Thursday, June 16, 2011

From the Editor of English Journal

Question: What is the policy of English Journal toward ideas and articles that might be unpopular?

Answer: Leila Christenbury was the editor of English Journal at the time a program called “Pacesetter English” was initiated by the College Board. It aimed at involving ordinary students from diverse backgrounds in a program that required assessments that gave students  an opportunity to show what they could do in many different contexts and gathering activities that could be a resource for such a program.

An unpopular article appeared in English Journal written by Harvey Daniels dealing with “Pacesetter English.” A number of people from both within the National Council of Teachers of English and from non-members urged that the article not be published. Leila Christenbury, the editor of English Journal,  responded to criticism of her publishing the article as follows:

But to the larger issue: Disagreement, discussion, argument is the stuff of our profession, and the honest exchange of views is the essence of what we do, what we teach, in fact, of what we live. EJ has over the years remained a responsible forum for ideas. And, I might add, when it ceases to be such, it will no longer be the journal that has served our profession so well for these eight decades.

One would hope, in all areas of reform…that our ideas are not so fragile nor our principles so shaky that they cannot withstand honest scrutiny and forthright discussion. Accordingly, all are invited, as always, to write English Journal and express popular, unpopular, wrong-headed, right-headed, dissenting and assenting views. While threats, lawsuits, demands and diatribes are not welcome, good articles always are. P. 59.

Comment: While the NCTE has usually adhered to these guidelines about controversial ideas, it does take sides, for example, the non-connection between grammar and writing, the brouhaha over process vs. product in writing and the present-day dismissal of the five-paragraph essay as a relevant technique in writing instruction.  Oh, and also disagreement over the intelligibility of standards in English published by the NCTE and IRA. The editor of EJ said, (a paraphrase) Time to put an end to discussion of the quality of those standards, [which the NY Times blasted as unfit for publishing by an organization that prides itself as a model for clear writing.] RayS.

Title: “Pacesetter Revisited.” Lila Christenbury, ed. English Journal (January 1995), 59.

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