Writing for Positive Social Change Using Louise Dunlap's Undoing the Silence: Six Tools for Social Change Writing -->

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Writing for Positive Social Change Using Louise Dunlap's Undoing the Silence: Six Tools for Social Change Writing

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The idea of enabling positive social change is integral to student work at Walden University. Part of Walden’s mission is to help its students “enact positive social change,” and Walden’s vision is for students to use their education for “the greater global good.”  The Writing Center has also incorporated social change into our mission:  “Our staff of dedicated professionals supports students in building and applying their writing skills as scholars, practitioners, and agents of positive social change.” Walden’s Global Days of Service this week prompted me to think more about social change and how writing can contribute to Walden and the Writing Center’s missions of social change. 

Global Days of Service logo

One important component of social change is speaking up. When we work for social change, we speak up for what we believe is right. This means making our own voice heard, but it can also include helping others’ voices to be heard. Knowing how to speak up can be a challenge, particularly when we are working to address problems and issues about which we are passionate.

Louise Dunlap’s book Undoing the Silence: Six Tools for Social Change Writing addresses this idea of speaking up, highlighting the ability we all have to enact social change through writing. First, however, Dunlap believes that we must address the ways we are silenced, interrupting our ability to speak, before we can effectively promote social change. This silencing can manifest itself in ways that we often don’t recognize:

Louise Dunlap
Louise Dunlap. Photo (c) http://www.undoingsilence.org
“I…picture the silencing of our voices as a huge stifling knot, layered together with tangled strands from many aspects of our culture. In this knot, impulses we regard as deeply personal are interwoven and reinforced by the institutions around us” (p. 16).
What Dunlap suggests, however, is that this silence can be broken through writing. Writing, she says, can give everyone a voice and a way to be heard.

Undoing the silence is the goal of Dunlap’s book, and throughout each chapter she explains different tools to achieve this goal. Dunlap explains tools and techniques we can use at the very beginning of the writing process, like freewriting and brainstorming, but also tools that can help you consider the audience for your writing and revising for that audience.

Undoing the Science book cover
Photo (c) http://www.newvillagepress.net
As a Writing Instructor, I find Dunlap’s perspective refreshing. While many of the tools she talks about are topics we commonly discuss at the Writing Center (see avoiding bias and brainstorming), Dunlap’s approach to and perspective of writing is unique, and her change in perspective is engaging. She views all the fundamental tools we use as writers, our “writing toolbox,” within the context of social change. She sees these tools of writing as helping her readers better articulate their vision of social change. Reading her book, I found myself thinking about the writing process in a new and different way.

Because of her perspective, I recommend Dunlap’s book to anyone who aims to have a social change focus in their writing (hint: all Walden students). If you’re a doctoral student, Undoing the Silence—particularly Chapter 6, “The AUDIENCE Tool”—may help you articulate your social change statement in your study. If you’re a master’s student, Chapter 5, “The THINKING Tool,” can help you develop and deepen your ideas. If you’re an undergraduate student, pay particular attention to Chapter 3, “The FREEWRITING Tool,” to help you generate ideas.

But, no matter what type of student you are or what kind of writer, I encourage you to read Chapter 2, “Understanding the Silence.” In this chapter, Dunlap expands on ways she sees writers being silenced. Understanding the silence, Dunlap explains, is the first step to breaking the silence, enabling you to better articulate and enacte the social change you want to achieve.

How have you seen writing help you articulate and achieve social change? How have you broken through the silence to speak for social change? Let us know in the comments below!

Other posts you might like:

How to Write for Positive Social Change

Global Days of Service Week is Coming! #IAmSocialChange

Writing for Change on Earth Day (and Every Day)

Writing Instructor and Coordinator of Webinar Writing Instruction Beth Oyler writes about literature in her spare time and enjoys contemplating the possibilities writing creates.

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