Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Recipe to Pair with Sandra Cisneros’s “My Lucy Friend Who Smells like Corn”

A story and a batch of cornbread created classroom community for Brent Peters and his students at Fernville High School in Louisville, Kentucky.  Read his narrative “My Food Lit Class ‘Smells Like Corn'” in the September 2017 Council Chronicle. Read the recipe, shared by Brent’s wife Emily, right here!

Emily Peters’s Cornbread Pudding
makes 12–16 pieces

Our infamous cornbread! This creamy cornbread is popped on every plate that leaves our kitchen. We make two to four pans each morning, depending on how busy we predict we’ll be. At the cafe, we leave the cheddar cheese off to make it easier to cut into small pieces but do add it yourself, it is delicious. The cornbread can be made ahead of time and reheated, but is the best served fresh from the oven.

1 large onion, diced 2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons milk
2 large eggs
2 (8½-ounce) boxes yellow corn muffin mix, such as Jiffy 1 (14¼-ounce) cans cream style corn
4-ounce can diced green chilies, drained 1/4 cup chopped pimentos
1/3 cup sour cream
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, optional

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.

Melt the butter in a small pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until opaque, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together milk, eggs, cornbread mix, creamed corn, chilies, and pimentos. Pour the cornbread mixture into the greased pan.

Spoon the sautéed onions and sour cream onto the cornbread mixture and swirl throughout, as if you were making a marble cake. Top with cheese, if desired.

Bake 35-40 minutes. Let the cornbread cool for 10 minutes or more before cutting. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Refrigerate for up to 1 day or freeze for up to 6 months. Reheat an entire pan at 350 for 20 minutes or in pieces in the microwave.

August is Family Fun Month!

The month of August typically signifies the last few weeks of summer before students and teachers return to school. Encourage family relationship building by participating in family activities throughout the month of August. Here are some suggestions!

Wild and Crazy Words
Make writing a little “wild and crazy” by ditching the pen and paper and using unique materials that will make your kids really smile while they’re having fun.

Explore and Write About Nature
In this activity, children look closely at living things in their natural environments and then make books about what they see.

Follow the Word Trail: Organize a Treasure Hunt
Create a treasure hunt out of word-puzzle clues hidden around the home or yard.

Creating Family Timelines
Children can interview family members and make an illustrated timeline of the most important family events and memories.

What else can you do as a family before school starts back up?

For the Love of Learning

On Monday, Anita Fernandez reported on the first day of the federal trial on the 2012 banning of the Mexican-American Studies program in Tucson, Arizona. She noted, “The court room was packed and we have folks here from across the country.”  The judge is charged with deciding if the state of Arizona discriminated against Latinx students by banning classes that focused on Latinx culture.

The state argues that the Mexican-American Program courses “politicized students and made them resent white people.” (HuffPost, 6/27/17).

Teachers in the program note that the courses began as a way “to try to close the wide achievement gap between the district’s Hispanic and white students.” They worked on building the students’ self-esteem and note that those students earned higher test scores and increased their interest in school.

Take a look at the following clips from the Precious Knowledge film series about the Mexican-American Studies Program and the controversy around it. Start with clip 2  and then watch the rest of the clips on the playlist.

English teacher, Curtis Acosta, who’s speaking at the WLU Institute in July and is featured in the video at the top of this blog,  was first to testify on Monday. You can listen to him talk about the The Banning of the Mexican American Studies Program in Tucson, AZ in an interview on Education talk radio earlier this month. He explained:

“We wanted our educational experiences to revolve around love of learning, love of learning from one another, love for each other…From the root we were applying our own history, and the stories and speeches and poems reflected that type of action and advocacy through a socio-political lens. The students came to understand it was important to give back and be involved. … it’s an integral part of education.”

Here’s what happened In 2012. The Superintendent of Public Instruction ruled that the Mexican American Studies Program “contained content promoting resentment toward a race or class of people,” and dismantled the program according to Arizona state legislation, HB2281. This legislation made illegal any courses that: “(1) promote the overthrow of the U.S. government, (2) promote resentment toward a race or class of people, (3) are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group, and (4) advocate ethnic solidarity instead of treating pupils as individuals.”  The state threatened to withhold millions of dollars of state funding if Tucson didn’t close down the program, so the Mexican American Studies program was closed. Read “The Dismantling of Mexican-American Studies in Tucson Schools,” CNN, January 22, 2012 for more details on what happened in 2012 and WATCH the video.

