Wednesday, December 9, 2009

FInal Blog

Final blog is posted in case you uys weren't aware. Under "The Last of them All"

Happy Holidays

God Bless

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I agree with Yagelski's article "Writing Roles for Ourselves" His pain at writing his dissertation in essentially a foreign language to him is something near and dear to my heart. The training we receive to write in an entirely different discourse seems very artificial to me. Even as I play the game to work my way through the school system, I find it more difficult every year to be as effective in participating in the next level of discourse. I can only imagine the level of frustration that comes from writing something like a dissertation. Still it was refreshing to experience the article's look into the lives of two students. I found that I had some of the difficulties that these students had as well during the development of my own writing.I think if I have this experience that Yagelski had with his students I probably would react in the same way. I believe the standard is here to stay much to my chagrin.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Last Of Them All

In this week’s articles: “Writing Roles for Ourselves” and “ Loud on the Inside: Working-Class Girls, Gender, and Literacy” I was shocked and amazed at how I was in agreement with the essays. I had the pleasure of reading first “Writing Roles for Ourselves.” and throughout the essay it depicts a man who discusses his dissertation to become a part of the professional discourse. He had a hard time with his long essay and while he writes it he finds himself felling restricted and as a result he feels that he is no longer a good writer, but when he was able to freelance he felt he was a good writer. In writing, students have always had problems trying to level their writing standards to the system’s writing standard. Many students have anxiety about reading and writing because they are not familiar with academic discourse, according to Bartholomae.

In the essay the author talks about how his dissertation was a hardship to write. He found that in finding his academic identity was not easy and felt as if he was losing himself in his professional writing. These are common problems that most writers have because when writing people feel free to write how they talk and it seems the only way people have broken from this is when teachers break students down to certain standards. With the obstacles he had with his dissertation he empathizes with the student writer and how some expectations teachers immediately have on students should be flexible and then changed.

The author continues with introducing a couple of students and their works. He brought someone extremely important to the teaching community. He sets out to inform that many students use different discourses and in order to distinguish which discourses they use is hard, but that in return we, as teachers, need to find the way literacy affects them. As a teacher he sees himself as understanding how they are able to show accomplishment from their work and to develop better literacy levels.

He speaks of a couple of students, but two in general. As a reader I am able to find that students can be afraid to express themselves in papers for the fact that they are wrong, leading to restrictions on effort and originality and much more focus on structure. He advises the students to keep their voice, but change it a little to have academic understanding. In Celina’s second essay she speaks upon Black English and it is apparent that allowing Black English into school will weaken the standards which will eventually completely change them. Larry’s essay were more about grammatical errors.

Students try to adopt the ways of writing, reading and speaking to be apart of the bigger discourse society mainly because they are ordered to do so. When working one’s self into an academic discourse one has to practice well enough, put itself into that discourse, and develop an identity. In one can belong to a discourse, but discuss against it, shift it, and so on. Discourses can be tricky because it is finding something that on is good at or works on striving to be good at. In discourse a couple of important words come about: self-interest and self-worth.

Self-interest is a key goal in this dissertation tell-all. The author talks about students attaching a fa├žade in certain situations that in order to get help to be a good writer one’s true self should not matter and that self interest can be founded through their writing. A teacher would be able to achieve the importance of one’s writings and how they felt about the essay. It is in the teachers best interest that they find more insight about their students before they grade their paper or pass judgment about their writing.

The author mentions other authors in the article that show me a comparison of how he and myself think. I find his arguments quite compelling. As well as his way to teach. It seems as if he stays to the standards, but he still believes in free writing. The key goal I was able to achieve throughout the essay was that to build an identity through writing that would enable one to claim a sense of accomplishment.

I like the way that he teaches because it seems as if he is passionate about making sure his students are on the right path of being literate. While discussing Celina the author quotes “ so I am not quite ready for the approach she takes in her second essay.” This quote caught me off guard because while admitting this many teachers are not able to. The knowledge that teachers are unsure of how to take approach happens plenty of times, but they are so standardized that they do not teach freely anymore they teach with what they have been told. The author however, did better than this he helped and provided help that many people do not.

In my second article “ Loud on the Inside: Working-Class Girls, Gender, and Literacy” I was able to focus on the fact that it was a female dominace discussion. In the article however it seemed very one-sided. I felt the compelling arugment that females are not be acknowledged in schools as much as males. It discusses the difference of race and gender. The real problem I had was the fact that it seemed more race than gender. Race and gender have always been an issue throughout the world. The take throughout the study I could relate too and maybe because I am a woman.

The article intended to express that people obtain many discourses, but when obtaining them throughout society, there may be different views which may confuse people. Social constructionists have an agreeable way of putting points. I had to disagree that adolescents try to have different discourses. I feel that adolescents try to be like one another in reality they strive to have the same discourses, and with that being said many don’t have rising conflicts.

My most interesting part in the study was the fact of feminist scholars thinking that gender is not determine biologically, but instead identity does. It seems as if to me that we switch gender roles for certain situations.

