When educators think of literacy -- the ability to read and write -- they often place more importance on students’ abilities to read and fully understand a piece of writing.
But experts say critical and creative writing skills are equally important. And, they say, they are too often overlooked in the classroom.
Compared to reading, writing is more active. It helps students be independent thinkers, take ownership of their stories and ideas and communicate them clearly to others, says Elyse Eidman-Aadahl. She heads the National Writing Project, which offers help for teachers who want to push students to write more.
Eidman-Aadahl said, “Unless we want an education system just focused on making people consumers and not focused on helping them be producers, this emphasis on reading only -- which does happen in so many places -- is very short-sighted.”
She said students’ writing work now usually centers on examining a text, instead of presenting a new idea. Writing, she said, should be “the central thing you’re learning. Not writing on a test, not writing to demonstrate you’re learning what someone has taught you....”
Writing improves reading skill
Teaching reading together with writing improves both skills, says Rebecca Wallace-Segall, who heads a New York City writing center, Writopia Lab.
She said writing affects a person’s ability to read. More than 90 percent of young people in the Writopia program do not trust their writing abilities when they start, Wallace-Segall said.
But she said they learn to enjoy the writing process and become more effective readers, too.
Eidman-Aadahl said employers today seek workers “all the time” who can write well. Digital tools increasingly mean that people are “interacting with the internet through writing,” she said.
Young people are already writing all the time -- through text messages, emails and on social media.
Eidman-Aadahl said every young person today is a writer if they are connected to the internet. So, she added, “we have to help them do it in the best, most responsible, critical, prosocial way.”
Working through problems by writing
Supporters of writing-centered teaching add that writing empowers young people.
“When students own their voices and tell their stories, they become not only stronger and more confident writers, but also stronger and more confident individuals,” says Ali Haider. He is director of the Austin Bat Cave, a creative writing center in Austin, Texas.
Wallace-Segall said that writing also helps students work through difficulties they face in life. Writing lets them work through their problems “subconsciously,” she said.
“They’re not writing a story about a difficult father or directly about a bully in class, but they are creating a fictional scenario that might feel distant enough for them to go deep into it.”
Teaching students to write well can have an effect on the larger world, notes Dara Dukes. She leads Deep Center, an organization in Savannah, Georgia that works with young writers to share their stories with policymakers, judges, politicians and police officers.
Dukes said, “...Those adults can see that the stories they’re telling themselves about those young people are often wrong and doing a lot of harm in the world.”
I’m Ashley Thompson.
The Associated Press reported this story. Ashley Thompson adapted it for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.
Quiz: Is Teaching Writing As Important As Teaching Reading?
Start the Quiz to find out
focused – adj. giving attention and effort to a specific task or goal
emphasis – n. special importance or attention given to something
short-sighted – adj. made or done without thinking about what will happen in the future
confident – adj. having a feeling or belief that you can do something well or succeed at something: having confidence
subconsciously – adv. operating from the part of the mind that a person is not aware of
bully – n. someone who frightens hurts or threatens smaller or weaker people
fictional scenario – n. a story of the imagination
Iranian Women Seek Greater Freedom Over Head Coverings
Walking in public has become a protest for a young Iranian woman who moves through Tehran’s streets without her head covering or hijab.
She is risking arrest. Iran’s morality police are looking for women like her: women who refuse to follow the rules for women’s appearance. Those rules were put in place after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
“I have to confess it is really, really scary,” the 30-year-old fire safety expert said in a WhatsApp audio message. She would not permit her name to be used because she is afraid of repercussions.
But she also is hopeful. She says she believes the police and other officials find it difficult to stop the protests as more women join.
“They are running after us, but cannot catch us,” she said. “This is why we believe change is going to be made.”
The hijab debate has angered some Iranians. It comes at a time when the country is suffering under strong sanctions placed on the country by the United States. President Donald Trump restarted the sanctions after the U.S. withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers last year.
Now, the exchange value of Iranian money is collapsing, house prices are rising and unemployment is high. So how much can the government really do about the protesting women? And how far will the women go?
There is some evidence that more women are pushing back against the rules. They are trying to test the ruling Shiite Muslim government and their security agencies.
An Associated Press reporter saw about 24 women in the streets without a hijab over nine days. It was mainly in the richer parts of Tehran.
Many other women have decided to test the rules in a different way. They cover a bit of their hair with loose, colorful scarves.
Tehran’s Grand Bazaar attracts traditional women, but even there many women wore a loose hijab. Still, a large number were covered completely in black and wore tight hijabs.
The struggle against wearing the hijab began in December 2017. That was when a woman climbed onto a box in Tehran’s Revolution Street and waved her hijab on a stick. Since then more than 36 protestors like her have been detained. Nine are still in detention, said Masih Alinejad. She is an Iranian activist who now lives in New York.
