Editorial: Language, Learning and Déja Vu all over again?

by Mary Kooy

O, frabjous day! We've done it again! Inkshed Newsletter, starting Volume 17, follows the third and fourth issues of Volume 16 last December. The present issue contains a series of items related to topics discussed online and in upcoming conferences, and it uses writing by students as well as teachers. It includes the expected components: renewal forms, Inkshed conference program and registration and the minutes of the last meeting and (once again), articles based on edited online discussions. One student piece on the nature of academic writing is followed by reflections on the nature of the "Canadian way" of teaching reading and writing in the academy.

The feature article includes a set of writings produced students in my English Methods class at OISE/UT. Beginning with inksheds about their literacy experiences, the students produced numerous forms and narrative styles of their journeys. I felt that understanding how we have been constructed as readers and writers would help them frame and implement thoughtful literacy practices in schools. The results surprised me -- in range, depth and variety. The students wrote letters, created "memory boxes" and scrapbooks, told stories, collected early writings and recalled favourite books. We hope you enjoy reading these and the remaining features in making sense of our membership in language communities.

As Russ Hunt made abundantly clear in his editorial in the Autumn/Winter 1998 newsletter (16:3-4), "to be or not to be" remains a question. Once again we raise the question: whether to maintain the newsletter in its current print form, restrict it to virtual form, or compromise by providing hard copy for those who wish and posting it on the Web for those who prefer virtual texts. As for content, Sandra Dueck (in a recent CASLL discussion) agrees with Rick Coe that edited versions of online discussion would resolve the problems of "chasing people for copy" and serve as a summary/reminder or call for further discussions among CASLL members. Anthony Paré adds the suggestion of collecting papers and summaries at Inkshed and CCCC conferences, though he acknowledges that as editor he has resorted to threats to get the material in hand. Even that, he writes, doesn't always settle the problem ("Let me tell you, Inkshedders aren't easily threatened"). Other members who served as editors along the way confirm the labour-intensive nature of collecting and ordering the writing. The time seems right to decide -- at least for the next few years -- on the nature of the newsletter and the content that will shape it. Calls for such action have occurred in the past, only to be briefly entertained and soon forgotten. Perhaps at the Inkshed XVI conference in Montreal we can agree on a framework for the newsletter that will satisfy CASLL members.

Regardless of the newsletter's form, the question remains of who assumes responsibility for editorship. Rhonda Schuller suggests classes of composition students taking on the newsletter as projects, and recommends moving among classes with each semester's change. The logistics remains a problem: how will we know where to move when one class completes an issue? Do we generate a list of composition classes prepared to be involved and set up a two-year schedule? For now, Jo-Anne André and Barbara Schneider of University of Calgary have agreed to take on a couple of issues beginning in September 1999. In the meantime, Margaret Procter and I will continue the editorship though a post-conference issue this spring. Thanks to Principal Paul Perron of University College, University of Toronto, for arranging subsidy of production costs.