2016 May RTE, v50.4
Research in the Teaching of English
Volume 50, Number 4, May 2016
Editors’ Introduction: Reading, Writing, and Teaching across Borders: The Nation-State, Citizenship, and Colonial Legacies of Linguistic and Literate Practice
Cori McKenzie, Mary M. Juzwik, Ellen Cushman, and Kevin G. Smith
Textbooks, Literacy, and Citizenship: The Case of Anglophone Cameroon
Abstract: Textbooks are commonly used to teach English in Africa, and most often are designed either by Westerners who are native speakers or by the Western-trained educators who took over the education of Africa’s children after colonialism. The issue is whether these educators can emancipate learners through the curricular choices they make in the versions of textbooks endorsed by their governments. Unfortunately, this is not the case. This article examines the content of nonfiction passages in four textbook series that have been used or are currently in use for English language and literacy education in Anglophone Cameroon to understand the shift in educational philosophies that might have occurred between the colonial period of the first textbook and the modern globalization period of current textbooks. It also questions the criteria for selection of passages to be included in these textbooks and their possible ramifications for learners’ identities as Africans,Cameroonians, and global citizens. Informed by postcolonialism, with a particular bent toward decolonial theory, the study utilizes content analysis, a qualitative research method that validates textual interpretations through inference (Krippendorf, 2004) and that seeks to understand meanings embedded in texts and their sociocultural/political significance. Findings reveal that while the Oxford English Readers for Africa of the colonial times are long gone, this series’ ideology of white superiority lingers in contemporary textbooks. They also reveal that there is an attempt to standardize cultural practices and belief systems based on Western models. This draws attention to minority rights, reminding educators to acknowledge pluralism in their literacy practices.
Appendices for Textbooks, Literacy, and Citizenship: The Case of Anglophone Cameroon
Fostering the Hospitable Imagination through Cosmopolitan Pedagogies: Reenvisioning Literature Education in Singapore
Suzanne S. Choo
Abstract: While English literature once occupied a central position in national curricula, enrollment in the subject has undergone a continuing decline in English-speaking countries such as the United States and United Kingdom. Its marginal position may also be observed in formerly colonized countries such as Singapore, where the subject was introduced, appropriated, and reconstructed. My aim, in this paper, is to propose a reenvisioning of literature education premised on the principles of ethical cosmopolitanism. In the first part of the paper, I describe ethical cosmopolitanism by distinguishing it from strategic cosmopolitanism, which has more recently emerged in response to the pressures of economic globalization, leading to the economization of education. In the second part of the paper, I show how the principles of strategic cosmopolitanism have directed the national literature curriculum in Singapore through my analysis of the national syllabus and high-stakes examination papers from 1990 to the present. This leads to the third part of the paper, in which I use a case study of four literature teachers in Singapore secondary schools to characterize the ethical cosmopolitan pedagogies they employ to circumvent nation-centric, economic pressures of strategic cosmopolitanism operating at the national level. More importantly, I discuss how such pedagogies have the potential to foster a hospitable imagination, which constitutes the strongest defense one can give to literature education in the context of an increasingly culturally complex, connected, and contested global sphere.
Writing Remittances: Migration-Driven Literacy Learning in a Brazilian Homeland
Abstract: Literacy scholars have long studied migrant literacies in host countries, but have largely overlooked how emigration shapes literacy learning in migrants’ homelands. Yet homelands are crucial site sof literacy research, as left-behind family members of migrants learn new literacy practices to communicate with loved ones laboring or studying abroad. This article examines this overlooked phenomenon by reporting on an ongoing qualitative study of migrants’ family members and return migrants in a midsized town in Brazil. Further developing a sociomaterial framework for transnational literacy, it demonstrates that emigration promotes literacy learning among homeland residents via the circulation of “writing remittances”—the hardware, software, and knowledge about communication media that migrants often remit home. As objects of emotional and economic value, writing remittances demand literacy learning as one condition of their exchange. Because such learning, like money, is fungible, homeland residents often circulate and reinvest it locally, with varying returns. Writing remittances mediate both intimate interpersonal communication and the larger context of global economic inequity in which migrant families are implicated, making such remittances rich sites of print and digital literacy practice across borders.
Sanctioning a Space for Translanguaging in the Secondary English Classroom: A Case of a Transnational Youth
Mary Amanda Stewart and Holly Hansen-Thomas
Abstract: A growing number of adolescents in the United States are transnationals who regularly engage in translanguaging practices by drawing on their full linguistic repertoires in their everyday lives. Many of these students are also emergent bilinguals, learning language and content simultaneously. Yet, as the number of these diverse students significantly rises, so does curricular standardization in the secondary English language arts classroom. Even so, some research documents promising translanguaging pedagogies, but these studies focus primarily on the elementary level or provide general overviews of these practices in secondary classrooms. Consequently, this qualitative study was divided into two phases: Phase 1 deeply investigated the nature of one high school emergent bilingual’s transnationalism through a case study approach. The findings indicated that the participant’s transnational lived experiences and literacies were closely tied to translanguaging practices. Then, grounded in that data, for Phase 2 of the study, the researchers used a formative design to create a literacy unit in the participant’s high school English classroom that purpose fully engaged her transnational literacies through translanguaging. Her reaction to the unit, specifically her writing in English and Spanish, was analyzed to understand her response to the curriculum and instruction. A systematic use of translanguaging—through reading, through oral language, and primarily through writing poetry—provided the participant with the means to express creativity and criticality as she took ownership of her literacy learning. The study suggests the possibilities of student learning when a space for translanguaging is sanctioned in the secondary English language arts classroom.
Forum: RTE from 2003 to 2008: The View from Our Editors’ Perch
Melanie Sperling and Anne DiPardo
Abstract: In this essay, Sperling and DiPardo place their editorship in the context of key national and global currents of that time, which continue to evolve today. They argue that these currents touch on the work of English, language arts, and literacy educators, reflecting and shaping a number of phenomena: ever-new and surging cultural, social, and language diversities in our classrooms; technology’s mark on language and literacy, along with its benefits and constraints; the sometimes heavy hand of politics and policy on the day-to-day workings of the classroom; and, in sum, what it is that we’re supposed to teach and know as part of our English/language arts calling. This essay embeds itself in these issues in discussing RTE research from 2003 to 2008 and in thinking about the issues and research our field will encounter in the coming years.
Guest Reviewers and Translators
Index to Volume 50