Keynote Speaker:
Professor David A. Jolliffe, University of Arkansas at Fayetteville


"Writing Democracies:  Community Arts and Community Literacy as an Antidote to 'Co-Curricular Poverty'"

As the demands for assessment and accountability in schooling have focused K-12 educators’ attention almost solely on teaching “what’s on the test,” a valuable aspect of literacy education has been allowed to atrophy, particularly in poor school districts and rural communities:  the literacy “co-curriculum”—activities such as drama classes and productions, a school or community newspaper, a literary magazine, and speech competitions.  The availability of these co-curricular activities, which can accomplish so much to help young people become critical readers and effective writers, frequently becomes a “haves versus have-nots” situation.  Affluent schools and communities provide them, often in abundance; poor schools and communities go without

This paper will describe the results of a study showing the decline of the literacy co-curriculum in one locale, the Arkansas Delta, a 15-county region in Eastern and Southern Arkansas.  More vitally, the paper will explain in detail a project, undertaken jointly by the Brown Chair in English Literacy at the University of Arkansas and the Arkansas Family Health Foundation, to involve students and citizens from all walks of life in seven rural Arkansas communities in a community arts/community literacy project designed to highlight the connections between the co-curriculum and literacy development and between community arts and community vitality and revitalization.  The ARCare Community Performing Arts Festival, the latest outgrowth of the Brown Chair’s Community Literacy Advocacy Project, will culminate in May 2011 with performances, all involving Shakespeare’s The Tempest, by over 40 high school students, a cast comprising professional actors working in collaboration with community actors, and singers from church and community choruses in the seven communities.  The paper will review the festival and explain how literacy activities have been orchestrated to enrich the lives of all citizens in the communities.

About the Speaker

David A. Jolliffe is the initial holder of the Brown Chair in English Literacy at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where he is also Professor of English. Prior to coming to the University of Arkansas, Jolliffe taught at DePaul University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Texas at Austin, West Virginia University, Bethany College, and Wheeling Park High School in Wheeling, West Virginia. He has held visiting positions at Jilin University of Technology in the People's Republic of China and the American University in Cairo. At DePaul, Jolliffe was one of the original faculty members who taught for the Steans Center for Community-Based Service Learning, offering courses in urban literacy and tutoring in city schools. He is the author or editor of several books on the theory and practice of rhetoric and the preparation of writing teachers, and from 2003 to 2007, he served as Chief Reader for the Advanced Placement English Language and Composition Examination. [from profile]

Professor Jolliffe's scholarly, teaching, and service accomplishments provide us with a model for the public humanities in writing and rhetoric. His publications eleven scholarly books and edited collections, countless articles, chapters, and technical reports, and even video--all advancing the writing and the teaching of writing. Among those involved with projects informing Writing Democracy most directly, Professor Jolliffe's work and generousity is cited most frequently as key. When we first begain putting together this conference, in fact, we were regularly told in each new conversation that we absolultely MUST invite David Jolliffe. He'd be perfect for this! Of course we already knew that and had him on our list from the very beginning.

The most recent example of his most directly influential work is the reciptrocal, city-wide, university-community partnership and research project he initiated called "The Arkansas Delta Oral History Project." As described in the abstract for a recent conference (CCCC 2010), "In the small, rural town of Augusta, Arkansas, scholars from the University of Arkansas and George Mason University are supporting health centers, schools, and churches to help community members develop their literacy through two projects, expanding their indiviudal opportunities and shaping their sense of shared inheritence and collective aspirations. This first project has been successful in part because it engages a wide range of local sponsors of literacy (Brandt,  2001). As the project has matured, genures of writing have been remixed as they migrate between activities within these multiple sponsoring institutions and from a local to a regional scope" (CCCC 2009). ADOHP provides teachers with a model for engaging authentic literacy events to bring together communities with their local histories and with one another.