Deborah Brandt warns in “Drafting U.S. Literacy” that “when literacy links up with competition, with the need to win the war,” “this competition justifies the production of just-in-time literacy” that is, literacy aimed at meeting the military’s and corporations’ inexhaustible demand for skills needed to support security and economic activities.
The national security language policy applies pressure to language arts education in this way, because Wholesale Jewelry it creates incentives for schools to direct resources toward foreign languages needed for U.S. military efforts.
In so doing, this policy potentially directs schools’ efforts away from teaching languages that could help teachers and students forge connections with linguistic minority communities. This language Jewelry On Sale policy debate can and should compel English scholars to work with heritage language community leaders to articulate the critical language needs that arise from the monolingual majority’s inability to communicate and work with linguistic minorities.
Moreover, compositionists, linguists, and literacy theorists can collaborate with foreign language scholars to design language arts education that produces citizens who can dialogue across cultural and linguistic differences within their local communities and throughout the world.
English scholars who respond to the post-September 11 national language policy debate can help challenge the widely held assumption that the discipline deals with English language concerns only. During his chair’s address at the 2005 CCCC Convention, Doug Hesse called on scholars and teachers of English to engage public conversations concerning literacy education and writing assessment, contributing their “knowledge of what writing is and what it can be, the whole of it, in every sphere” as well as “the never done knowledge of how writing develops, within a person or a populace”.
This knowledge about writing could help rhetoric, composition, literacy, and literature scholars position themselves more centrally within this national security language policy debate, but, as Jaime Meji’a, Renee Moreno, and Paul Velazquez noted in their 2006 CCCC panel, multilingual concerns too often remain invisible inside the field’s efforts at knowledge creation.
English scholars need to problematize and, in so doing, strengthen the discipline’s theories about writing by considering the linguistic realities of people who move between languages or who use only one non-English language in their daily lives.
Compositionists and literacy theorists need to discover how these people use writing, why they use writing, and what they want to be able to do with writing.
English scholars need to come to terms with the monolingual perspectives that shape much of the work done in the name of “progressive” research on and teaching of writing in the United States. Hesse claims that “those who teach writing must affirm that we, in fact, own it”. To provide significant leadership in this public debate over a national language policy that promotes multilingualism, English scholars must come to terms with the great linguistic diversity in writing in the United States and in the world that they do not own because of the material and symbolic constraints within the discipline that have focused our attention on writing in English only.
By researching multilingual and multidialectical writing in the public realm, English scholars could bring to the field a greater sense of what language diversity looks like in local communities. They could begin to discover ways in which a national language policy could better account for the language needs of Americans who would learn a second or third language in order to “write themselves into the world” or to dialogue across national and cultural differences rather than simply to meet the military’s ever intensifying demands on teachers, students, and schools.
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