While police try to silence protesters, public debate has only grown. It has been helped by social media.
Last month, a widely watched online video showed a security agent grabs a young girl who was not wearing a hijab and violently pushes her into a police car. The incident was strongly criticized.
Others have called for punishments, even lashes. They argue that permitting women to show their hair leads to social problems and the collapse of families.
The judiciary recently asked Iranians to inform on women without hijabs. It asked them to send photos or video to government social media accounts.
“The more women dress in an openly sexual way, the less we’ll have social peace,” said Minoo Aslani last week. She is the leader of the women’s part of the paramilitary Basij group.
Reformist lawmaker Parvaneh Salahshouri said that forcing people to obey does not work.
“What we see is that the morality police have been a failure,” said Salahshouri. She wears the hijab because of her religious beliefs.
The laws are unlikely to be changed, she said, urging women to use non-violent civil disobedience.
It will be hard, she said, adding “Iranian women will not give up their efforts.”
The hijab issue goes back to the mid-1930s when police forced women to take off their hijabs. This was part of a Westernization policy of Shah Reza Pahlavi who ruled at the time. Under his son and successor, women could choose. The wealthy dressed like Westerners.
Attitudes have changed. In 1980, about 66 percent believed women should wear hijabs. Today, fewer than 45 percent think the laws should be enforced, an Iranian research group said.
The activists in Iran take risks.
In March, human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh was sentenced to more than 38 years in prison. She has represented women protestors. Her husband said she will serve about 12 years.
In April, activists Yasaman Aryani, her mother Monireh Arabshahi and Mojgan Keshavarz were arrested after posting a video showing themselves without headscarves in the Tehran metro.
Amnesty International said Monday that Iranian officials have used detentions, and threats against families to try to force activists to change their ideas. The “confessions” are videotaped. The group said it had seen six “confessions” since April.
I’m Susan Shand.
The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter Jr. was the editor.
Words in This Story
hijab – n. a head covering worn by Muslim women which covers the hair
confess – v. to admit that you did something wrong or unlawful
repercussion – n. something, usually bad, that happens as a result of an action
sanctions – n. punishment, usually in the form of restricting trade, that are meant to force a country to obey international law
attitude – n. a way of thinking that affects a person’s behavior
lash – n. to be struck with a whip
6 Minute English
The benefits of schadenfreude
EPISODE 190110 / 10 JAN 2019
Do you take pleasure when someone undeserving of their success has a spot of bad luck? Not even a little pleasure? Well, if you do (like, apparently, most of us) you might like to learn the word 'schadenfreude' and the concept behind it. Rob and Neil talk about this German word also used in English and teach you new vocabulary.
This week's question
False cognates – also called false friends - are words that look the same in two languages but have different meanings. In English we have the word 'rat' but what does that mean in German? Is it...
a) a big mouse
Listen to the programme to find out the answer.
the satisfying feeling you get when something bad happens to someone else
a word from one language that is used in another language without being changed
a person's misfortune that is considered to be deserved punishment for something bad that they have done
punishment someone receives that is fair for what they have done
people who claim to have certain moral beliefs but actually behave in a way that shows they are not sincere
expressing sympathy to someone about their bad luck
Note: This is not a word for word transcript
Hello and welcome to 6 Minute English, I'm Neil. This is the programme wherein just six minutes we discuss an interesting topic and teach some related English vocabulary. And joining me to do this is Rob.
In this programme we're discussing schadenfreude.
Hold on, Neil – schadenfreude – that's a German word.
Schadenfreude is what we can call a loanword - a word from one language that is used in another language without being changed.
So you're right – schadenfreude is used in English and am I right in thinking it describes the satisfying feeling you get when something bad happens to someone else?
You're right, Rob. Imagine you're in a queue at the supermarket and someone pushes in, but when they got to pay, their credit card doesn't work – think of the feeling you might get just seeing their misfortune – another word for bad luck.
Yes, that is a very satisfying feeling – but it's quite a mean feeling too.
It is but we'll be discussing why that feeling could actually be good for us. But first, let's set a question for you, Rob, and our listeners at home, to answer. This is about false cognates – also called false friends - words that look the same in two languages but have different meanings. So in English we have the word 'rat' but what does that mean in German? Is it…
a) a big mouse
b) annoyed or
That's tricky because I don't speak German. So I'll guess and say b) annoyed.
Well, I'll have the answer later on. Now, let's talk more about schadenfreude. Enjoying someone's misfortune can certainly make us feel good.
