Freedom for Student Press

Discussion of press rights has been much in the news of late. Journalists, even to some extent student journalists, are protected by the First Amendment of the United States:

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Good journalists, of course, investigate because they want to find the underlying cause of an issue. For student journalists, particularly, this has sometimes been a problem.

FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education), whose mission is

“to defend and sustain individual rights at America’s colleges and universities. These rights include freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience…”

explains student journalists’ rights in this video:

The Student Press Law Center (SPLC)  advocates for student journalists

Students want to be heard on the social and political issues, including issues of local school policy, directly affecting their lives….Students learn journalism best under a light touch of guidance from a well-trained adviser, not the heavy hand of government “spin control.” Every K-12 student should have the benefit of a sensible free-expression policy modeled on the Supreme Court’s Tinker standard, protecting the right to engage in lawful, non-disruptive speech.

NCTE supports press freedom for student journalists as well through the:

NCTE Beliefs about the Students’ Right to Write,
Resolution on Students’ Right of Expression, and, if you ratify it,
• A new NCTE Resolution on Legislation to Protect the Rights of Student Journalists

The Power of Song, or Is It Really the Lyrics?

Close-up a Heap of dirty utensil in the kitchen sink.He leaves his dishes in the sink, thinking leprechauns put them in the dishwasher. She wants to talk during the football game and stalks off when clearly that play is more important to him than listening to her.

Imagine if couples “sang” their arguments rather than actually fighting. Such is the theme of the hilarious film Band-Aid, which premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. A squabbling couple create a band, invite their neighbor to be the drummer, and proceed to sing their irritations and frustrations to each other.

While strumming their guitars, the couple have to dig deep and really think in order to convert their frustrations into poetry and song. In doing so, they de-escalate and temper their anger while at the same time creating music that others can relate to and enjoy.

In a tribute to Frank Sinatra, who could not read music, George Will wrote, “Before a song was music, it was words alone. He studied lyrics, internalized them, then sang, making music from poems.” So, for Frank Sinatra, the words mattered first, not the music. Will continues that Sinatra sang songs from the “Great American Songbook,” a compilation of songs written by Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Johnny Mercer, and others. He compared the lyrics of Mercer’s “Summer Wind” (“Then softer than a piper man, one day it called to you; I lost you, I lost you to the summer wind”) to the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” I would argue a better comparison would be Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale” (“As the miller told his tale/that her face, at first just ghostly/turned a whiter shade of pale”) or Simon and Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair” (“Remember me to one who lives there/She once was a true love of mine.”)

Poetry has a natural musical cadence and demands to be read aloud, particularly William Shakespeare:

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose/By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Does that phrase stand alone in its beauty? Does it need music? Or is the human voice, with its own modulated tones, sufficient? Music, however, enhances poetry and words and add a new dimension.

So, on this Valentine’s Day of sonnets and roses and crooning club singers, let us remember the power of words and lyrics and song and how important they are to each other. Or not.

NCTE Citizenship Campaign, February Focus: Black History Month

handsonglobeThe following post was written by members of the NCTE Standing Committee on Global Citizenship.

February—Black History Month—offers an opportunity to encourage good citizenship when it comes to issues surrounding race while still meeting your content standards. To encourage personal citizenship1, discuss with students how they can be friends with and support peers from backgrounds different from their own. Their everyday interactions with people are a way of being a good citizen.

To help students be participatory citizens, have them look at the history of laws and/or current laws and policies that may be unfair to people of color or of different faiths. When it comes to justice-oriented citizenship, students could be asked to analyze and think critically about the laws and policies they looked at before and come up with a variety of solutions.

Grades K–5

For students at this younger age, we think it’s important to encourage them to maintain friendships with children outside their race or religion. Have class discussions about what it means to be a good friend and why it can be a good thing to have friends who are different from you.

Books to consider: The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson or Across the Alley by Richard Michelson

Grades 6–8

Middle school is an age where friendships can be complicated. It’s a great time to discuss with students how they choose friends. At this age they can start to think critically about whether or not their friend group is diverse and why. In addition to thinking about friendship you can have students conduct a mini research project. They can look through their curriculum and see how many black or nonwhite authors they have read in class, or people they have learned about in history, science, or math. This is a great way to look at your own curriculum and see who is represented and to consider why. Students can continue with the research project from the participatory citizen activity above and discuss and analyze their findings. They can determine whether or not they think there is an issue and write an argumentative paper as to why there is or isn’t. Perhaps if they all think there is an issue, they can come up with ways to fix it.

Book to consider: Romiette and Julio by Sharon M. Draper

Grades 9–12

In high school students are being asked to do more critical thinking and analysis. Consider having your students examine your school’s dress code. Is it fair to people of all races? Genders? Why or why not? Can they write a proposal for a revised dress code if it isn’t? A research project looking at a person of color would be a great project too. You can use a nonfiction anchor text to help students write the paper while still working on reading skills.

Books to consider:

Other Ideas from ReadWriteThink.org

Note

  1. As in our previous post, we draw on the three types of citizens proposed by Joel Westheimer and Joseph Kahne in their article “What Kind of Citizen? The Politics of Educating for Democracy” (American Educational Research Journal, Summer 2004, Vol. 41, No. 2, pp. 237-269): personally responsible citizens, participatory citizens, and justice-oriented citizens.

 

Literature and the African American Read-In

AARI_180To be recognized as an official African American Read-In Host, it’s easy as I,2,3:

  1. Select books, poems, speeches (anything) authored by African Americans;
  2. Hold your event during the month of February; and
  3. Report results by submitting an African American Read-In Report Card.

The first step is to choose a piece written by an African American author. NCTE has a Resolution on the Need for Diverse Children’s and Young Adult Books.

The African American Read-In Toolkit provides a variety of resources to help support both individual hosts and hosting organizations implement and promote African American Read-In programs. Included in the toolkit are a number of booklists including one that was crowdsourced at an NCTE Annual Convention.

The September 2016 #NCTEchat was on the topic of Black Girls’ LiteraciesDetra Price-Dennis compiled a list of Black Girls’ Literacies Resources that were shared during #NCTEchat.

Tune in to the Text Messages podcast episode #weneeddiversebooks to hear about recently-published YA titles that celebrate diversity in a range of genres. There’s something for every reader here: comic book superheroes, Civil Rights history, love stories, humorous essays, poetry, artwork, and stories of suspense.

What titles would you add to these lists?

VOTE on NCTE Resolutions!

During the Annual Business Meeting held at NCTE’s 2016 Convention in November, members approved the following resolutions:

  • Resolution on Contemporary Discourse and the English Language Arts Classroom
  • Resolution on Legislation to Protect the Rights of Student Journalists
  • Resolution Opposing High-Stakes Teacher Candidate Performance Assessments

The entire membership now has the opportunity to review the resolutions and the right to approve or disapprove them. If the membership votes to ratify these resolutions, they will become official NCTE positions. NCTE refers to and uses its many position statements to guide its policy and advocacy efforts with federal and state legislatures and agencies. NCTE’s position statements represent the voices of its members, reflect its values, and declare to the world what it believes.

NCTE is therefore asking each of its members to take a few minutes to vote. We rely on your experience as a literacy educator to help set the policy that will benefit all members and their students.

Members have been sent emails outlining the background, resolved statements, and brief pro and con summaries for each resolution. Members vote for just the resolutions; the background and pro and con summaries are informational. NCTE members who have not yet voted will receive another email on Sunday, February 12, with a link that will take them to the texts and voting buttons.

Thank you for sharing your opinion and helping us ensure that our resolutions reflect the sentiments of thousands of Council members.