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49: Writing for Purpose and Advocacy feat. Bryn Orum, J.J. Burry, John Warner, Stephanie Hurt, & Dr. Richard Wilkinson

Ep. 49

In this episode, we're focused on advocacy - getting students motivated to speak up for themselves and change the world. We have so many brilliant voices who feel limited to the classroom, not realizing the power they hold. Particularly, we're going to look at how writing instruction lends itself to promoting student voices, featuring a variety of English educators, as well as authors, who recognize how important the Humanities are to promoting a flourishing democracy.

Whenever I've attempted to rally my students up - to get them to stand up for what they believe in - I'm honestly not that successful. Certainly, there's some students who take command and advocate, but most shrug it off. That's not to say they don't care - students overwhelming care about the problems they see in our world...they just don't necessarily think they have the power to change it.

There's so much untapped potential in today's youth - an entire generation of young adults who care about tolerance, acceptance, the Earth, and love. Yet schools rarely, if ever, want their students to engage in political discourse....to fight for what they believe in. It makes sense, given how political volatile the United States is, it isn't an advantageous position to have one's students on the news. However, these issues are core to what students find interesting and important, and seeing that relevance in their work...and most importantly, making the connection that their work is valuable, could literally change the world.

Further, our classrooms are places of "rank and filing", which frankly is just a reflection of society itself. Our "merit-based" consumerist lifestyles don't lend themselves to positive, fulfilling lives, and schools are increasingly intertwined with the belief that success is framed by hoarding money and obtaining the perfect job. With so much focus on purely capitalist gains, it is no wonder that students feel they lack purpose. Plus, our unjust society contributes to most of our "on paper" problems in education - a lack of food, safety, or any safety net for our disadvantaged youth means we'll never find a human-centered education without reforming to make equitable communities. If educators aren't demanding political action to help impoverished families, then isn't all our work for nothing?

The question then becomes twofold: 1) How can we encourage advocacy in schools among our student body, and is that advocacy appropriate? and 2) What is the educator's role in advocating for their students and communities?

GUESTS IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE

Bryn Orum, director of Rise Up and Write, a summer writing program centered around advocacy in Madison, Wisconsin, who used to teach high school English and further, co-founded Clark Street Community School, who our previous guest, Bennett Jester, attends.

J.J. Burry (Jess Houser), an English educator at a small public school in Texas, who is an aspiring writer and advocate of writer’s notebooks.

John Warner, an author, editor, speaker, and professor focused on writing instruction. Recently, John's work has focused on writing instruction through Why They Can't Write and its companion book, The Writer's Practice.

Stephanie Hurt, an English educator at Brodhead High School in Brodhead, Wisconsin. Stephanie is a teacher leader for the National Writing Project's College, Career, and Community Ready Writer's Program and The Greater Madison Writing Project.

Dr. Richard Wilkinson, an accomplished social epidemiologist, author, and advocate who served as Professor Emeritus of Social Epidemiology at the University of Nottingham. He is co-founder of The Equality Trust and was awarded the 2013 Silver Rose Award from Solidar for championing equality. His co-author and significant other, Kate Pickett, wrote The Spirit Level and The Inner Level, which both focus on the across-the-board improvements of equitable societies.

RESOURCES

FURTHER LISTENING

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