I love the power of the web because it gives voice to everyone. Publishing heretofore was at the whim of the person who owned the press, a publisher. That publisher would and could wield editorial power, thereby compromising the real voice of the writer. As the Internet evolved and allowed for the World Wide Web to emerge, publishing changed as we knew it. Anyone with a connection to the Internet could publish.

One of the major voices to emerge was the cry for "social justice." With the sharing of stories, anecdotes, folks around the world came to realize their stories weren't unique and that they shared lives with others they would never have imagined possible. As these stories unfolded, calls for action in reform and shared resources linked them all together to form as one. As this seaps into our schools, scholars are beginning to really wrestle with important issues that will one day be crucial in their lives. Bringing the world to the scholars is one of the powers we can realize when we wire our classes and cyberize our curriculum.

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"Teaching for Social Justice" was a topic that arose on the NCTE-Talk list in the fall of 2000 as teachers were preparing the new year. I found it relevant that the web especially lent itself to such a concern and theme.


In order to be careful, we need to keep in mind that the process of gaining critical awareness is first rhetorical. Praxis follows awareness. Hence, the need for continued dialogue and affirmation of lived experience (the process of co-humanization in Freire's process). As you noted in your post, we must dialogue with our students in relation to their experiences. But the way we do that is dependent on context. I would get fired if I openly challenged my students' conservative perspectives. In fact, my boss recently told me that I shouldn't ask a student not to join the armed forces (I simply told the student that I felt he should postpone signing a military contract until the end of the year for two reasons. First, signing a contract meant long-term commitment and the potential of death. Additionally, I noted that since he was a wonderful writer, college might be an alternative to military service.).

tednellen responds:

Boy Galen, is this ever true... esp as you bring in Freire here as that was crucial reading for me as I was wrestling with the reality of using the web to help my scholars go through the epiphany wringer....make it public, the rhetoric; peer review, the dialogue; and passing it on, the praxis: let me illustrate.

In my 95-96 school year we were in an exchange with students in three or four Japanese schools. The theme of the year for them was of course Hiroshima as they were dealing with the 50th. Any way one of my students, Almina Ahmed, a girl from Pakistan, wrote a piece titled: "Nuclear Weapons Are Great!!!" http://mbhs.bergtraum.k12.ny.us/user/a8713/japan.html

Needless to say I was dumbfounded when I read her essay as were students in the classes here and in Japan. On the list we had for the class it got hot and heavy as you can imagine. She stuck to her guns.

Three or four months later, that June, a television crew from the Japanese public station came to NYC to record some kids in my class for a show they were going to put on in August about the entire experience of having this exchange with students in America and with those in Japanese students, the grandchildren's perspective as it were. Needless to say they were anxious to meet Almina. I, of course, asked her if she really wanted to do this and she was excited to do this and had her parents' permission. Imagine going on Japanese public TV to speak about her essay that was obviously so hurtful to the audience that was going to view it. I dont know what I was thinking. All I could do was be ready. I didnt know for what, but paying attention was the necessary stance for me. During the session the reporter asked her about that essay. While the cameras were rolling, she spoke of that essay and how it her culture of nuclear arms proliferation, remember she was from Pakistan, this was the party line. Now that she had been exposed to other points of view, via the net, she saw and heard other opinions and right there she changed her own mind in a very moving statement. This was the first time she had said this out loud, the rhetoric if you will. She obviously had been wrestling with it in her head since she composed those words and months later after dialogue, peer review, she renounced that essay. I still have it on tape someplace. I dont want to tell you the power that showed me about this Internet and in our scholars' lives. Her epiphany occurred because she wrote what she knew, exposed it and then engaged in peer review and critical thinking. She arrived at a new praxis as she was exposed to so many more ideas, new to the limited knowledge she had from her own life and culture and experiences. It was in a dialogue where she discovered this. It was awesome! It merely confirmed that I had done the right thing to do this webfolio thing and have the scholars in this kind of dialogue and publishing. It made all the difference...

