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Educating for a Just Society: The 41st Association of Literacy Educators and Researchers Yearbook



The theme for the 62nd annual conference of the Association of Literacy Educators and Researchers was Educating for a Just Society. Connie Briggs, previous Program Chair, reminded us that, “Education has always been the foundation of a democratic nation. It is important that our students understand the principles upon which our nation was founded and develop personal qualities that value and celebrate diversity and equality leading to critical and independent thinking. Individual and collective potential will only be realized when community concern, social responsibility, and moral commitment of social justice is actioned by and for all of society, particularly the marginalized of our nation.” The indelible work we do as literacy professionals is reflected in this message and in the thinking that was shared as we gathered together in Louisville, Kentucky in 2018. From graduate students to senior scholars, the presentations and personal conversations all served as sites of opportunity to reflect on and enact this ambitious value. It’s continued to challenge us as editors through the process of conscientization (Friere, 1970), or continual reflexivity, in our multiple roles as editors, educators, researchers, advisors, administrators, and friends. In each context, we wondered how can we celebrate others that aren’t normally celebrated. Even more importantly, we’ve wrestled with how our teaching and research practices and policies might approximate greater justice for all of those we work with spanning the minoritized and majoritized spectrum (Sensoy & DiAngelo, 2017). Throughout the conference and since this time, a quote from renown bilingual writer and artist, Sandra Cisneros, has pierced my (Ale’s) heart, ultimately taking up residence to stay. In doing so, it’s both motivated and haunted me in response to the question, “Why consider and teach literacy from a social justice lens?” It’s “because the world we live in is a house on fire and the people we love are burning” (Cisneros, 2018). While Cisneros shares this sentiment in relation to why she writes, this quote adjusts my theoretical lenses to clarify that literacy research is primarily about people, not acts or skills in and of themselves; it's about developing skills in people that allow them greater agency and human flourishing. We view our students as people we love first and then we value them as speakers, readers, writers, visual communicators, and change makers. To varying degrees, they utilize their literacies across time and space, but they are in danger. Often this danger occurs in the illegitimacy of their literacies; even more, this danger comes in the form of systemic, institutional, interpersonal, and internalized marginalization; but it’s always about being in danger of a reified humanity: for the teacher and the student; for the historically minoritized and the historically majoritized. Thus, it’s incumbent upon us, as literacy educators and researchers, to urgently see, feel, and respond to those who are in danger. In other words, we must teach and research with armed love (Freire, 1998). Dr. Briggs’ hope and Sandra Cisneros’s quote substantially inform the editorial team’s organization of this year’s yearbook.
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