could provoke some critical conversation, particularly around the types of writing that the CCS call upon learners to read and to produce and more importantly, for what purposes. This book provides critical perspective:

“Inauthentic writing experiences are disempowering because they keep student writers students, dependent on the authority of the teacher instead of engaged in linguistic action. When a writer writers a petition because she has to for class, she isn’t petitioning, she’s obeying authority. Whenever a writer isn’t really plugged in to the world outside the classroom, to an audience wider than the teacher, he is politically less powerful, regardless of the genre, than he would be if he wrote a poem that would be read by real readers.”

Far too often, people boil standards down to soundbites that won’t serve our students well. Yes, there is an emphasis on informational writing, but what does that really mean? What forms does it take? How do writers define their purposes for it? Who will their audience be? How will they connect with them best? The CCS is not all about the critical lens, dead white guys, or research papers. My concern is that much will be lost in translation if we don’t develop a far wider perspective and begin connecting the CCS not back to old standards, but to current reality and more importantly, the vision we have for the future.

In order to be thoughtful in my interpretations of the CCS, I know that I need to be reading and learning things beyond the CCS.

What are you reading?

What are you learning?

What would you recommend?

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