Have you read the new NCTE Report entitled Writing in the 21st Century? Here's a chunk from the intro.
"Today, in the 21st century, people write as never before—in print and online. We thus face three challenges that are also opportunities: developing new models of writing; designing a new curriculum supporting those models; and creating models for teaching that curriculum. Historically, we humans have experienced an impulse to write; we have found the materials to write; we have endured the labor of composition; we have understood that writing offers new possibility and a unique agency. Historically, we composers pursued this impulse to write in spite of—in spite of cultures that devalued writing; in spite of prohibitions against it when we were female or a person of color; in spite of the fact that we—if we were 6 or 7 or 8 or even 9—were told we should read but that we weren’t ready to compose. In spite of."
Here's Mark Baurlein's response to the report in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
"What to say about this odd opening? The first sentence is a notch above the freshman’s opening “Since the beginning of time . . .” The next sentences cast writing in heated terms of struggle and liberation (“impulse,” “labor,” “possibility,” “unique agenda”). And then we have anti-writing cultures, racist and sexist prohibitions, and age tyranny. Cap it off with that inane melodramatic phrase “In spite of” (italicized in the original).
Keep in mind that this report proposes a recommendation that teachers bring 21st-century writing habits (texting etc.) into the classroom. That is a complex and far-reaching revision, and it merits a steady and scientific approach to, among other things, social and technological trends, the relation of classrooms to society, and the intellectual value of those new literacy habits.
But when a report starts out by overloading the central concept with political overtones and identitarian dramaturgy, one wonders about the agenda. Why has NCTE come down so strongly and so enthusiastically on the side of 21st-century literacies?"
I find Baurlein's response a little mean-spirited, but I agree with his point that we need to seriously consider "the intellectual value of those new literacy habits" before endorsing them whole-hog. I've done as much as anyone in my own department to introduce blogging, wikis, and the idea of digital literacy into the writing classroom, but I'm not persuaded, for example, that texting is a valuable literacy practice.
As always, I'm in the middle. I'm not persuaded by the techno-dystopians that new writing practices like texting contribute to an overall decline in literacy. Neither am I persuaded by a techno-utopian like Yancey that they are somehow magically liberatory or that they automatically entail valuable forms of participation.
I would add, finally, that I don't think NCTE fully appreciates how many students who go to college (especially first generation students like myself) yearn for elevated forms of literacy (rhetorical or poetic). I would have felt pandered to by a course that told me texting (if texting existed when I was a wee lad) was a college-level literacy. How to acknowledge and incorporate some of these new literacies in ways that are valuable?
cross-posted to Middlebrow