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Expanding the Discipline

Sarah Levine


This project is a collaboration among Professors Sarah R. Levine (Stanford Graduate School of Education), Emily Rainey (University of Pittsburgh, English) and Paula M.L. Moya (Stanford University, Department of English). Despite more than a century of reform efforts, K - 12 schooling remains grounded in White Western texts, teaching, and evaluation regimes which do not adequately represent the cultures and practices of minoritized communities, or support the learning of students in those communities. 

High school English Language Arts (ELA), which includes the study of literature and language, is a case in point. ELA Teachers and students are often relegated to a narrow kind of literary reading and response, shaped by Western cultural traditions, histories of neoliberal reform, and current White backlash against attention to race, class, gender, and justice. These narrowed versions of literary reading do not reflect the rich practices of those who read and respond to literature in their professional or personal lives. For example, university-based literary scholars use literature to explore and contest entrenched discourses around race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. Non-professional communities (e.g., book clubs, fan fiction writers, amateur hip hop critics) built on more diverse cultural traditions and communities, likewise engage in productive and satisfying literary work.

Many ELA educators want to expand their practice, but they need knowledge, resources, and authority to do so. In the Everyday Language Arts Project, we analyze the texts, practices, and products in post-secondary literature courses and of out-of-school communities of practice engaged with literary reading and response. We then use these findings as tools for instruction and advocacy in secondary schools, with the goal of disrupting traditional White Western discourses and connecting high school ELA with the diverse texts, practices, and products in the rest of the literary world.

Funders: the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation