Teaching Literacy in the “Age of Alternate Facts”

My colleague Ryan Theodoriches (eminent social studies specialist) and I have worked together for ten years now; during that time we’ve tried to support teachers and administrators with thinking about ELA and social studies as two content areas with huge overlap. Teaching critical literacy skills is an overriding priority when engaging students with the variety of texts, topics, and tasks that prepare them for a life as an informed and active citizen.

Forgive me as I gingerly tap dance around politics here–I think few would argue that our ELA and SS classes have plenty of “grist for the mill” provided by the lead-up to and aftermath of the presidential election. Teachers are certainly used to side-stepping their own political opinions to deftly present students with opportunities to think through all of the various current political perspectives warring for our nation’s attention, and connecting those perspectives to themes and concepts rooted in their ELA and SS units.

In particular, teaching students to express their ideas and opinions through argument using rhetoric and information literacy skills has never been more important. Teaching them to listen critically and avoid being blinded by their own biases helps build a solid foundation for actual discourse. While talking (screaming?) heads in the media can certainly provide endless entertainment and shock value, they are not models or paragons of civil discourse.

Sometimes (in my case, many times) others speak out far more eloquently on certain topics. Check out this essay, “Teaching Writing in a Post-Truth Era” published recently in the Seattle Times. It’s a call to action that, regardless of political stance, few teachers of ELA or SS can ignore…and most have been working toward long before this current administration was elected.

Thanks to Ryan for finding the article and for his efforts at always promoting civil discourse.


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