NCTE Passes Visual Literacy Resolution

After much debate, the following Statement of Visual Literacy was passed at the NCTE Board meeting in November. Chair of the NCTE's Assembly for Computers in English, Michael Day notes:
I am very pleased to see that this resolution passed. I was present at the debate of this resolution at the NCTE Director's meeting in Chicago, but had to leave before discussion ended. At the meeting, I was troubled by those who claimed that the resolution would dilute the textual notions of literacy we already held, and cause society to move even further away from text and print literacy into some kind of postmodern fragmentation of MTV multimedia sound bites. I agree that text has a revered place in the works we create and teach, and that a strong component of literacy is textual but I follow Walter Ong, Marshall McLuhan, and Eric Havelock in the understanding that literacies and our notions of semiotic systems change with time and social movements.

Although we should attempt to preserve textual notions of literacy, it would be a breach of our duties as teachers for us to ignore the rhetorical power of visual displays. Visual forms of media, by themselves, and in combination with text and sound, come at our students from all directions, including television and the World Wide Web. The critical media literacy we need to teach must include evaluation of these media, lest our students fail to see, understand, and learn to harness the persuasive power of visual media. In supporting faculty development efforts in and public awareness of visual literacy, NCTE meets a critical need in today's Language Arts classroom.

National Council of Teachers of English
Statement on Visual Literacy:
"On Viewing and Visually Representing As Forms of Literacy"

Background statement for this resolution:
To participate in a global society, we continue to extend our ways of communicating. Viewing and visually representing (defined in the NCTE/IRA Standards for the English Language Arts) are a part of our growing consciousness of how people gather and share information. Teachers and students need to expand their appreciation of the power of print and nonprint texts. Teachers should guide students in constructing meaning through creating and viewing nonprint texts. Be it, therefore

"Resolved, that the National Council of Teachers of English through its publications, conferences, and affiliates support professional development and promote public awareness of the role that viewing and visually representing our world have as forms of literacy."

For more information, contact Lori Bianchini of the NCTE at lbianchi@ncte.org or Michael Day of ACE at mday@silver.sdsmt.edu

KAIROS Kairos: A Journal for Teachers of Writing in Webbed Environments.
Vol. 2 No. 1 Spring 1997