Approved by NCTE Members Voting at the Annual Business Meeting for the
Board of Directors and Other Members of the Council, November 2018
Background: Whereas policy is often derived from the needs of a given moment–according to Kahlenberg and Janey (2016), one of those great needs is the preparation of students “to be reflective citizens who would value liberty and democracy and resist the appeals of demagogues”;
Whereas to address the changing political and media climates, we believe it is time to modify and extend NCTE’s previous and continuing commitments, as defined in a 1971 NCTE resolution:
That the National Council of Teachers of English find means to study the relation of language to public policy, to keep track of, publicize, and combat semantic distortion by public officials, candidates for office, political commentators, and all those who transmit through the mass media;
Whereas this and other resolutions helped prompt projects such as the NCTE Committee on Public Doublespeak, along with programs and publications by NCTE;
Whereas post-truths (routine, political lies that face no condemnation) now permeate political and social discourse, while English language arts commonly focuses heavily on literary knowledge, providing little time for the evaluation of post-truths (Bacon, 2017; Hall & Piazza, 2010);
Whereas “the ability to interrogate social, historical, and political contestations of literacy is a pivotal educational mandate” (Bacon, 2017); and
Whereas critical literacy “describes a pedagogical approach to reading that focuses on the political, sociocultural, historical, and economic forces that shape young students’ lives” (Soares & Wood, 2010); be it therefore
Resolved that the National Council of Teachers of English
- promote pedagogy and scholarly curricula in English and related subjects that instruct students in civic and critical literacy, going beyond basic reading comprehension to the thinking skills that enable students to analyze and evaluate sophisticated persuasive techniques in all texts, genres, and types of media, current and yet to be imagined;
- support classroom practices that examine and question uses of language in order to discern inhumane, misinformative, or dishonest discourse and arguments;
- prioritize research and pedagogies that encourage students to become “critical thinkers, consumers, and creators who advocate for and actively contribute to a better world” (NCTE Vision Statement, 2017);
- provide resources to mitigate the effect of new technologies and platforms that accelerate and destabilize our information environment;
- support the integration of reliable, balanced, and credible news sources within classroom practices at all levels of education;
- resist attempts to influence civic discussion through falsehoods, unwarranted doubts, prejudicial or stereotypical ideas, attempts to shame or silence, or other techniques that deteriorate the quality of public deliberation; and
- model civic literacy and conversation by creating a supportive environment where students can have an informed discussion and engage with current events and civic issues while staying mindful and critical of the difference between the intent and impact of their language.
Bacon, C. K. (2017). Multilanguage, multipurpose: A literature review, synthesis, and framework for critical literacies in English language teaching. Journal of Literacy Research, 49(3), 424–453. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/2PvmeN7.
Hall, L. A., & Piazza, S. V. (2010). Challenging texts: Engaging with critical literacy–Reflections on teaching and learning. English Journal, 99(5), 91–94. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/2QLP6go.
Kahlenberg, R. D., & Janey, C. (2016). Is Trump’s victory the jump-start civics education needed? Atlantic Monthly, November 2016. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/2DH3yTY.
Soares, L. B., & Wood, K. (2010). A critical literacy perspective for teaching and learning social studies. The Reading Teacher, 63(6), 486–494. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/2DrheS6
On February 22, 2019, the NCTE Executive Committee formally approved this resolution, which was first introduced and voted on by the Board of Directors at the 2018 Annual Convention. The resolution was introduced to the entire membership for a vote in January before final review by the Executive Committee.
This position statement may be printed, copied, and disseminated without permission from NCTE.