WILLA v2 - From the Editors

Volume 2
Fall 1993

From the Editors

It is our pleasure to invite you to read the second issue of WILLA. The overwhelming majority of responses to the first issue were positive, and it is tempting to use this column to catalog compliments. We were, however, not without critics; and we recognize that discord, disagreement, dissonance are often part of the discourse of change.

One reader wrote: "Please alter the masthead to represent the public school teachers of America who need your assistance in establishing better curricula and more appropriate classroom procedures. Don't fall into the trap of worship ping at the steps of academe, where fad teaching seems to arise, i.e. whole language or nothing and the other rigid trends."

WILLA wishes to present choices, not dicta. We are committed to inclusivity as an actuality, not just as theory. This inclusivity is growing. In this issue, we have poetry and prose written by K-12 teachers. There is multi-level representation in peer readers and officers of WILLA. Once again, the section editors issue a call for dialogue, dialogue that is inclusive of pre-K through post-college levels. We, too, take this opportunity to solicit additional input from any area of teaching, inside or outside education.

Putting out the journal, even subsequent issues, is not an end in and of itself. WILLA exists to hear female voices whether they be women's writings published long ago and never heard from or whatever there is in writing and reading and speaking that in the grammar of life causes females to be conjunctions and prepositions and not subjects and verbs. When prospective teachers finish their educational training and still cannot name five women writers (and scarcely three) it is time to take more intentional action, perhaps issue some demands, such as insisting that half of the assigned reading be by and about females, that half of all administrative positions be held by women. These "half" measures seem extreme, but would they not better reflect the constitution of who is in the classroom, of who is in the country?

Nothing is more difficult than to bring about positive, transformative change, especially when, as Judith Stitzel's analogy creatively demonstrates, we have had to begin building the house of educational equity before finalizing the blue prints. We started with those things we thought most important, e.g., the sexism inherent in our language, omission of women in texts, the hiring of more women faculty, the placement of more women at top levels. And though we have accomplished quite a bit in these areas, let us not forget that those efforts have to be maintained as vigilantly as we see to it that children learn their ABC's and multiplication tables. The fact that we have learned how sex ism restricts human potential does not mean that subsequent generations have learned it. Nor does it mean that we have found the ways to eliminate it.

In order for females to contribute to literature and life, they have to be subjects and verbs, not only the connecting and relating parts of the sentence. To see one of the reasons why we have not come to full articulation, read Maria Bruno's essay on what happens when a woman applies for a job at one of the most prestigious universities (called Norman Mailer University for all of the obvious reasons). Women in public education have modified overt sexist education in many ways, but have they the power to bring about key changes on behalf of not only women but all humanity? Does looking at the way major authors (see Ellis on Hawthorne and White on Eliot) create female characters help us find a corrective or do the stereotypes remain (read the "Cinderella" poems)? Bagnall's poem "Winning" and Feola's autobiographical essay on an Italian-American woman's education show how much we gain by claiming the personal voice as well as the scholarly voice in our publications.

We are also privileged to present an interview with Ruth K. J. Cline, a former high school English teacher who has served the profession in varied capacities and who is presently Chair of the NCTE Committee on Ethics in the Profession.

For a glimpse of what happens when women do finally begin to study women writers in graduate school, read Bogdan's essay. As we take key steps forward in our education, we learn that theory is one thing and the practice of it another. Modifying theory based on experience is crucial, for it breathes life into our concepts of truth. Decker's "Grave Exquisite Birds" provides such breath.

Much of the work of the journal and the organization has taken place at our summer meetings. Summer 1993 in Montreal was equally productive, and we wish to particularly thank Lynn Butler Kisber, Deanne Bogdan, Lynne Alvine, Silver Stanfill, and Lee Wonsettler Williams for their reading and advice. Thanks also to the advisory committee, contributing editors, sections editors, peer review committee, officers of WILLA, and to NCTE for immeasurable assistance in WILLA.


Jo Gillikin
Fran Holman Johnson