English, literacy and neoliberal policies: Mapping a contested moment in the United States

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This essay maps some of the ways in which the professional knowledge of English teaching has been defined and positioned in the present moment in the United States. The first

This essay maps some of the ways in which the professional knowledge of English teaching has been defined and positioned in the present moment in the United States. The first part of the essay traces multidisciplinary shifts in English education/literacy research that have expanded and shifted the discursive boundaries of teacher education and ordered new ways for English educators to understand the English language arts, to structure methods courses, and to fashion themselves as teacher educators. The second part of the paper traces neoliberal policies that aim to reform teaching and teacher education through professional standards, national assessments, corporate managerialism, and free market competition. The essay then highlights some of the ways in which these discourses and practices have worked together to create new conditions of possibility in English education, to intensify old divisions in the field, and constitute new forms of professional knowledge and subjectivity. My goal is to heighten English educators’ sense of this contested moment to provoke more informed and strategic engagements with the possibilities, constraints, tensions and transformations facing the English teaching professions.