Students Rights,Civically Engaged and a Voice in Writing

CEWAC also known as Civically Engaged Writing Analysis Continuum, is an opportunity for the youths to participate in arguments about issues that matter to them and their communities through public debates and dialogue through writing. The writing may include various forms of text, memes, infographics, video, and in any other digital access.

The youth have the opportunity to expand their knowledge ,research and question current events. Learning about civic writing ables the youth to reach various audiences through the academic objectives , such as language, evidence and reasoning; therefore furthering their development of civic skills in differences, perspectives and public voice.

CEWAC through The National Writing Projects and other benefactors were able to create  rubrics and assessments which presented goals for the youths/students, also leading to four attributes:

  • Employs a public voice
  • Advocates civic engagement or action
  • Argues a position based on reasoning and evidence
  • Employs a structure to support a position

The purpose is to engage its intended audience through reflections of tone, style, and rhetoric designed to engage, establish the author’s credibility and raise awareness.


In the article, On Students Rights To their own Texts: A model of Teacher Response,  A. Richard was hit the nail on the head with this, “When reading a textbook, for instance, we assume that its writer knows at least as much about the book’s subject as we do, and ideally even more. When we read a newspaper article, we take for granted that the writer has collected all the relevant facts and presented them honestly.”  Amazingly the idea of politics through social and printed media popped into my head. Though this topic has no relation to politics, the concept of people in power and how they choose to execute an agenda. Our President, is a great example. Trump thinks he is helping matters but his intrusional personality disconnects the main goal of the political representer. The speech becomes all about Trump and his foolishness.

Are the themes or feelings relevant to the objective? Where are there facts? How can the audience/reader understand the person in power’s perspective without clarification?

Allow me to simplify my thought. A student is given an assignment. He/she writes but lacks the connection needed to fulfill a dynamic expectation. Rather than help the student think and question what is missing, the teacher makes elaborate corrections. Does the writing still belong to the student? No, it doesn’t. In a nutshell, the writing carries a different message. The teacher is more focused on the way the writing should look or be perceived rather than what the student was trying to convey. This action shows the student that the teacher’s agenda is more important than their own, which leads to their wanting less relevant than the teacher’s impression of whay should have been said (158).

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This is an example of a teacher who corrected a students love letter he/she found. Not only is this invasion of privacy (pretend you never found it), it is embarrassing and it kills the students confidence. That letter with its multiple grammatical errors is no longer the students. Whomever loved this person did not love him/her for their use of the english language.




Brannon further explains exactly my point, denying students control of what they want to say reduces the incentive for improvement. In the 1950’s there was a television show called Father Knows Best and it was about the father trying to cope with his family’s everyday problems. Image result for father knows best"Well now the Teacher Knows Best, is taking over. As teachers we cannot only rely on the Ideal Text and compromise the students ability to effectively pursue to point they want to make.

I remember having teachers write their thoughts on my paper and that’s exactly what is was, their thoughts became my paper. Not to say, I didn’t want help but the teacher should not have imposed his/her thoughts as if it was the best ideas known to man. Here’s a possible solution to what can be used as a method of thinking.

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I like the method of questions to initiate a process of negotiation, where
writer and peers or writer and teacher (or tutor) work together to consider,
and if possible to enhance, the relationship between intention and effect.

  • Do the writer’s and the teacher’s responses agree or differ?
  • If they differ, what evidence does each reader have to support the reading?

These questions will lead both teacher and student into the text in order to
discuss the reasons for variant perceptions.

  • If the responses agree, does every part of the text contribute helpfully to sustaining the writer’s intentions?
  • Do the parts need clarifying or elaborating in order to improve
    their effectiveness?

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The teacher’s principal concern in asking and cooperatively answering these questions is to make the writer think about what has
been said, not to tell the writer what to do. The point is to return control of
choice-making as soon as possible to the writer, while also creating a motive
for making changes.


Peter Elbow begins his article Voice in Writing Again: Embracing Contraries, with “Voice is an important dimension of texts and we should pay lots of attention to it. Everyone has a real voice and can write with power. Writing with a strong voice is good writing. Sincere writing is good writing. My voice is my true self and my rhetorical power. The goal of teaching writing is to develop the self.”

