Guest Author: Kevin G. Smith, Assistant Editor of Research in the Teaching of English
Issue 50.3 of RTE launched online this week just as our editorial team is preparing to send to press the final issue of this volume year. Wrapping up work on the 50th anniversary year of RTE is a moment that invites some reflection—on the field and on our editorship of the journal. In the first issue of this volume year, we noted that the articles provided a “conceptual turn from research report to story” (5). In that spirit, we would like to story our editorship of the journal by thinking about the questions that have animated us throughout this year.
The articles leading up to and in volume year 50 lead efforts in the internationalization of the journal, particularly by addressing issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion that increasingly come to the foreground in plurilingual societies where all language speakers, and their languages, have not been equally -- or equitably -- valued. The articles explore some of the larger social, political, material and economic systems in which the teaching and learning of English(es) participates. A principal concern motivating us as an editorial team has been the internationalization of the teaching and learning of English in a global era where literacies traverse across boundaries of all kinds. In our editorship, we have asked four questions that very much remain at the forefront of our vision as we look to the future of this journal. These four questions also promote social change in and by researching in the teaching of Englishes.
First, how can those concerned with research in the teaching of English(es) bridge multiple contexts to explore the teaching and learning of language and literacy in diverse settings beyond the classroom?
This question responds particularly to historical, cultural, and political shifts in our global society. Rebecca Woodard’s The Dialogic Interplay of Writing and Teaching Writing: Teacher-Writers’ Talk and Textual Practices across Contexts in 50.1 links teachers’ out of school writing practices with their writing instruction. Also in 50.1, Amy Lachuk’s article, The Sociohistorical Mandate for Literacy and Education in the Rural South: A Narrative Perspective, uses data poems to better reflect the cultural and collective commitment to using literacy for self determination immediately. In #WhoNeedsDiverseBooks?: Preservice Teachers and Religious Neutrality with Children’s Literature, Denise Dávila responds to the social exigency of religious (in)tolerance reflected in the twitter stream #WNDB to argue that preservice teachers may inadvertently be contributing to the defamation of other cultures and religious identities when they adopt a non religious reading lens in their selection of books. These and other studies are bridging multiple historical, social, and cultural contexts in this past year of RTE.
Second, what impact do new technologies have on on students’ literacy practices, and how can those concerned with research in the teaching of English(es) move digital literacy research in the direction of internationalizing English(es), honoring multiple ways of knowing, and resisting monolingual production?
Amy Stornaiuolo and Robert Jean LeBlanc’s multi-sited ethnography in issue 50.3 is a great example of the kind of innovative research that can expand our understandings of digital media and communication technologies. Their “scaling” approach to studying digital literacy can be useful to a range of literacy scholars working across borders. And keep an eye out for Kate Vieira’s piece in issue 50.4 (link will be active in May, when the issue goes online) that shows us that the influence technology has on our literacy practices don’t necessarily mean we should always be studying online communication. Rather, traditional qualitative research methods can reveal the movement of “writing remittances,” those material supports for literacy, across borders. In this way, Vieira’s study is not one of technology for technology’s sake, but an exploration of how the movement of technology and attendant literacy demands is bound up in complex economic, social, and political relationships that resist easy binaries between global north and global south.
Third, how can those concerned with research in the teaching of English(es) continue to work against the imperialist logic of languages which mirrors, creates, and sustains unequal and oppressive social hierarchies and work toward decolonial and pluriversal perspectives?
In issue 50.2, Melinda J. McBee Orzulak’s article, Disinviting Deficit Ideologies: Beyond “That’s Standard,” “That’s Racist,” and “That’s Your Mother Tongue”, pointed to how preservice teachers responded to linguistic ideological dilemmas that unfolded in their classrooms, and how teachers might respond to deficit language ideologies with approaches that value language variation. And looking forward to issue 50.4 (link will be active in May), we will see Susan Choo pushing back against oppressive social hierarchies through a critique of neoliberal, strategic cosmopolitanism.
