A good lesson in digital literacy was outlined on the BBC website last week dispelling the myth that the poem “Two Sunflowers Move into the Yellow Room” was written by William Blake (an English poet from the 19th Century). It was in fact written by Nancy Willard and was first published in 1981 in an anthology called “A Visit to William Blake's Inn”.
However for some reason the poem started to be attributed to Blake around 2001 and due to the power of the Internet has become somewhat of an urban myth. As a result websites across the English-speaking world are littered with references to this as a poem by Blake, from individual school anthologies to state publications.
- A special reading programme for gifted pupils in Illinois asks pupils to talk about the poem
- Instructions for teachers in a Kentucky school district use it as a classroom example
- A teachers' resource book from a major publisher recommends it
- Education agencies in the US states of Texas and Louisiana promote the teaching of this supposed work by Blake
- A US state university worksheet gives students the poem as an example of a style of writing
Anyway, after seeing the poem attributed to Blake. Thomas Pitchford, a librarian in a Hertfordshire secondary school, concluded that the style bore little relation to the poet's other work. As a result he has been trying to contact the authors of the websites who miss-attributed the work (including a couple of international publishers!).
What is nice about this example (and there are lots of others) is how Mr Pitchford uses Critical Literacy to recognise and expose the miss-information.
Improving Critical Literacy needs to be a priority of any school who is serious about third millennium learning.