The Political Side of Pradl and Mayher

On “Chat Room Musings: English Teaching in a Changing World”…


Pradl and Mayher tell us some things that we already know:

1.      There is more than one “right” way to read. (12)

2.      Reading must be done in context. (12)

3.      There is more than one kind of student. (13)

4.      Similar to Gee’s writing on dominant discourses, those who disagree with the status quo lack the power to change it. (17)


They also focus upon some ideas only touched upon by other authors we have read. Excessive testing and insufficient funding are deemed the new age of censorship. (16) The importance placed upon testing has limited what teachers have time for in their classrooms and show the opposition that they are more than welcome to disagree with the current policies, but their resources would be better spent preparing for exams that will determine the future of students. It seems obvious that schools who are struggling to meet test scores would require more funding, but as Pradl stresses, the money necessary for improvements is not adequately distributed. (18) Again, we are presented with the issue of current pedagogy conflicting with current political decisions.


As we discuss pedagogy and politics, we reinforce how intricately intertwined are these two. Still, if as Mayher states, “we are now aware of how deeply political English is”, what can we as educators do about it? First, as Jess stressed in her blog, we can continue to educate ourselves. Second, I believe our classrooms should reflect the value we place in education while respecting the value politicians place in measurable outcome. As Jess implied, there are other life lessons to be taught.


I believe that there is an important lesson to be learned in functioning successfully within the current societal structure. Examples like Erin Gruwell are inspiring, but would be ineffective in instituting wide spread changes. Many tests will have to be taken and many teachers will have to compromise before true reform is instituted. The important distinction is, of course, that respecting what must be done does not prohibit one from changing it.


The most important lesson, in my opinion, is that reading and English education can be the basis for social and political change, a belief resides in Jeffersonian democracy. As explained by Scholes, Jeffersonian democracy defines reading as the comprehension and examination of separate individuals’ experiences. The purpose of which is to make informed choices as a citizenry and allow democracy to function as a process. (Yancey, Katheleen Blake. Teaching Literature as Reflective Practice. Illinois: National Council of Teachers of English, 2004. 5.) Therefore, teacher can institute the very reforms they support by, as Mayher suggests, “allowing our practices in the classroom to catch up with all those pedagogical theories” (20).

 In conclusion, I suggest that, despite the current political constraints, English teachers currently possess the pedagogy to create an educated public who will in turn reform educational policies and that we should shift our focus away from the exams we despise.




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2 responses to “The Political Side of Pradl and Mayher

  1. sofiapenna

    I absolutely agree with focusing away from exams “we despise”. Also, piggy-backing on your discussion on Jeffersonian democracy, examinations should definitely stress the individual and separate experiences. Have you checked out the MET schools on the web? These schools are tailoring curricula to each student’s interests. We’re looking at this in another of Karen’s classes. Take a look at
    -Sofia Penna

  2. sunyprof

    J, are you quoting the Scholes “The Rise and Fall of English?” Just curious. That’s a wonderful book to “know” well.

    Yes, we all have to function within the current structures available to us. We have to work with/change them from within. You are so right.

    I see Mayher/Pradl as reinforcing what we already know–but they are major figures in our discourse (Mayher’s “Uncommon Sense” is still almost 20 years later a classic text for us.) and we need to know the competing voices that define the discourse (Kelly is wonderful on this question) in order to defend our location(s) within it.

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