Anti-Racism and the Writing Classroom:

A workbook for FYW teachers.

Teaching writing is apolitical. Storytelling is apolitical.

Is it? Do students feel free to tell any of their stories in the class, or only certain ones they think will be approved? Students’ freedom to tell their own stories, as we do in the Learning Narrative, is compromised when they sense that certain stories are impolite or off-limits, or that they may generate adverse reactions.  Our FYW Learning Goals assert that “students learn from each other.” They cannot do this as effectively if certain students are marginalized or certain stories are off-limits or neglected. If we do allow stories of marginalization to be told, we are being disingenuous to our students (and not sharing what we know) if we treat these stories as purely individual and anecdotal, with no connection to larger social realities.

Finally, how are we assessing these stories? If we are “correcting” and penalizing for “nonstandard English,” then we are making storytelling political.  To reward a story expressed in White Mainstream English with a higher grade is making our response to the story political, and forcing the student to choose between “they own English” (Vershawn Young) and WME. That is, it is imposing existing power structures on the student’s storytelling, so it is making storytelling political.

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