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Denny Taylor

Professor Emerita of Specialized Programs in Education


DED, 1981, Teachers Coll, Columbia Univ; MA, 1980, Teachers Coll, Columbia Univ; MED, 1977, Rutgers University


Denny Taylor is professor of literacy studies in the Teaching, Literacy and Leadership program at Hofstra University. She began teaching in 1968 in the East End of London, and has been continuously engaged in ethnographic literacy research since 1977. In 2004, she was inducted into the Reading Hall of Fame. 

Dr. Taylor is also the director of the International Center for Everybody's Child at Hofstra University. The Center provides assistance to teachers and children in the aftermath of catastrophic events, supports international educational projects, and maintains an international network of teachers, doctors, social workers, and mental health professionals who can assist teachers working with children in crisis. Her ethnographic research focuses on the impact of catastrophic events on the lives of children and the social response of the educational community to mass trauma. Her field work includes research in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. She has published numerous scholarly articles, chapters, and several books, including most recently: Earth's Children in Crisis; The Great Acceleration: Human Life on Earth from Adaptation to Transformation, or Annihilation? and Can Science Save Us?

She received Masters degrees from Rutgers University and Teachers College at Columbia University, and her Doctoral Degree from Teachers College at Columbia University.

Research Interests

My major research focus is: children, literacy, democracy and peace. Emphasis on the impact of natural and social disasters on the lives of children (see the section on the International Center for Everybody’s Child.) Major Research Questions: One: If we include consideration for the health and well-being of everybody’s child in our response to the global crises that are taking place, how would that affect our present and future actions? Two: How do we overcome the apparent unreadiness of the scientific community to take a leadership role in addressing the interrelated ecological, biological, social, and economic complexities of the global crises that we are currently experiencing? These research endeavors focuses on the complex interrelationships between: Climate Change + the Ecological Crisis + the Global Economic Crisis + Armed Conflict + Public Health Emergencies + Extreme Poverty. Empiricism, Existentialism and the Philosophy of Mind. Explorations in scientific and philosophical thought and our understandings through language of the world. Social anthropology of cognition. Explorations of knowledge in practice in which time, space and setting are constitutive of the activity. Semiotics, aesthetics and ethics. Explorations of the interface between functional texts and aesthetic scripts, illustration as visual essay, writing as an art form, lettering as design, the physicality of print, how tools and materials influence composition, and the production of texts as mindful social practice. Explorations of literacy as mindful social practice. Resisting the dualities of cognitive and social. Constructing explanations of the ways in which literacy is situated historically, politically, culturally, socially, linguistically, emotionally and biologically. Exploration of emancipatory systems of meaning. The search for deep structures of reality to uncover tacit/implicit/embedded social, cultural and political positions in the everyday world. Ideologically disembedding social, cultural and political norms and expectations -- the hidden assumptions --that shape perception. Exploration of the role of memory in learning. Resisting in- the- head theories. Developing explanations that are social as well as cognitive and avoiding the dualities and binary logic. Exploration of literacy and issues of social justice. Specifically, of the ways in which literacy (dis)connects those who are disenfranchised with those who are in charge of providing support through social agencies and institutions. Development of systematic ways of looking at literacy as a socio cultural phenomenon which has consequences in and is affected by family and community life. Exploration of the dialectical structures of situationally specific problem solving in families, communities, schools and occupational settings. How children initiate and act on the educational influences in their lives. The development of ways in which schools can build upon the complex communicative abilities of children in classroom settings. Ethnographic assessment and evaluation of children with special needs in family and school settings. Describing complex networks of interrelationships, providing interpretive explanations of adaptive and "maladaptive" behavior, creating opportunities and partic¬ipating in processes of change. Interrelationships between ethnography and biography in the development of socio-historical dialogic texts.
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