Q. What is the Purpose of the English Teacher Today?A. Comment by RayS: I continue to maintain that the purpose of the English teacher is to work with words, to communicate with words, to read words, to write and speak with words, to create with words. I still think Joseph Conrad said it best: "My task is by the power of the written word to make you hear, to make you feel--it is, before all, to make you see." I maintain that images, sound and video are most valuable when they support the words we use. I remember reading in the book version of Civilization that Kenneth Clark said he could not emphasize law and economics in the TV version of his survey of the history of civilization because he could not find visuals to support those topics. Of course not. Those topics consist almost entirely of ideas. And words are the key to expressing ideas.
We are English teachers. And our job is to teach the use of words. I have no problem with teaching how to use other media to support words. We need to emphasize words because words are ideas. Pictures may be worth a thousand words as the cliché goes, but no picture will ever replace words as the best medium to express ideas. The NCTE and I do not agree on the centrality of multimedia. I maintain that to the degree that emphasis is taken away from words in our English classes, students' mastery of literacy will be significantly weakened.