NCTE joined over 30 other organizations  to protest the initial banning of seven books that were taught in the program. In the end, 84 books were banned, as reported by Elaine Romero, who provides “the list.”

The Council supports ethnic studies programs in its NCTE Position Statement in Support of Ethnic Studies Initiatives in K-12 Curricula. 

Professing While Teaching

This post is written by member Matthew Boedy. 

As is usual in first-year composition, I assigned a research project to my students. In a course I titled The Rhetoric of Higher Education this semester, I proposed to my students that they embark on a research agenda of an issue affecting higher education.

Some of the perennial subjects showed up in student choices: student loan debt, tuition increases, paying student athletes, and “safe spaces.” These were all subjects I put on the syllabus. I listed on the syllabus other issues such as academic freedom, the role of the humanities, and the ways in which colleges have branded themselves. I provided a few readings for each topic, and we spent a week discussing each subject. Many of these sources showed up in the final papers, though many students had other, better sources.

I also strategically scheduled a week on the syllabus for an issue I have been involved in: the fight to prevent allowing guns on college campuses. I deliberately put that issue on the syllabus on the same day I also assigned the first step in the research process, hoping students would claim that issue.

For two years I have written (most recently here) and spoken against bills in our state legislature that would give those age twenty-one and older permission to carry a concealed, permitted weapon on campus, albeit in limited areas. That advocacy has gotten me placed on a conservative “professor watchlist” (I won’t link to it), some indirect pushback from my administration, and not a few insulting online comments.

My syllabus scheme was somewhat successful. About twenty of my sixty students chose “campus carry” as their research project. Why did they? In my class, at my university, and in my state, the overwhelming majority of students (not to mention faculty and staff) are against guns on campus. So I assume that those who chose to write about it did so because they share that opinion. But a few students chose to argue in favor of the idea. In Georgia we have a strong “gun culture” and a state law that allows concealed weapons in most public places, though not college campuses.

Of course, the question of grading comes up. Do those students writing in favor of guns think I am biased? I am never sure. I probably hold those who agree with me to a higher standard, checking more closely their sources and arguments even in the last, rushed days of the semester.

Some might argue that if I am doing my job correctly, it doesn’t matter whether students think I am biased. To these people, the question is whether I can set aside my personal bias to grade fairly, given the assignment and expectations for citations and conclusions.

But this issue is not merely one of personal bias for me. I cannot set aside my conclusion that campus carry is dangerous. And what is fair here? In student assessment, it is not a simple matter of presenting evidence to back up conclusions. It is also a matter of credibility, audience, and ethics.

For example, students in my class who favor campus carry, echoing sources they have read, point out that my school already has guns (we have the usual campus police and we are a military school, though my particular campus does not house military personnel). They transition from this point to champion campus carry by concluding we should not fear guns at all because we don’t fear those other guns. Yet this is a weak argument because it is a non sequitur. The comparison is not apples-to-apples, because military and police weapons are handled by well-trained individuals and securely locked away when not. I discount the paper that makes this argument.

On the other hand, those students who agree with me and who quote my work in their essays sometimes don’t quote me well, and I discount them for that. And here “well” means using my information to make their own claim, not merely summarizing my points.

Overall, in class I seek to give all students the opportunity to practice their thinking and show them ways to do that well. In doing that through the topic of campus carry, I aim to provide national context (each state’s version of this bill is different), historical context (the rise of such bills since 2008), and the importance of stakeholders and audience (I stress to students that I am their reader, not their audience). I hope this experience has taught them that nothing we do in the classroom – especially any type of literacy instruction – is free from politics.

This assignment was a teaching moment for them but also a learning moment for me. I continually have to learn how to be political without, well, being political. The question for me this semester has been how to balance my advocacy and my teaching. And whether “balance” is the right metaphor. I don’t feel I have to mention a claim from “each side” when I bring up the issue.

