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Writing for the future: language equalities and social movements in university English classrooms

Friel, Erin Margaret (2024) Writing for the future: language equalities and social movements in university English classrooms. Undergraduate Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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In the United States, individuals are likely to reflect and reproduce societal assumptions about a speaker’s ability to operate in certain spaces based on the languages they are assumed to use. These assumptions are often disproportionately applied to members of historically excluded groups—and are so tied to them that an individual may not even use a language to be judged for it (Flores and Rosa 2015)—so scholars argue for anti-racist practices, under the name “linguistic justice,” that respond directly to the conflations of language forms with value judgments and assumptions about speakers (Baker-Bell 2020; Greenfield 2011; Young 2011). Language inequalities are often reinforced via exclusionary practices in professional and educational spaces, such as requirements for the language one uses when writing. In response, university English educators, who deal directly with students’ language in a space designed to lead to the professional world, may consider linguistic justice considerations key to their practice. Through observations of and interviews with English instructors within one university, I sought to understand how instructors approach linguistic justice in their theory and practice. Considering these instructors’ discussions and classroom work, I explore how they negotiate linguistic justice scholarship, educational models, and university influences that prescribe roles for instructors. Moving into the university classroom as a unique and familiar space, I focus on how instructors move from linguistic justice theory to practice as they emphasize dialogue, comfort, and agency-producing thought and activities in classrooms. Finally turning attention to scholarship on learning in social movements, I draw on notions of radical education and propose that, for those I worked with, a pedagogy’s connection to linguistic justice comes less from its content than from methods of critical reflection and education instructors employ and prompt students to learn and engage on their own. Their work to create a linguistically just education, then, primarily consisted of encouraging students to take up critical engagement methods. In the end, these instructors act under others’ theories to continually orient their practices to the students in front of them and work toward future-oriented, societal-level goals of shifting the impact of long-running language inequalities.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Friel, Erin Margaretemf106@pitt.eduemf106
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Thesis AdvisorMatza, Tomastam124@pitt.edutam124
Committee MemberSheldon, Zacharyzds23@pitt.eduzds23
Committee MemberYearwood, Gabbyyearwood@pitt.eduyearwood
Committee MemberSudcharoen,
Date: 22 April 2024
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 8 April 2024
Approval Date: 22 April 2024
Submission Date: 16 April 2024
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 140
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: David C. Frederick Honors College
Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Anthropology
Degree: BPhil - Bachelor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Undergraduate Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: linguistic justice, education, higher education, language inequalities, social movement
Date Deposited: 22 Apr 2024 15:55
Last Modified: 22 Apr 2024 15:55


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