Response to Review of Shared Territory: Understanding Children's Writing as Works


by Margaret Himley - 1994

Given the difficulty Mr. Bomer had in actually "reading" my book Shared Territory, I feel compelled to respond to his review. As conveyed by the hostile tone of the review (talk about "icy"!), Bomer appears to be so preoccupied with his own agenda that he isn't interested in representing the book with enough accuracy or fullness to allow readers to draw their own conclusions. Bomer's review contains several errors. The quotation about works as bearing the imprint of the hand that made them is not from page 19, the quotation from p. 219 is not from me, and the educational implications of this method (which Bomer claims remain a "mystery") are not missing but are amply demonstrated in a section called "Teacher Talk" (pp. 201- 20). Indeed, the main point of the book is that education would be greatly improved if all teachers had access to this kind of collective teacher talk about the children they work with every day. The aim of the book... (preview truncated at 150 words.)

Given the difficulty Mr. Bomer had in actually "reading" my book Shared Territory, I feel compelled to respond to his review. As conveyed by the hostile tone of the review (talk about "icy"!), Bomer appears to be so preoccupied with his own agenda that he isn't interested in representing the book with enough accuracy or fullness to allow readers to draw their own conclusions.

Bomer's review contains several errors. The quotation about works as bearing the imprint of the hand that made them is not from page 19, the quotation from p. 219 is not from me, and the educational implications of this method (which Bomer claims remain a "mystery") are not missing but are amply demonstrated in a section called "Teacher Talk" (pp. 201- 20). Indeed, the main point of the book is that education would be greatly improved if all teachers had access to this kind of collective teacher talk about the children they work with every day. The aim of the book is to demonstrate one method for grounding research and teaching in such talk.

While Bomer vaguely refers to various parts of the book's argument, he makes no effort to put those pieces together for the reader or to offer a useful critique of that argument. Instead, he reverts to the now outdated language of a process/product binary, and fails to recognize the role of current theories of language, subjectivity, and interpretation in reconfiguring research in the humanities, especially in composition. The power and the popularity of the process movement in both teaching and research--and the apparent rejection of product-- relied too heavily on psychological notions of the writing subject and language itself, and in most quarters this view has been tempered, even replaced, by redefinitions of the text as an active, interpretive, and expressive site and by an understanding of the writing subject as a semiotic one, constituted through and within languge use. To simply dismiss my book as focusing on product is to miss the whole point of these theoretical shifts in our thinking.

Bomer also shortchanges here the important work of Patricia F. Carini and the Prospect Center. These childhood theorists have developed a powerful way of educating children by reading with care and respect their "works" in various media, and Shared Territory is just one enactment of Prospect's larger project. This project has critical implications for educators, and Bomer's failure to read beyond a "process is good/product is bad" binary into a sophisticated understanding of how much teachers and researchers can learn from children's works sadly interferes with the need to enlarge the educational conversation with the ideas generated at Prospect over the last twenty-five years.

I am sorry that Teachers College Record printed this "ax to grind" kind of review, as it pointlessly limits a conversation that teachers and researchers need to be having.



Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 95 Number 4, 1994, p. 360-361
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10543, Date Accessed: 5/26/2022 7:36:33 PM

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