NCTE Historian Speech by NJCTE Board Member Joseph Pizzo

We at NCTE are people. People who form a Village through outreach, conferences, our website, and social media to discuss issues and challenges every day. Some issues are relatively new while others pose historically similar challenges. We are stories of teaching. We are resources, communities, and groups.

“NCTE amplifies the voice of educators through personal connection, collaboration, and a shared mission to improve the teaching and learning of English and language arts at all levels.” We continue to pursue this mission with serious commitment, undaunted determination, and a bit of creativity that combine to analyze problems and challenges, generate alternatives and solutions, and discover practical procedures to address these problems.  

Literacy continues to be an issue facing us educators at all levels of instruction and across all curricula. To the challenge to increase the frequency of and fluency when  reading, we add digital literacy challenged by a siren’s song broadcast on social media, online games, and streaming. Falling reading scores and the lack of preparation of students entering high school and college fails to consider the impact of some other powerful siren’s songs. Low status is given to reading in many modern households as daily activity schedules fill much of the time that was spent in the past for family reading and homework completion and review. Add poverty to this mix, and the recipe creates a daunting challenge requiring the commitment of all members of society, not simply the schools and NCTE. 

The issues of writing continue to be a challenge as social media outlets featuring acronyms such as “LOL,” “OMG,” and “IMHO” have placed style over substance and actual conversation. For those of us who in our youth never used the word “texting” as a gerund, “IMHO” means “In My Humble Opinion.” Texting is an effective way to communicate, but it must not replace actual conversation. “IMHO.” 

Issues of diversity continue to challenge us daily both at NCTE and throughout the nation. The emergence of LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual or Ally) poses problems of acceptance. These challenges are not dissimilar to the ones NCTE has faced courageously in the past when dealing with issues of prejudice according to nationality and gender. Some of these issues that led to racially-biased book banning in the past not only continue, but they also contain bans placed on literature that provides a voice to the LGBTQIA community. NCTE believes that tolerance is insufficient. Rather, acceptance must be mandated without exception.

William Faulkner states: “Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.”

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. asserts, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” For us at NCTE, silence “about things that matter” has never been an option.   

Moving forward, NCTE continues to revise its official positions in areas including advocacy, equity, and pedagogy. In the coming year, I hope to create a podcast to chat with our Executive Director Emily Kirkpatrick and another to gain perspective on the challenges historically faced by our former NCTE Presidents. As our history proves, our commitment to amplifying “the voice of educators through personal connection, collaboration, and a shared mission to improve the teaching and learning of English and language arts at all levels,” will not be compromised in any way – ever. 

As we learn from the past and move into the future, we shall continue to serve as advocates for excellence while maintaining our commitment to improving “the teaching and learning of English and language arts at all levels.”

NCTE Historian Speech by NJCTE Board Member Joseph Pizzo

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