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The Students’ Right to Write

Pencil_clip_art_small“For the logo on his portfolio, Kyle had drawn a bow, stretched taut—but in place of the arrow was a pencil… That is what we need in our schools, in our world. Peaceful warriors. Warriors with words.”

Words are powerful. We teach our students to learn the power of their own words.

Yet especially in the aftermath of Columbine, schools fearing violence have been wary of any student writing that contains what appears to be threatening language or violence, no matter the context. And students have been suspended or jailed for writing the schools found to be inappropriate.

NCTE believes that students have the right to write, that “the expression of ideas without fear of censorship is a fundamental right.”

The NCTE statement points out that

“Censorship of writing not only stifles student voices but denies students important opportunities to grow as both writers and thinkers. Through the often messy process of writing, students develop strategies to help them come to understand lessons within the curriculum as well as how their language and ideas can be used to communicate, influence, reflect, explain, analyze, and create.”

In “Warriors with Words: Toward a Post-Columbine Writing Curriculum,” G. Lynn Nelson argues that it is the writing that can make the peace,

“There is, however, one powerful place to address the source of violence in our schools and in our culture. It is already there in our schools, waiting to help us toward peace. It is just down the hall in the English department. It is the writing class.”