Why do we prioritize Standard American English in our academic writing?
In the United States, there exists a hierarchy of language. To many, Standard American English--the English we teach in schools--is the correct way to speak and write. Truthfully, this English is one of many varieties, and is not inherently better than any other. The reason we teach this variety in schools is because it is the language of power--those with power and influence in the United States use this variety of speech, therefore we teach it to our students so that they are equipped to gain power in society. It is important in writing instruction to understand that when we look at grammar, spelling, and other conventions--we are looking to empower students with the language of power, without perpetuating the idea that there is a correct way to write.
How does the study of Portuguese improve our competence in other academic areas?
The mastery of Portuguese brings the learner a greater appreciation for latin culture, and provides a great foundation for the other latin languages: French, Spanish, Italian, and Romanian. Latin culture thrives on community and communication--Portuguese reflects that love for togetherness and expression. The more fluent one becomes in Portuguese, the more one adopts this style of communication, and it will spill over in one's home language as well. Portuguese is an excellent base for learning all other latin languages. When one masters Portuguese, it becomes easy to read in Spanish and French--opening doors for further study. Portuguese is spoke primarily in Portugal and Brazil, and knowing the language creates possibilities in Europe and in South America.
How can we use English education to empower students and their communities?
The skills we learn through studying literature and informational texts--specifically critical questioning and interpretation--are invaluable for future leaders of our communities. Through English education, students can learn to question the messages they receive, to interpret the information they are given by those who hold power, and to use their voice to create change. Writing instruction is the vehicle for this voice. As students craft their writing, they are learning how to shape the rhetoric around their lives--no longer will they rely on others to speak for them, they will be powerful communicators of their own experience.