Don’t be a language looter…

We continue to look at -ism through the lens of Morrisons book, The Bluest Eye. Yesterday through her 1993 Nobel Laureate lecture .

The lecture is an old wise blind woman’s scathing description of how language dies; how it is corrupted into oblivion through exploitative use, for the purpose of reinforcing dominance. But more than that – it encapsules Morrison’s hope that our children (her metaphor, perhaps, for young writers) can be trusted with language. That these young can extract from our stories, the narratives of our lives and those lives that came before us the why of the way things are.

The children in the piece bristle at the old woman’s commentary, asking: “Is there no context for our lives? No song, no literature, no poem full of vitamins, no history connected to experience that you can pass along to help us start strong?”

My students tell me that this piece is angry-hopeful: angry about what is, and hopeful for what will be. They like it, because like them, the children in the piece don’t want to be told what to think.

They also tell me that Ms. Morrison’s writing is poetic and worth reading.

I tell them to respect language as a means of the birth and re-birth of ideas. I tell them to be specific, assertive, confident when they speak. It is their job to learn the best way to express themselves, and it’s my job to help.

What a great job.

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