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Reader Response

By Jonathan Scott

Linda Christensen's essay in the Fall 2003 issue of Rethinking Schools, "The Politics of Correction," provides many felicitous insights and suggestions for writing teachers whose students are in constant motion between two or more language systems.

One of Christensen's great insights is that English teachers, by "studying and honoring" the use of a student's home language in literary works, can create a classroom environment in which their everyday language is validated-its logic, patterns, and rules exposed on the printed page. By teaching literature that depends on specific vernacular traditions, such as the African American (Ebonics), the Caribbean (Patois), or the Latino (Spanglish), writing teachers show their students that their home languages have value. This is crucially important, because few of our students realize that their home language is actually the source of a lot of great literature.

I would like to suggest a few texts that function well in my classrooms toward achieving the goals Christensen advances in her essay.

One of the valuable lessons Christensen teaches us is that we should never underestimate the power of our students' words, and never forget where these words came from. For when we look at the origin of their words, we're doing precisely what the greatest writers have always done.

Jonathan Scott (jonascott15@aol.com) is co-director of the Writing Program at the City University of New York, Borough of Manhattan Community College, where he teaches remedial writing, composition, and literature.

Winter 2003

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