But I did make sure that the readings I included on the syllabus for the week we spent examining campus carry were about equal in number for each side. While I did not fact-check every claim in the pro-gun sources, I knew many would be rebutted the next class period by readings from those against guns on campus. I also did not disparage the pro-gun sites in general. (I used links from the NRA and groups committed to campus carry in my state. On my side, I used some of my work, the governor’s veto from last year’s version of this bill, a survey from another university conducted by the student government association that showed 70% opposed, and a tweet from REM front man Michael Stipe, who was among a handful of celebrities from Georgia to announce their opposition.)

I made clear my position in class while also suggesting that those on “the other side” were sincere and informed, to be taken seriously. Yet not every claim made in this debate is accurate and ethical. A question for my students is who to believe on this issue. There are many voices and I am one, but I am a voice with built-in credibility and authority. And so with great power comes great responsibility. In that vein, I invited two state legislators into my class – two gun rights advocates who not only voted for the bill but who also represent my students and me.

I decided before the legislators came that I would not interrupt or speak in opposition during their time in my class. I did not want the class to become a debating ground between me and them; this was for the students. I thought any dissension from me would create unneeded discomfort. I wanted to show some civility and give the legislators room to make their case. I did not fear they would convince students, as I knew my side also had compelling arguments. And the legislators used many different types of appeals to convince the class – mainly invention strategies we had talked about in class during this semester. It was helpful for students to see effective rhetoric at work.

During the Q&A period after the presentation, one student asked about the lack of training required to get a concealed weapons permit in our state. The legislators encouraged any permit holder to get training. Another student questioned why there was a need for guns after a law passed last year allowing Tasers and stun guns on campus. The legislators suggested those devices would not help those physically weaker.

Then the legislators argued that there was a massive crime increase on some campuses in our state. I stayed quiet, knowing these stats were misleading. But the next class day I felt compelled to provide needed context to the statistics the legislators cited. I praised parts of what the legislators said (they effectively used enthymemes and had a credible personal history with guns, for example). Then I pointed out what the FBI says about crime stats: using one number in a narrow way as they did is not prudent. Then I pointed to contradictory numbers put out by the same university the legislators quoted. Then I showed students how some universities in the same state report crimes that happened in places they can’t verify, i.e., off campus.

Finally I asked my students how we decide which numbers to use. One student responded that we use the ones that best fit our case. I cried a pox on both our houses, because many people in this debate do this. So I asked, in a larger context, how do we frame statistics? Students provided few answers within some awkward silence – perhaps the first time they had ever been asked to grapple seriously with the question.

I ended the conversation talking about the connection between facts and who presents them, how pathos appeals are intertwined with statistics, and how our literacy practices are fraught with complexities. Then I told students that I can’t and won’t tell them what to write. I can only put them in situations where they try out rhetorical strategies I have taught and so create credibility for themselves as writers. This is illuminating a path to learning, not necessarily a teaching of composition. This point is worth making in a political climate in which so many think we professors (especially in the humanities) bar or demean certain student opinions. It is also worth advocating for the asking of important questions. And the silent struggle to understand.

Dr. Matthew Boedy is an Assistant Professor of Rhetoric of Composition at the University of North Georgia in Gainesville, Ga. He teaches sections of First Year Composition and advanced professional writing courses. 

NCTE’s Statement on the President’s Proposed Budget for FY18

This spring NCTE’s elected leaders developed a set of federal budget recommendations that align with our organizational values and priorities. The White House’s proposed cuts, announced yesterday, are in direct opposition to those recommendations.

We are deeply concerned about the effect the proposed diversion of Title I funds will have on public schools and the fact that this budget eliminates two programs central to NCTE’s members:

  1. The White House is calling for the elimination of Title II funding that supports teacher recruitment and professional learning.
  2. This budget also cuts funding for the Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation (LEARN) program, which is the only literacy funding available to states that focuses on support for the reading and writing instruction of children from birth to grade 12.

In addition, the White House is proposing cuts that will impact students seeking higher education. These cuts, along with the proposed investment of $1 billion for school choice, go against our policy recommendations. As stated in our recommendations for this year:

“The federal government must help assure access to a quality public education so that all citizens are prepared to participate in a competitive economy and a strong democracy.”