Writing for Social Justice

On the WPA-l listserv, Kathleen Shine Cain asked for articles on writing for social justice. I think she has in mind a course teaching or encouraging students to write for social justice.  I wrote the note and created a bibliography below that I decided to repost on my blog, mostly because I was thinking of a course I might want to teach. Here’s what I wrote to Kathleen and a list of references I created (actually, this is what I wrote after I wrote to Kathleen):
Writing for social justice can’t be divorced from how we educate and have been educated. I don’t agree with a lot of what is in the books below (except for what I’ve written), but you can see this is a rich and long discussion. I think most of the references concern how we should be (or not be) teaching students to work for social justice. Jessica Singer’s is probably the closest to making the argument you seem to be aiming at. 

I don’t think any of the books or articles address: here’s how you write for social justice. I would run this course by having students investigate social justice issues in the surrounding community.

I would work from their experience—having them write about their memories, experiences, perceptions of social justice, and work outward from there. I’m thinking of any times they or their friends have been the victims of social injustice–or instances in their communities in which they have witnessed social injustice (and if they haven’t seen any–well, there’s a topic for discussion). I would also want to them to write about how they reacted, how they would have liked to react, how they might have wished others would react.

I would them have them read and respond to each other and then write more, exploring from these examples thoughts about social injustice, what it is, why it is, what’s being done or not done about it, what might be done–the kind of writing in which they look on the internet and find out what others have said and done about these issues. So they might write again, having written, read, and having been read.

Then I might have them explore the seriously pressings issues in this local community (Philadelphia) and/or their home communities. This could be online exploration and onsite exploration–done in teams. There is of course no end of problems in Philadelphia, beginning with the schools, poverty, homelessness, the high incarceration rate, literary rates, unemployment, community deterioration, community/police relationships. I would also have them ask what Drexel has been doing about some of these problems (we have several real and pseudo community-based programs). I would have them keep records and notes of all they are discovering and discuss in class that what we are doing is research and have them talk and write about the importance of research–how it can promote social action, social responsibility.

I would want them to write up the results of their research which might also point toward social action. I would have them investigate ways of publishing their research, what they have discovered through Drexel publications, through community newsletters, through newspapers. I would probably want them to explore ways of making a class book (it’s easy; I’ve done this before – see  Writing Ourselves —  that we could put online; or as an alternative or supplement, a class blog and find ways of drawing readers into their class blog–really an issue blog, the issue being social injustice in our area. I would want them to finish the course with social action suggestions: what can be done from here; what they might do–or maybe reflections on the tension between the call to social action and their own struggles as they try to negotiate the demands of school and their dreams of finding work that will be more like play than work.

Frankly, I wouldn’t have them read anything–at least not anything scholarly. Well, I might have them read Anyon’s classic article & maybe Burton Clark’s article about The Cooling Out Function–and some excerpts from Lareau’s book (and maybe try to get an interview with her–I think she’s still at Temple).

[Now that I’ve written this, I think I’ve planned a course for myself].
Below is a list.  Again—when you’re talking about social justice, you are also talking about school system that perpetuate social injustice—as if that is in part their function (which it is [see Bowles and Gintis]):
Anyon, J. (1980, Winter). Social class and the hidden curriculum of work. Journal of Education, 162, 67-92.
Berlin, J. (2003). Rhetorics, poetics, and cultures: Reconfiguring college English studies. West Lafayette, IN: Parlor Press. (Original work published in 1996.)
Berlin, J., & Vivion, M. (Eds.). (1992). Cultural studies in the English classroom. Portsmouth, NH: Routledge.
Blitz, M., &Hurlbert, C.M. (Eds.). (1991). Composition and resistance. Portsmouth, RI: Heinemann.
Brodkey, L. (1994). Writing on the bias. College English 56, 527-47.
Clark, B. (1960). “The Cooling Out Function in Higher Education.” American Journal of Sociology 65, 569-76.
Dews, B. & Law, C. (Eds.). (1995). This fine place so far from home: Voices of academics from the working class. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.
Ellsworth, E. (1989). Why doesn’t this feel empowering?: Working through the repressive myths of critical pedagogy. Harvard Educational Review 59, 297-324.
Friere, P.  (1994).  Pedagogy of Hope.  (R. Barr, Trans.). New York: Continuum.
Frey, O. 1998. “Stupid Clown of the Spirit’s Motive: Class Bias in Literary and Composition Studies.” In Shepard, et al.
Gee, J. P. (2004). “Learning Language as a Matter of Learning Social Languages within Discourses.” In Language Learning and Teacher Education: A Sociocultural Approach, ed. M. R. Hawkins. Clevedon, 13-31. Clevedon UK: Multilingual Matters.
Kozol, J. (1991). Savage Inequalities. New York: HarperCollins.
Lareau, A. (2003). Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life.  Berkeley, CA: University of California Press
Peckham, I. (2007). The stories we tell.  In K. Cahill & L. Johannessen (Eds.).  Considering class: Essays on the discourse of the American dream (pp.  169-182).  Berlin: Lit Verlag.
Shor, I. (1992). Empowering Education. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Shor, I. (1996). When Students Have Power: Negotiating Authority in a Critical Pedagogy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Thelin, W. and J. P. Tassoni, ed. (2000). Blundering for a Change: Errors and Expectations in Critical Pedagogy. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook.
Finn, Patrick.  Literacy with an Attitude.
Greenbaum, Andrea.  Insurrections.
Singer, Jessica. Stiring up Justice.
Johnson III, Richard Gregory. A Twenty-First Century Aproach to Teaching Social Justice.
Also look at mine: Going North, Thinking West: The Intersections of Social Class, Critical Thinking, and Politicized Writing Instruction.
Those are some of my favorites. I can’t help but add:

Bowles, H. & S. Gintis. (1976). Schooling in capitalist America. New York: Basic Books.

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