When I think back over the past year, it seems that American women in language and literature have had a good year, most significantly the Nobel Prize given to Toni Morrison. Despite the prize, many secondary schools in my area have qualms about teaching Morrison's work because of "language" and the open female sexuality in her novels. I have hopes that winning the Nobel Prize will push Morrison into canonical status and that the prize will provide support for teachers who want to teach Morrison in high schools. One of the teachers at my research site surveyed her student's independent reading practices and found that despite the practice of "books of choice" unit -- a time in the curriculum when students can select their own literature -- few students were selecting female authors. The apparent reason was that these young readers didn't know about female authors they might select, and often their teachers didn't know which books to recommend to them.
However, for some of the school boards in my area it will make no difference, and Morrison will join the ranks of celebrated American writers who are overtly and covertly censored. On my campus, several young women have formed an organization called "Students for Censorship Awareness." Their goal is to advocate for free access to literature for children and teenagers in schools. Because they stand outside the school systems, they believe they can speak more freely than the teachers and students in a particular school. I'm proud to be a faculty advisor to this group. I'd like also to recognize the women in higher education who have recently assumed NCTE editorships: Patricia Stock English Education; Leila Christenbury, English Journal; Sandra Stotsky, Research in the Teaching of English. They join Louise Smith who has been editing College English for the past year. We wish them well.
This is a transition time between the end of one school year and the beginning of the next, a time for rest and reflecting and planting a few things in the garden. Out here in the desert we've had a hot, dry spring that seemed to turn straight into summer. Even though I'm not much of a gardener, this year I felt like sticking some plants in the ground and planning for the future. I'd like to hope for a rich harvest of another sort in the fall: roles for women in higher education outside the classroom, good books to read and teach, a climate congenial to nourishing young women.
Copyright 1994, The Women in Literature and Life Assembly of the National Council of Teachers of English (ISSN #1065-9080). Permission is given to copy any article provided credit is given and the copies are not intended for resale.
Reference Citation: Zirinsky, Driek. (1994). Column as college editor. WILLA, Volume III, 4.