Another way that we’ve tried to address this question is by publishing studies that re-invigorate existing methodologies, such as the article by Paul Anderson, Chris M. Anson, Robert M. Gonyea, and Charles Paine (50.2) that drew the attention of Inside Higher Education. We’ve also sought articles that adopt novel methodological approaches. In our introduction to issue 50.1, we asked how storying our research could “help us to conceive of an RTE audience beyond the academy and to imagine our research being accessible to and inviting reciprocity with members of the communities we research” (9). This project began in issue 50.1 with Todd DeStigter asking: “why argument?” It continued in that issue with the already-mentioned innovative pieces by Denise Dávila and Amy Johnson Lachuk, and continued with Timothy San Pedro’s storying methodology in his article, Silence as Shields: Agency and Resistances among Native American Students in the Urban Southwest, in 50.2. As we look forward, we see an important area for exploration in imagining how methodological orientations can reproduce, but also respond to, resist, and reorder language hierarchies.
And fourth, how can those concerned with research in the teaching of English(es) continue to cultivate research from countries and cultures around the world where the teaching and learning of English(es) happens alongside, oftentimes in tension with, the teaching and learning of other languages?
As we finish the final issue in the 50th volume year of RTE, we reflect that this issue exemplifies the challenge to the field of literacy studies moving forward: How best to understand the teaching and learning of Englishes from a global perspective? In our editorial introduction to issue 50.2, “The Teaching of English”, we noted the importance that border spaces can play in working against imperialist hierarchies of language—that researchers, students, and teachers might not just cross, but also dwell in and occupy these border spaces (Tlostanova & Mignolo, 2012).
In many ways, we see the forthcoming issue 50.4 as the perfect close to RTE’s 50th year in that it takes up in compelling and unique ways all four of the questions outlined above.The focus of issue 50.4 will be rooted studies emanating from four nation-states on four different continents with four distinct colonial legacies—Cameroon, Singapore, Brazil, and the United States—responding to and helping to shape the internationalization of the teaching and learning of Englishes. Beyond nation-state diversity, the studies engage a range of contexts both within and outside of schools and classrooms. Vivian Yenika-Agbaw examines the legacies of imperialism in Cameroonian textbooks; Susan Choo argues for pedagogies of strategic cosmopolitanism as a way to promote ethical connections and border crossings in an increasingly globalized world, Kate Vieira traces the bi-directional movement of technological and material supports for writing between the global north and global south; and Mary Amanda Stewart and Holly Hansen-Thomas map the transnational life of a particular student and how that movement manifests itself in translanguaging practices for the learning of English. (Look for issue 50.4 in May; we will update this post when the issue is online!)
The articles in 50.4 will trace, create, occupy, and cross borders—borders that cut across political, geographic, and nation-state lines and exist in our very classrooms, schools, and institutions. The powerful directives these articles will offer to researchers, teachers, and learners of Englishes around the world exemplify the way that literacy and language learning is always already bound up in larger social, material, economic, and political systems and histories. The project of internationalizing and reexamining what research in the teaching of English(es) can and should be in the years ahead continues.
Including everyone means understanding difference in and on its own terms, helping others find their strengths, and showing them ways to build on them by aligning words, choices, and actions. A fundamental Cherokee life way, including everyone can inform all areas of the work that teachers do: from one-to-one work with students, small groups, and classrooms; to organizing and administering departments with transparency; to building projects together in teams of teachers, students, and parents.
It compliments the ethic of ᎦᏚᎩ /gadugi/ working together as a team and the ethic of ᏗᏣᏓᎫᏍᏓ ᎢᏤᎮᏍᏗ /ditsadagusda itsehesdi/ live and support each other. I've tried to manifest this in the work I'm doing as the director of the MSU College of Arts and Letters Center for Applied and Inclusive Teaching and Learning in the Arts and Humanities.
Specifically, I'm thinking of two peer mentoring projects that focus on successful students helping others become successful by building on each others' language and cultural assets. CAITLAH master teacher, Alissa Cohen, developed the idea for a peer mentoring program in the rich soli of our master mentor teachers collective. Her program pairs advanced undergraduate English language learners with newcomer international students as they progress through the English Language Center's curriculum. The program has grown to include over 100 students students working together to help each other make sense of college life and to practice English as they immerse themselves in American culture.