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This article shares the pros and cons about having a voice within writing. Everyone has a voice. How they choose to use it, is what makes the greatest difference. Those who are skilled may have the capability of faking it, while others maybe trustworthy. Voice can be found everywhere, in a classroom, in politics and via the internet (all aspects).

“To learn to speak or write better, we need also work on being better persons.”

Attending Voice in Texts:

When readers hear a voice in a piece of writing, they are often more drawn to read it and that audible voice often makes the words easier to understand.

  • attention to voice helps rhetorical effectiveness.
  • the metaphor of voice helps the students improve their writing
  • thinking in terms of voice can help people enjoy writing more
  • attention to voice can help with reading
  • it’s a question of voice and self
    • sincerity
    • resonance

Not Attending Voice in Texts: 

  • ignoring voice is necessary for good reading (rather than defining for yourself, you hear & create a person with personality within the reading)
  • ignoring voice is necessary for teaching writing
  • If we can empty a text of voice, we enlarge possibilities for meaning and interpretation; whereas, when we hear written language as voiced (or when we hear actual speech), meaning and interpretation are restricted.
  • avoidance of voice is a powerful tool for a writer.
  • Voice is too vague a metaphor to be useful
  • the notion of voice in writing does harm in our culture.


a healthy way to deal with conflict or contradiction

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La Voz

The Disembodied ” Voz” (the Voice)
Full Scene: “A Life for a Life”

In Man on Fire (2004), John Creasy (played by the incomparable actor Denzel Washington) has to match wits with the amorphous character of La Voz (the Voice), the leader of a kidnapping ring in México City . La Voz’s presence is thick in much of the film, hovering over the city like oppressive, curling smoke. Yet, in the Mexican media, no one has seen his face or heard his live voice. Enter Creasy- a man on a mission who roots out La Voz. The outcome is truly unique (read: Go watch the film).

Promoting a writer’s growth involves provoking him or her to come out of the shadows and to write with an authoritative voice. In Peter Elbow’s “Voice in Writing Again: Embracing Contraries,” he cites Aristotle’s unique perspective on this issue:

Speakers can fool listeners and persuade them with a consciously constructed voice…[Aristotle] talks about the ability to ‘make ourselves thought to be sensible and morally good’– noting that this is a matter of skill and not character


Elbow goes on to explain that contraries should be embraced (176). We should think about the written language through both the lens of text and voice (not at the same time of course). By text he means “words on a page” and he construes voice as “the spoken medium of language.” He explains:

…The text highlights the visual and spatial features of language as print (etymologically ‘text’ comes from weaving – note ‘textile’); the voice lens highlights language as sounded, heard, and existing in time. The text lens foregrounds language as an abstract system…in which words have the same meaning whoever utters them in whatever context– words as interchangeable and not attached to persons; the voice lens highlights how language issues from individual persons and physical bodies and how the same words differ depending on who says them and how.


Elbow advocates for both types of writing. I agree with his viewpoint. Developing voice requires a level of maturity and sophistication that is built over time. Just as we gain experience from life, our perspectives may change, which will influence our voices. I disagree with Elbow’s point that voice comes more naturally to beginners, because they are accustomed to the spoken word (177-178). I think Elbow places too literal an emphasis on voice in this section.

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Q: Who gets reimbursed when you write a verse?// A: Always the Self
#Message: Don’t Put Your Voice on a Shelf

Elbow’s exploration of somatic writing is very interesting (179). The idea of feeling words in your body is something that resonates with me because as a writer of poetry, I must have a visceral/gut reaction to the words that I use. If do not, the paper is relegated to its proper place in the rubbish bin. Poetry is rewarding because it gives a sense of immediacy to my voice even when I am writing from the perspective of another person. I am always there in between the lines, right in the thick of the ink.

