Ethics, broadly conceived, concerns the moral principles that guide what humans do, and the branch of knowledge related to moral principles. Ethics goes beyond simply what is, and endeavors to lay the groundwork for what should be; every pedagogical decision, including whether, what, and how to teach literacy, rests implicitly or explicitly on moral principles. The moral principles of educators and those charged with developing and supporting literacy education matter profoundly for educational decision-making. Relatedly, the issue of justice (social, redistributive, recognitive, representative) is an inescapable one in education, where children’s lives, futures, and flourishing are routinely determined by choices made by those with power. Some of the central ethical principles that may be taken from discussions of ethics and social justice into the specific realm of education include: ahimsa and satyagraha; human relatedness; a moral relationship to place and to non-humans; varied conceptualizations of love; respect for individual freedoms, including the freedom of human flourishing; equality of opportunity; and mutual respect for the multiplicity of differences that exist among people. There are three areas of inquiry that may help educators and researchers examine the moral principles at stake in instructional decision-making about literacy. First is the issue of how, or to what extent, literacy development should be conceptualized as an ethical goal. If it is conceived as an ethical goal, we should ask whose notions of development count, who has access to literacy, and who is included and excluded are all critical questions. Literacy goals should then also be seen as socio-culturally, contextually, and individually contingent. Second is the issue of how literacy teaching may be a pathway to support students in be(com)ing ethical individuals, and/or in transforming society itself to become more ethical. If literacy is understood in this way, ethical individuals should be willing and able to think deeply and carefully about ethics, use print and other media critically and with discernment, and take action in the service of making the world more just. Finally, the act of relating ethically to others (as teachers and students, as readers and writers) in the literacy classroom must be theorized. We must consider treating texts and authors in ethical ways, and consider ethical dialogue as a literacy pedagogy, and honor divergence in interpretation and composing. The intent is not to provide definitive answers, but to indicate some of the ways in which such questions and possible answers may complicate and expand views of literacy education.
Jessica Zacher Pandya and Maren Aukerman
English Education, broadly defined, is the study of the teaching and learning of English teacher education. The curriculum of English Education addresses all aspects of reading and writing, including language and rhetoric, and the teaching of those entities. Historically, the field has been punctuated by contention, with debates over what texts, contexts, and approaches should be included, and has been subject to the political influences that have impacted all public education, ranging from calls for progressive approaches that are student-centered to an emphasis on standards and accountability. Intertwined with these forces have been scholars whose theories greatly affected teachers’ approaches, especially related to the teaching of literature and methods for writing. While some movements advocated for basic skills and isolated drills, others pushed for a more critical and culturally situated English Education that expanded traditional notions of literacy to include social practices. Scholarship and research in the field mirrored these trends, with much focus on preservice teacher education, secondary students’ performance, and teachers’ use of various strategies to further engage youth. Future directions for the field include more classroom-based research on how English Education can respond to the demands of our technology-saturated and media-driven society as well as longitudinal studies of English teachers from preservice through their induction years to further study the impacts of their preparation programs.
Decolonizing girlhood illuminates an attempt to refuse and recover the pathological representation of Indigenous refugee girls by going beyond the discourse of the Western construction of girlhood. It takes an anticolonial, critical race feminist approach to the understanding of girlhood that challenges the intersectional, racialized exclusion and the deficit representations of Indigenous refugee girls, which are often reinforced by humanitarian schemes of embodied vulnerability. The digital visual fiction stories created by Karen tribe refugee girls in a media arts summer workshop reposition their presence by creating spaces in which they can speak their own desires, share their imaginings, and portray their struggles. Through this experience, these girls challenge colonial social realities and the fantasies of democracy. Ultimately, their futuristic visual fiction acts as a form of counter-storytelling that illustrates an alternative curriculum space and flips the hegemonic script for empowerment.