Making Live NCTE’s Beliefs about the Students’ Right to Write - National Council of Teachers of English
Back to Blog

Making Live NCTE’s Beliefs about the Students’ Right to Write

This post was written by Millie Davis, former director of NCTE’s Intellectual Freedom Center.


The National Day on Writing this Saturday, complemented by this month’s writing activities, breathe life into NCTE’s Beliefs about the Students’ Right to Write.

In a nutshell, these twelve beliefs spell out students’ freedom to write in all their personal expression and messiness and teachers’ freedom to teach writing in ways that honor and build on how their students write.

To pay homage to the National Day on Writing and to intellectual freedom, I’ve to illustrated my five favorite Beliefs with quotes on writing from famous authors. I challenge you and your students to develop quotes of your own, maybe like some you find at #WhyIWrite.

The expression of ideas without fear of censorship is a fundamental right.

A word after a word after a word is power. —Margaret Atwood

To survive, you must tell stories. —Umberto Eco

Let me live, love, and say it well in good sentences. —Sylvia Plath

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. ―Maya Angelou

Words are a powerful tool of expression, a means to clarify, explore, inquire, and learn as well as a way to record present moments for the benefit of future generations.

The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself. —Albert Camus

I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn. —Anne Frank

Writing fiction is the act of weaving a series of lies to arrive at a greater truth. Khaled Hosseini

Words are a lens to focus one’s mind. —Ayn Rand

A writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, or because everything she does is golden. A writer is a writer because, even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway. —Junot Diaz

Teachers should engage students fully in a writing process that allows them the necessary freedom to formulate and evaluate ideas, develop voice, experiment with syntax and language, express creativity, elaborate on viewpoints, and refine arguments.

I am a woman, and I am a Latina. Those are the things that make my writing distinctive. Those are the things that give my writing power. —Sandra Cisneros

You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. . . . That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence. ―Octavia E. Butler

I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of. —Joss Whedon

Teachers should explicitly teach the distinction between violent writing and violence in writing. Students should expect teachers to uphold the law in reporting all instances of violent writing.

Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to split open. —Natalie Goldberg

As a writer, you should not judge, you should understand.―Ernest Hemingway

I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear. —Joan Didion

Administrators should work in collaboration with students who write for school publications such as school newspapers or literary magazines and, within the limits of state law or district/school policies, should avoid prior review. [emphasizing the NCTE Resolution on Legislation to Protect the Rights of Student Journalists

If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people. —Virginia Woolf

I don’t need an alarm clock. My ideas wake me. —Ray Bradbury

We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect. —Anaïs Nin

As C.S. Lewis says, “You can make anything by writing.”

In the classroom, your students simply need the freedom and guidance to do so.


It is the policy of NCTE in all publications, including the Literacy & NCTE blog, to provide a forum for the open discussion of ideas concerning the content and the teaching of English and the language arts. Publicity accorded to any particular point of view does not imply endorsement by the Executive Committee, the Board of Directors, the staff, or the membership at large, except in announcements of policy, where such endorsement is clearly specified.