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greetings from nctear 2006 - chicago

it's late on night 2 of the nctear mid-winter conference. the theme:
literacy as a civil right: reclaiming social justice in literacy research and teaching

and the sessions i've attended have served to add to my conviction that questions of what we research and how we research are not mutually exclusive; and moreover, why we research can/must/should engage questions of social justice and enactments toward real social change.

while i have felt this thread of inquiry to be generative, i have also heard comments that allude to whether or not the audience who is attending this conference with this focused theme might be the same audience who attends next year's conference, which tentatively has a focus on the evolving digital landscape of literacies. i wonder: can we continue to separate emerging questions about digital literacies and persistent convictions about literacy as a civil right?

in my work i find solace in the complementary and intertwined trajectories of race-critical and digital epistemological theories. this is more than a naive musing of "can't we all just get along;" it is a recognition of the urgency for social justice - for radical rethinking and changing of the real inequities that persist in the lived experiences of too many young people, children, families - that is implicit in both of these related literacy foci. is it time to encourage/challenge ourselves, our colleagues, our graduate students to seek out and intentionally engage with the messy work of "research that does something." even as i write that, i recognize that some may take umbrage with the definition of "something" implicit in that statement - i mean to say that we ought to be explicit about what kind of work it is that we want our research to do in the world. and not all work for social justice looks the same, but perhaps we should be on the journey together.

so, to the nctear 2006 audience i say, "i hope to see you in '07!" and to those of you who read this and got to the end, i encourage you to check out nctear - start by exploring this year's conference schedule and stay tuned for info on next year.


boy troubles

i've been reading the story in a recent issue of newsweek titled, "The trouble with boys" and so far, i'm not sure what to make of it. the crux of the article is concerned with boys' academic achievement - appalling, apparently, in contrast to girls.

the author notes, "In the last two decades, the education system has become obsessed with a quantifiable and narrowly defined kind of academic success, these experts say, and that myopic view is harming boys." i don't disagree that this view of assessment and education is myopic, but i wonder what the underlying implication is for how we understand the intersections of gender and academics. namely b/c the following two sentences of that same paragraph read:
Boys are biologically, developmentally and psychologically different from girls—and teachers need to learn how to bring out the best in every one. "Very well-meaning people," says Dr. Bruce Perry, a Houston neurologist who advocates for troubled kids, "have created a biologically disrespectful model of education."
caught up in this logic is the implicit notion that this "model of education," while "disrespectful" for some, is beneficial for others. doesn't this perspective let the designers of a measurement-obsessed philosophy of education off the hook?

there's something else that bugs me about all of these studies of gender and education (in which I claim to participate, as well, by the way), and that is all that gets overlooked when we ask questions that further dichotomize the experiences of boys and girls, of males and females, as they navigate institutions. could it be that more kids are engaging in exciting, fun, and interesting interactions in which education transpires, but which occurs outside of school; and these interactions of education are becoming more and more dissimilar to how education is being (con)/(de)fined in schools?

yes. and we have plenty of evidence to confirm this suspicion.

still, as the article describes, boys who are "antsy" and restless are internalizing their teachers' reactions to them and in turn calling themselves "stupid." that can't be good.

ok, more on this and the recent barage of "boy" articles and other media in a following post...


"killing the sky"

the second volume of stories produced by young men at rikers island will be published soon by Student Press Initiative (SPI). (first volume pictured above)
ruth vinz, co-director of Student Press Initiative, noted:
"The Rikers Project is only a start," says Vinz. "If we are serious about not leaving our children, or adolescents, behind, we need to help young people see how their learning can help them construct, negotiate, understand and take constructive action in the world."
echoing the words of one of the young men we worked with, i hope many more readers than we can imagine will read these young men's stories and "feel what [they're] saying." and as i think about the spaces and geographies afforded by new technologies, i wonder about the kinds of spaces that might be opened up through the technology of the printed word - that is, using the word to break the word and in doing so, what? could that be a new and significant kind of space?