WILLA v3 - From the Editors

Volume 3
Fall 1994

From the Editors

To publish the third issue of WILLA is a triumph in that these days getting past one issue of any publication is significant. To hang in there for three issues with the assurance of more to come bespeaks a commitment and dedication that only a cause can create. To improve and empower girls and women in literature and in life is necessarily to make everyone's life better, for English, as we speak it, read it, write it, and cherish it, involves and teaches us all. There is significance in the designation -- Mother Tongue.

Moreover, it becomes increasingly clear that the early years are extremely crucial to the development of a sense of self and the placement of that self in community of knowledge with others. Indeed, if our columnists' anecdotal accounts are as true for you as they are for them, then it may be time to reconsider single-sex schools, some thing most of us would reluctantly do. But questions persist: Do the sexes, in the adolescent years, when placed in the same schools together so distract one another that neither sex can perform as well as it should? If the sexes stay together in class rooms during those crucial teen years, what can be cone to further respect and appreciation for each sex? Are single-sex classes, say in math and in science, another way to proceed? Can an educational environment successfully compete with media and peer influence? These queries lead to other all-important questions -- what is knowledge, who creates it, does it exist in its own right, what if there are knowledges some don't want to learn, can knowledge compete with one another, e.g., is knowledge about sports the same as knowledge about history or women's contributions? What knowledge(s) do we value and why? Heady questions, but is seems that we are daily being forced to consider them.

As our interview with Kate Swift and Casey Miller shows, language is the chief way we communicate with one another, and if that language is biased, as they aptly demonstrate in their two books Words and Women and The Nonsexist Guidelines to the English Language , then we should address that issue on all fronts and in the earliest stages possible. Of particular note in the interview is the fact that the two authors are not academicians but women writers who, recognizing the importance of sexist language, set about gathering material to prove its reality and to change it. Our education(s) may/should come from everyone who is knowledgeable. In this vein, we are pleased to note that seven members of WILLA participated in the first ever international conference, entitled Global Conversations on Language and Literacy, sponsored by National Council of English, The National Writing Project, Department of Defense Dependent Schools, and The National Association for the Teaching of English (England) which was held at Oxford University this past summer. The seven WILLA members spoke on various aspects of Gender Issues in the Teaching of Reading and Writing, a session that will be lengthened to an all-day meeting in Orlando this November.

For the first time, WILLA is pleased to offer book reviews because they succinctly summarize key issues that we wish to address, e.g. what texts help to bolster knowledge and self-esteem ( Weaving in the Women: Transforming the High School English Curriculum ); what impedes the equal education of girls ( Failing at Fairness: How America's Schools Cheat Girls) ; what changes need to be made in theories and discussions ( Re-educating the Imagination ); and what NCTE women presidents have accomplished ( Missing Chapters) .

We also present Sullivan's essay "Feminist and (Other?) Pleasures" which analyzes what went right and wrong in a class when it discussed popular works from a feminist perspective. Feminism and pleasure, let us has ten to emphasize, don't automatically go hand in hand. Elouise Bell's "Beauty and the Best" creatively discourses upon the risks of the divided self. Jacqueline Olson Padgett analyzes another division -- the secular and the religious - -and Carol L. Winkelmann the dichotomy of personal and professions.

"Bearing Witness" by Martha Marinara, is WILLA's first short story. It interestingly presents the problem of an educator (the mother) who knows more about life and death than she can reveal to her young sons who need to travel with some modicum of hope, just as the mother does, although in the adult world that hope is not so readily obtained.

Other selections include personal essays by Barbara Dreher ("It's a Long Lane That Has No Turning") and Deborah Straw ("The Little Details of Our Lives") and a response to "Teaching Ain't No Joke," an earlier personal essay in WILLA. WILLA continues to publish poetry, and happily we include poems by Andrena Zawinski, Kathleen S. Rohr, and Donna Decker, our new poetry editor.

We gratefully acknowledge the special editors, peer reviewers, contributors, printing staff, the WILLA Executive Board, the National Council of Teachers of English, and all those who make possible this publication.


Jo Gillikin

Fran Holman Johnson