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“Welcoming the New Year, Full of Things That Have Never Been”

NCTE Professional Concerns

“Poetry is the lifeblood of rebellion, revolution, and the raising of consciousness.”

The Cushion in the Road (2013) by Alice Walker

In the last few weeks of 2018, I cannot help but think about the changes that have resulted from or resulted in rebellion, revolution, and raising of consciousness. My reading has turned to ideas of revolution, especially in respect to the concept of citizenship and its definition.

I am in the midst of reading and pondering Alice Walker’s newest book,

(2018), and am bolstered by her words, her memories, and her offerings within this collection. Her attention to, and honoring of, those who have stood in the gap between truth and misdirection that interrogates reality and rumor is an opportunity that invites, even implores, us to revisit our positionality as global citizens. I am compelled to address current social moves and advocate for a definition of citizenry that extends beyond the borders that artificially divide us. As human beings we are bound together in the struggle toward our common humanity: a community of singular people worthy of each other’s attention and respect.

As global citizens, English educators (of all sorts) are wonderfully endowed with materials that help us to reflect on our thoughts and experiences. We have access to writers who represent our hopes, fears, and pathways to actions that can enlighten and lighten the world. We gain sustenance from words and truths that give us space to create new ways of being for our students, our neighborhoods and communities, and the world.

Alice Walker gives us language to express our own rebellions, revolutions, and consciousness. More so, however, she brings us together as we strive in those endeavors, creating a path toward greater humanity and appreciation of those who have gone before us, those who live among us, and those who may eventually guide us to becoming the citizenry needed to heal a world too often overwhelmed by its brokenness.

So as we come to the end of 2018, let us reflect upon the good, the decent, the confounding, and the fear that has freed or entrapped us.

Let us decide, as global citizens, to turn toward pathways that create possibilities for a better world rather than remain in a fearful past that does not suit a hope that comes with new beginnings.

Let us strive together in reaching ever forward and embrace what Rainer Maria Rilke once enjoined, “And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.”

This post was written by Holly Johnson, professor of Literacy & Second Language Studies at the University of Cincinnati, as part of an ongoing series from the NCTE Standing Committee on Global Citizenship.

The Standing Committee on Global Citizenship is charged to identify and address issues of broad concern to NCTE members interested in promoting global citizenship and connections across global contexts within the Council and within members’ teaching contexts.

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