National Writing Project

Writing in the 21st Century: Crash! The Currency Crisis in American Culture

Date: April 2009

Summary: NCTE President-Elect Carol Jago makes an argument for the continuing centrality of the study of literature as a way of "making a life" in an environment where contemplative thinking is in danger of being overwhelmed by practical communication.



To thrive in the real world, students need to be able to do more than Twitter. They need to be able to develop extended arguments that demonstrate a careful analysis of complex ideas. They need to be able to critique a brave new world in which reading is reduced to skimming and scanning websites, in which templates replace writing, in which the arts are extracurricular, and in which culture is reserved for the few rather than the many. If we aren't careful, in a generation we will have made our students unprepared for almost everything that this great nation once used to value—independence, freethinking, and the pursuit of happiness. Part of our responsibility as teachers is to help students discover that the pursuit of happiness does not begin and end with the purchase of a new car. In his travels through nineteenth-century America, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, "There is hardly a pioneer's hut which does not contain a few odd volumes of Shakespeare. I remember reading the feudal drama of Henry V for the first time in a log cabin" (119). As we move through the twenty-first century, let's be careful not to lose in the name of progress and preparedness the texts and habits of mind that have brought us this far.

Copyright © 2009 by the National Council of Teachers of English. Posted with permission.
Jago, Carol. 2009, April. Crash! The Currency Crisis in the American Culture Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

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