And studies have shown this feeling is quite normal – particularly when is happens to someone we envy. If we see a wealthy celebrity suffering on a reality TV show, or are exposed for not paying their taxes, we feel good. We say they've had their comeuppance.
That's a good word – meaning a person's bad luck that is considered to be deserved punishment for something bad that they have done.
Let's hear from psychologist Wilco Van Dijk from the University of Leiden, who's been talking about this on the BBC Radio 4 programme, All in the Mind. What have his studies found about our enjoyment of others misfortune?
Wilco Van Dijk, psychologist, University of Leiden
People especially feel schadenfreude when they think the misfortune is deserved. Then the question is where this joy arises, is this actually joy experienced towards the misfortune of others or is it also at least partly about a just situation – that this misfortune of another actually appeals to a sense of justice. That's also the reason why we like the misfortune of hypocrites because if they fall down that also is a deserved situation.
OK, so Wilco Van Dijk's studies found we get joy when someone's misfortune is deserved – there is justice – in other words, the punishment someone receives is fair.
And a just situation means a fair situation – it is right. So I guess he's saying we're not just being mean.
Yes. And he also mentioned the type of people whose misfortune is just and deserved, are hypocrites – people who claim to have certain moral beliefs but actually behave in a way that shows they are not sincere.
The All in the Mind programme also heard from another expert on the subject – author and historian of emotions, Dr Tiffany Watt-Smith. She talked about how schadenfreude is a subjective thing – based on our feelings – and it's not as simple as deciding what is right or wrong. What word does she use that means to express sympathy to someone about someone's bad luck?
Dr Tiffany Watt-Smith, author and historian of emotions
We don't really experience emotions, you know, as either-or things, it's not black or white. I think it's perfectly reasonable that we could genuinely commiserate with someone else's misfortune at the same time as a terrible sly smile spreading across our lips because, you know, something we've envied about them has turned out not to work out so well or whatever it is. You know, we have a much deeper ability to hold contradictory emotions in mind, much more so than your average moral philosopher would allow.
Interesting stuff. She says when something goes wrong for someone, we have the ability to commiserate with them – that's the word for expressing sympathy to someone about their bad luck.
So overall, Tiffany Watt-Smith thinks we have a range of emotions when we experience schadenfreude – but these are contradictory emotions – different and opposite emotions. Maybe, Neil, we should just be nicer people?
No way! I loved seeing Germany getting knocked out of last year's World Cup – not really! Talking of Germany, earlier we mentioned false friends and I asked in English we have the word 'rat' but what does that mean in German? Is it…
a) a big mouse
And, Rob, you said…
I said b) annoyed.
And that is the wrong answer, I'm afraid. The right answer is c) advice. Well done if you knew that at home. Now on to the vocabulary we looked at in this programme.
So today we've been talking about schadenfreude – that describes the satisfying feeling you get when something bad happens to someone else.
And that's an example of a loanword - a word from one language that is used in another language without being changed. In this case German.
We mentioned comeuppance which describes a person's misfortune that is considered to be deserved punishment for something bad that they've done.
Next we mentioned justice – that's the punishment someone receives that is fair for what they've done. And the word just describes something that is fair and right.
Hypocrites are people who claim to have certain moral beliefs but actually behave in a way that shows they are not sincere.
And finally commiserate is a word that means expressing sympathy to someone about their bad luck. That's the verb. The noun form is commiseration.
Well commiserations, Neil. We've run out of time for this programme. See you soon, goodbye.
Civilian rule officially restored as King swears in Prayut II govt
By Thasong Asvasena
The new Prayut Chan-o-cha government was sworn in on Tuesday during a ceremony overseen by His Majesty the King, signalling the return of civilian rule after five years following the military coup in 2014.
The ceremony took place at 6pm in the Amphorn Satharn Throne Hall, where all 36 ministers were present. In a break with tradition, however, television cameras were not on hand to record the event.
The historic occasion marked the first time that HM the King Maha Vajiralongkorn Phra Vajiraklaochaoyuhua, as head of state, together with Queen Suthida Bajrasudhabimalalakshana, has overseen the advent of a new government - the King’s first event of such kind after his Coronation in May.
Also new was the venue for the ceremony, which has previously been held in the nearby Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall.
Speaking afterwards, Prime Minister Prayut said the King had extended his morale support to the Cabinet, and asked it to serve the country for the benefit of the Thai people.
Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai said that the King also congratulated the Cabinet and wished it well in achieving a smooth working process in which ministers would overcome all obstacles.
The Cabinet later traveled to the Government House for group photos of the new ministers.
Prayut said a meeting would be called among Cabinet members before they faced Parliament for the mandatory unveiling of new government policy on July 25.
He added that a government spokesman would not be appointed today, as had been expected.
July 17, 2019