In CAITLAH's Teaching Diverse Learners project, preservice secondary teachers are placed in MSU's preparation for college writing (PCW) classrooms. The master instructors have engaged in and use regularly CAITLAH workshops and materials on sustaining pedagogies. The preservice teachers enrolled in my English education courses also engage in developing activities and pedagogies to facilitate the linguistic and cultural perseverance of our PCW students. In their PCW classroom placements, the preservice teachers work 1-2-1 with ELL and first generation students, facilitate small groups, lead activities, and run entire class periods by the end of the semester.
The Cherokee ethic of including everyone comes to life for me in these peer mentoring projects. They help me imagine what decolonial education can look like in day-to-day.
A new study by the World Wildlife Fund suggests that when languages die, ecosystems do as well. Supporting linguistic diversity challenges the colonial imperialism of Western romance languages in the Americas, English chief among them. As co-editors of Research in the Teaching of English, Mary Juzwik and I have been thinking quite a bit about the ways in which we might pluralize access to the journal's English-only content.
With the tremendous efforts of assistant editor, Maria Novotny, and several translators, the editorial team is pleased to announce that volume year 49 marks the beginning of RTE publishing the abstracts of each article in Arabic, French, German, Hindi, Korean, Mandarin, Russian, and Spanish. Many thanks to the translators, without whom this would not be possible.
One way ᏍᏏᏉᏯ /Sequoyah/ went about convincing Cherokees to adopt the syllabary was to write letters to friends who had removed to the Arkansas territory in the mid 1820's. When his friends replied to him using the syllabary, all doubts about its usefulness were laid to rest. Cherokees, without mass education and print, became fluent in reading and writing using the 86-character syllabary within three years. Sequoyah's invention provided an immediate and lasting decolonial alternative to the imperialist imperative of alphabetic writing — the more Cherokee writing traveled across distances, the more value it accrued, and the more it secured a lasting legacy of Cherokee story, history, and language.
Traveling, translanguaging, migrating, organically growing and restoring— these longstanding and ongoing movements of language and literacy and the circulations of value that accrue (or do not accrue) from these movements reveal the global forces still shaping languages and literacies in people’s lives and communities. The outstanding articles in this, the inaugural issue of Mary Juzwik's and my editorship of Research in the Teaching of English, collectively testify to readers’ and writers’ ongoing struggles to achieve, make meaning, rewrite histories, and realize hope in everyday acts of linguistic perseverance.
Click here to read more from the introduction to this issue.
Click here to receive a complimentary copy of Vicki Purcell Gates's article.
Many thanks to the tremendous authors, reviewers, the RTE team, and the NCTE team for all you've done to make this first issue possible.
Presented to the Cherokee tribal council in 1821, Sequoyah's invention of this 86 character writing system is what Walter Mignolo might call epistemic de-linking. When it was invented in longhand, none of the characters resembled alphabetic characters (click on the image to check out the longhand characters on the left side of each cell).
Sequoyah seems to have understood the power of writing in the alphabet. He had seen letters, books, the bible, and had signed a treaty all before finalizing his creation. Interviews with him and second-hand accounts from relatives revealed that he had tried out a number of symbolic systems before he settled on the syllabary as we know it.
From the jump, Sequoyah ruptured the colonial work of literacy, that is, reading and writing with the letter to show you're learned and civilized. He developed a completely unique writing system that works in and on Cherokee language and logics. “One strategy of de-linking is to de-naturalize concepts and conceptual fields that totalize A reality” (Mignolo Delinking 459). Because it was intentionally made without reference to the alphabet, along the instrumental logics of Cherokee designs and language, the invention of the Cherokee syllabary denaturalized the concept of literacy— it's no longer just about the letter.
Despite the tremendous pressure at the time to adopt western writing and/or alphabetic orthographies for writing native languages, Sequoyah single-highhandedly ruptured the conceptual fields of civilization, humanity, and knowledge associated with what it means to be literate, "lettered," as in knowledgeble and learned. Ironically, when the tribe was said to have learned the new script in 3 years, they were widely praised as newly 'litearte,' (thus civilized), even though they were writing in characters and reading and writing Sequoyan.
His invention was the initial rupture that changed the terms of the conversation about what it meant, indeed what it means, to be literate. It's only fitting that the first entry for this blog be about such an important American Indian activist and change agent in American history.
Models of change, change agents, teaching, learning, expressive tools, and everyday struggles for dignity, resources, respect, and cultural perseverance.