Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home


Why I Love Susan Ohanian

Posted: 2010-07-07

Ohanian Note: imagine getting this reflection in the mail--along with a donation for the website. I don't know that what I do is brave; I do know that it is lonely. I may work six hours researching comments on a situation that outrages me. And I always think the facts I unearth will stun readers, will drive them to action.

And then there's silence.

I understand the silence. People are busy. People get distracted.

People read something and nod. They rarely send a response. Or put it on Twitter.

I get it. And I just move forward to try again. One can't allow time for much moping in this business.

Nonetheless, I've been running this website for eight years, and the silence is lonely.

So I opened this envelope in the post office, read the paper, and was stunned. I had to sit there for a while before I could drive home. . . and make my husband read it.

Students in a language and literacy course were asked to write a reflection. I am so happy to know that not all college professors are burying their heads in the sand, happy to know that some are introducing students to the fact that teaching is political. It took me many years to figure that out.

Running this website is like teaching: You don't have the evidence in front of you that you made a difference. . . . And then, those rare occasions when you hear from somebody are indeed O fabjous day!

I joined the Susan Ohanian email listserv during the Fall 2009 semester, after a reading a couple of her essays in Dr. N____'s course on language disorders. I am in awe of her energy, passion, and dedication. She is a true educator in every sense of the word; she is a tireless advocate for students and strives to truly empower their lives through literacy and learning. I strongly believe that literacy is a very powerful force. Competent literacy skills together with well-developed critical thinking skills, are the two most precious products an education can offer. Ohanian, I believe, holds these same principles near and dear. Indeed, her internet presence and lecture circuit inform and emplower educators across the country to use constructivist, meaning-based approaches in the classroom and clinic. This approach to literacy instruction empowers students to become their own educators--instead of reducing them to the status of passive receivers of information.

I assume Ohanian has sustained a great deal of criticism and confrontation in the course of her career. Indeed, Ohanian stands up to giants every day; her career seems to have a mythical David and Goliath-like quality. Her listserv unabashedly reports on the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to education news, policy, and politics in the U. S. She has a great deal of bravery to publish and post this stuff. Lord knows what kind of hate mail she gets! I truly admire her willingness to stand up for what she knows is right, and to stand up for the children in this country who deserve better.

More Commentaries

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.