First by having the opportunity to get into an exchange with students in another country is one of the powers of the Internet and has certainly made all of those previous penpal kind of programs pale in comparison. This of course addresses access. The students have so much access some have called it inforamtion overload. Quite possible, but no access is even worse. Secondly, what was most extraordinary was that Almina wasn't maligned or attacked, she was approached on an intellectual level and slowly she was able to sift through her own thoughts and hear others and all the time synthesizing and recasting until on television she exclaimed her epiphany. She would have lived with this idea for ever because it was ingrained into her by her culture, her Pakistani culture, and for her that was about all she knew. However by engaging in scholarship activities she was able to transcend cultural prejudices and cultural thinking to embrace a larger order from the chaos.

Another thing I like about email is that I get a lot of interesting mail from people. An example of this is when Tom Watson, who works in the New York Times sends me mail asking me my opinion on the different kind of articles which he works on. Like, what do I think about Cyber English? Most of the mail I get is from people who have seen my homepage which have written to tell me what the think of my I am and to tell me how I can make it look better.

Rosie Delacruz: http://mbhs.bergtraum.k12.ny.us/user/d7030/wired.htm

Vivian Jimenez: http://mbhs.bergtraum.k12.ny.us/user/j6415/wired.htm

I feel that being wired to the Internet is very fun. It helped me learn new things and helped me express my inner thoughts

Jeanette Lu: http://mbhs.bergtraum.k12.ny.us/user/l8642/wired.htm

Followed by the book reports are my news reports. I read and chose some interesting articles from the New York Times, and wrote my opinions about the issue from the news. Some of this opinions supported the news article, but some critized it. By doing that, you can obsolutely feel the freedom of speech, since you can freely express you opinions without worry about someone will sue you after.

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Karina Becerra: http://mbhs.bergtraum.k12.ny.us/user/b6504/wired.html

During this year I also wrote my opinion on various topics. One topic was Subway Manner, in which I express my feelings about the problems there is in the subways. Another topic I wrote on was Copyright, which was boring because we had to read these articles on copyright laws which were long and uninteresting. Ebonics was a topic that I enjoyed writing about because I found the articles very interesting. This topic gave me a chance to read about other people opinion and then got a chance to express my personal feelings. The last topic I wrote about was on Censorship, which I found very interesting because it affected students of my age.

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Carlos Aponte: http://mbhs.bergtraum.k12.ny.us/user/a3056/opinion.html

In each of the opinion assignment, I had to think logically. I had to think about all the parties involved when I wrote my opinions. Some of my opinions will offense someone or insult someone. The key word here is everything I wrote was my opinion.

Opinion 1 was my thoughts on a gay man that was killed. The killing of this man really affected the entire nation. I was upset about this because people are still being discriminated. Regardless of a person's gender, sexuality, disability, race, religion, etc., we all are human beings and we don't deserve to die because of those reasons. Opinion 2 was an interesting topic to write about. A teacher were threatened by her blacks students' parents because of a book she read in her third grade class. This is a case where a woman was accused of something she didn't intend to do. Opinion 3 was an article on outstanding high school. I expressed what I thought made an outstanding high school. Opinion 4 was my thoughts on New York City police officers. Are they going too far or are they really trying hard to protect the people of NYC? Opinion 5 was an article where a Deaf man was violated of his rights to be provided with an interpreter. Just because he was not indeed the patient when his wife was giving birth to their child, he was still part of the situation. He is the father of the newborn child.

All of my opinions were based on my thoughts on that particular issue. Two or three of them I could relate to because of my gender, sex, disability, etc. People in this world have to realize we are trying to built a better future for our children. Not particular mine.

Elizabeth Batista: http://mbhs.bergtraum.k12.ny.us/user/b1774/wired.html

Today in this world, I didn't realize so many things could happen all around us. One article that caught my eye was the Columbine High School shooting. I was shocked at what I saw on tv and read on newspapers. Another article I read was Educations Gender Gap. That was an interesting article. It dealt with other countries having more boys than girls in school. However, I really liked the article of Women committing suicide in China. Who would have ever thought that women in China would actually commit suicide. That's very depressing. An article that got me worried though, was the Millenium Bug Looms. It was about the computers breaking down in the new millenium, and having a major problem with all kinds of files. Even though this got me worried, I doubt this will happen. Hopefully, by the end of the year they will have this problem fixed.


    Educators for Social Responsibility's mission is to make teaching social responsibility a core practice in education so that young people develop the convictions and skills needed to shape a safe, sustainable, democratic, and just world.

    © Ted Nellen 2000