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The beautiful yields of discomfort

I understand the value of not attending to voice in text, despite the fact that it makes my soul a bit uncomfortable. It is definitely important to develop good critical reading and voice can interfere in this goal (180). It is also vital that we test out “pure reasoning” (181). I learned this in my undergraduate class in Logic. As citizens of the world, we have to be able to understand an argument and concomitant counterarguments in a logical, systematic way. It is only then that we can insert our voice in picking a viewpoint and espousing it. Elbow is also correct when he suggests that the message must sometimes take precedence over the medium (182). Pure objectivity is valuable and it certainly has its place in fields such as medicine and certain scholarly work. Id. I also agree with Elbow’s assertion that voice is dangerous when it is bound up with a static notion of the identity and self (183). As writers evolve, they take the voices of others and in doing so, social good is effectuated by means of empathy.

Elbow also explains that reaching a compromise between textual and voice-based writing is untenable and bad. He astutely notes that it is a “method of letting each side lose as little as possible…[f]or a true win/win outcome, we need to break out of this either/or frame of reference” (174). Of course, when we sign off our computers or close our notebooks, compromise is a daily part of life.

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Holden Caulfield

I cannot leave Elbow’s article without expressing my displeasure for William Coles’ disdain for Holden Caulfield, the protagonist in The Catcher in the Rye (1951). Coles says that Caulfield’s voice is a fraud and a lie because it doesn’t match any real character behind it (185, FN1). First of all, how does he know that? Second, I first read this book at fifteen and it resonated deeply with me and other teenagers in our English class. Dear Mr. Coles’: Are our emotions therefore counterfeit as well? Rant over.

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Students Unequivocally have a Right to their Own Texts

Brannon and Knoblauch’s “On Students’ Rights to Their Own Texts: A Model for Teacher Response” is a great segue from Peter Elbow’s article. It hearkens back to the notion of the teacher as designer/facilitator, a point Patricia and Dr. Zamora spoke about in our last class meeting. The authors make crucial points that struck a chord with me:

We are not suggesting that student texts are, in fact, authoritative. But we do argue that incentive is vital to improvement and also that is linked…to the belief that one’s writing will be read earnestly…Denying students control of what they want to say must surely reduce incentive…Regardless of what we may know about students’ authority…we lose more than we gain by preempting their control and allowing our own Ideal Texts to dictate choices that properly belong to writers.

…Teaching from the vantage point of the Ideal Text is paternalistic: the teacher ‘knows best,’ knows what the writer should do and how it should be done, and feels protective because his or her competence is superior to that of the writer.


The notion of the Ideal Text is daft. This is why the authors capitalized it! The ultimate goal of writing is clear communication. Teachers need to work with students in praising their strengths and helping them to shore up points where the students are having difficulty. Moreover, “[a]t the start, students and teachers need to share their different perceptions as makers and readers of a discourse” (162).

As we have discussed in class, there needs to be a flow of communication between instructors and students. This happens through honest conversations as well as drafts. However, ultimately, students’ voices should not be stifled: “The point is to return control of choice-making as soon as possible to the writer, while also creating a motive for making changes” (163). Writers make choices and this implies that they take the reins by means of those choices; thus, they have immense power.

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Writing as a Civic Activity

This leads me to a consideration of The National Writing Project’s “Civically Engaged Writing Analysis Continuum (CEWAC).” This is truly a brilliant movement. Writing is an activity that most individuals will have to undertake, no matter what field of study they pursue. Yet writing is also an important currency in the marketplace of ideas. As such, it has the power to move socioeconomic and political needles.

CEWAC encourages students to be stakeholders in the public forum. The only way change can be effectuated is through open discourse; the pen is mighty in this regard. CEWAC promotes all of the great hallmarks of writing, including arguing based on logic and reasoning and utilizing an effective structure to convey positions. CEWAC encourages voice through the expression of often polar opposite viewpoints for the purpose of critical argumentation. It sounds cliche, but it is absolutely true that today’s young people are tomorrow’s voting citizens.

I am in such strong support of CEWAC’s mission because it hones in on advocacy, which starts at the grass-roots level. Colton Colger, a Montana teen, wrote his local newspaper about the need for advanced life support to be conveyed to rural, off-the-beaten-track areas. In doing this, Colger implemented a public voice. CEWAC encourages students to utilize their voices to advocate for their communities. Zealous advocacy is not the exclusive province of attorneys! CEWAC puts power into young people’s pens/keystrokes and as we have seen with other social movements of our time, they all involve civic-minded youth. The National Writing Project has truly done something special and I hope it continues to catch flame.