Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Parents, Political Staff, and Print Literacy

On her blog last week, Arapahoe High School English Teacher Michelle Davis asked the parents of her ninth graders to write about how learning to write effectively is important. And they did! Parents wrote about the necessity of accurate written communication in a medical facility where the patient’s care would be carried out only according to the written notes on the chart, about the importance of getting the right language down in oil and gas leases, about emailing as the important communication on the job, and more.

And while they wrote, Huck Gutman, chief of staff for Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, wrote about poetry in The Chronicle of Higher Education. He wrote that as a former Professor of English, he misses teaching poetry, which means much to him, adding that teaching is in many ways a more fulfilling job than working in the Senate. He followed by describing how he’s taken to sending the poems of poets such as William Carlos Williams, Seamus Heaney, Pablo Neruda, and Wordsworth to other people, from friends to colleagues, people in Washington, D.C., and former students and people he meets at yard sales. His conclusion: people, many who’ve never studied poetry, love to get the poems he sends and they love to enjoy them with him--they also enjoy the commentaries he sends along with the poems.

Then, Paul Barnwell wrote his commentary in Education Week , “Literacy Accountability in a New-Media Age.” He begins:

Walking through the hallways of the middle school where I teach, I inevitably hear students talk about music Web sites, blogs, Web-based photo albums, Facebook pages, and other forms of new media.

If we judged these students’ ability to interpret and gather information solely based on their mastery of print media, we’d be doing ourselves—and society—a huge disservice.

Michelle Davis, Huck Gutman, and Paul Barnwell agree on three important beliefs behind the National Gallery of Writing :

1. Effective writing is important—not just in school but long after that in the jobs we do in the world.

2. People enjoy reading others’ writings even when they're not assigned to do so and they learn from those writings.

3. Print is not the only form of composition, nor the only form of writing that we need to teach and test to show that our students have learned and can think critically.

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