Burns, Leslie David. “On Being Unreasonable: NCTE, CEE, and Political Action.” English Education 39.2 (2007): 120-143.
Leslie Burns starts out with a quote from George Bernard Shaw in which he states: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man” (Burns 120). Framing her argument with Lackoff’s description of what literacy education should include, Burns advocates using a “moral nurturing” pedagogy as opposed to one rooted in elitist and hierarchical “strict father” model of teaching. Though she acknowledges that the professional organizations associated with our field have made strides toward embodying a true rhetoric of political activism and social change, she believes that CEE and NCTE need to do more to advance social justice in the public sphere, particularly when it comes to state-imposed literacy mandates.
She highlights the increasingly aggressive and regulatory strategies the government has used to sublimate linguistic diversity and inclusive Englishes, and cites our discipline’s modesty and compliance as a problem. She claims that “…no one should be seen to know more about the teaching and learning of English than literacy teachers, a group that includes classroom teachers, literacy educators and researchers, and English language arts teacher educators and researchers from all levels” (137), and opines that we are in a prime position as insiders on the outside of the policy making sphere and that this unique positioning may mean that we are “freer to act now than ever before” (142). She asserts that the critical mass of literacy experts which we have amassed within our discipline should recognize that acting unreasonably and persistently will be the only way we can ever hope to “change the world.”
107-Institutional and Professional; 112-Community, Civic and Public
History; Historiography; Theoretical framework; Call to action against mere calls to action; Call for professional stability, unity, organization, and to somehow usurp the federally lucrative educational system using a “moral nurturing” rhetoric.
Most Valuable Citations:
HGiroux AGramsci GLackoff
“In literacy education, nurturant morality is the keystone of an ethical liberal philosophy (Kuchapski, 2002) emphasizing individual capacity, social diversity, student-centered education, experience-based curricula, constructivist pedagogies, collaborative relationships, a focus on progress, decentralized decision-making, and local government” (121).
“It is not simply the case that members of the US Department of Education have taken political positions that undercut professional teachers’ more significantly, these individuals participate in a systematic movement to frame discourse about education in ways that permeate public conversations” (124).
“While NCTE has spent considerable energy calling for action, it has not provided constituents with with re-framed ideas necessary for them to take control of conversations and activate their own progressive nurturant frames in the minds of others” (128).
“NCTE’s reasonable measured response demonstrates the way in which accepting the strict father frames of its opposition has lead to an acceptance, however reluctant, of NCLB even though it is an anti-public education and anti-teacher mandate” (129).