Las, but not least the study went on to follow these young girls and determine that with all of the books read throughout school, school has a tendency to define who we are. School literature tend to change out prospective of life. The view of “general” life in book roles of men and women shape the society. In result working women feel that they are missing out on the inside when they hide their outside and in fact value literacy more. We position ourselves in situations besides when we are reading however. Since society has women defined we “women” look at the magazines and televisions ads as the “perfect” woman model of life. Literacy ha s a funny way of being what it really is because so many people have different view.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Oppression or direction? There seems to be a fine line between guidance and the overbearing hand of "the man." God'sChild notes that, "Giroux speaks upon school being a political building." But that isn't to say that many good ideas and thinkers haven't come from classical, institutional settings. Some settings like this work quite well for students that cannot sit and focus on their own. Sure, democracy has its problems, but what institution doesn't? I disagree that schools only teach one way to "think." It would be fair to say that they teach with only one method, but not that they can--with their methods--control the human mind. True, there is a great emphasis on the American English teacher, because this is the primary language in this country. And language is what is responsible for conveying higher thoughts. However, it would be unfair to say that the literature causes an identity conflict because of the roles conveyed in the stories. There is a great diversity in literature, now more than ever. I believe that it is this, and the infinite curiosity of the human mind, that will never let one be confined for a long period in a "box." Sure, literature teaches morals, patriotism, right and wrong, but it is about so much more. These themes or motifs show up often, but they do not dominate the literature of our culture. If this is what makes the classes and the literature seem fake, then maybe it needs to be approached differently. These things are necessities of life for the American people, and must be taught so that one can function fully, without fret. And this worry about a lack of multiculturalism seemingly appearing until the secondary and post-secondary levels is not something that I have ever noticed. My experience, and my son's schooling leads me to believe conversely.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Reading Texts Later

Cultural capital: the brainwashing material used in schools to shape the way students interact in life. Legitimate cultural capital: the “right” interpretation of the text and not the student’s personal thoughts or interpretation. When in middle school and beyond students are seen as teenagers who need one path of guidance. Many teachers are either taught or have guidelines that prohibit them from allowing a student to have his/her own minds outside the box. The box in this article seems to be school, which is the cultural oppression. Oppression itself sounds like an unhappy word which it is and for school to have that unhappy period in textbooks that depicts what students should be, and how they should think. Giroux speaks upon school being a political building, and I feel that the statement is true. Students are taught the different ways of ruling, but are mostly taught how democracy is the better than any other ruling method, and how democracy should be dominant throughout the world, but they rarely point out the problems that democracy has as well. In school children are taught there is only one way of thinking and it shows students the impression of how the world thinks of people and how we, as a democracy, should act. With everything put on teachers, especially English teachers, they are looked at as Giroux says “ responsible for advancing the knowledge and values to historical Western cultures. It is made important that we transform our students into what society thinks is good for t world, but they do not seem the harm we are able to do. Teaching a student that they should be a housewife because over 90% of stories are about women stuck in the house taking care of it and the children, that when students get to a certain age they sometimes get confused of what they would like to be. It makes students stay within the box of “safety” such as career wise. In more ways than one students are pushed to believe in one way of doing something. We, students are taught that democracy is a one way track that we as American citizens are to be on and if we somehow are not agree on things we become terrorists. The American way of teaching schools has become a representation of what we want to believe and not of what we interpret something meaning. The way people are taught throughout English classes in all grades seems fake. We seem to not learn about different cultures and different ways of living until we reach a college level and we have an opinion about what we would like to take. America seems so scared to introduce students into a international view that they shape our children through literature brainwashing.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

BBB gets an AAA from me!

BBBtheDad's article was a breath of fresh air to me! Bravo on thoroughly linking those two rather lengthy and convoluted articles. I find myself agreeing with the point that the system is working upside down. Eckert's beliefs that the student could benefit more from using literary theory as the backbone of literacy education is spot on with my own personal beliefs about education in general. I think "the system" is doing a great disservice to those who wish to enter the discourse (even with reservations) by having them infer the rules of that community. This is a poor way for the learner to be granted a real shot at gaining authority within the commonplace. I believe this is the reason there is so many cases of "sink or swim" in public schools these days. You either "get" the coded message or you don't.

Gee and Barton response

I tend to agree with Gee that a multitude of discourses can cause some confusion but I think that this also vital to have them. The readings we have seen before this have all seemed to point that out. The confusion can occur when the speaker chooses a discourse that they prefer and are incapable or unwilling to adapt or change when it is necessitated by society. Like Riley, Gee also was one of my favorite readings, I believe Gee is a naturalist when it comes to ideas on education, which coincide with my own beliefs on how instruction should be carried out. Aquisition is highly preferable to Learning in my opinion.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Struggling Through Writing for Yourself or for the Reader

This conversation conjurs up memories of past classes. When discussing academic discourses, and all they entail, it seems silly that one who wishes to become a part of that conversation concerns himself with an audience outside of that discourse. Part of the purk of writing in evelated language is that only those with the ability to read and understand that evelated language will read, understand, and partake in the conversation you have started. I understand that writing to your exclusive audience (if you will) excludes many individuals from your conversation, but that exclusion should not discourage outsiders, but instead motivate them to become allowed into the conversation.

Here I predict one's argument would begin with "they are just young students." And my response is, however harsh it comes out, so what! Education, I believe, should be wanted! Higher education is not free, as are public high schools, because it intentds to exlcude those students who are unmotivated, unwilling to continue in their education. It baffles me that any educated person would want to "dumb down" a text to inlcude everyone! Like it or not, there is a heirarchy. But in that heriarchy are those who strive for their best and those who settle for what's handed to them.

As far as university writing is concerned, of course a college freshman is going to struggle. But being that that freshman came to future his education and understanding of things, a struggle should not instill fear but rather promote a "go getter" attitude. Call me unsympathetic, but no one here can or will argue that they worked their butt of to be where they are now but its ok to lower the capabilities and drive for future students. Can you imagine the amount of unattachment that would be created if those same students who dispise English class, now had to heighten their awareness with texts they don't care about, nor do they want to try and understand??

Monday, November 16, 2009

Synthesizing the Pedagogical Gap and the Literary Inventor

David Bartholomae, in his article, “Inventing the University,” seems to address his voice toward teachers, and/or researchers concerned with the methods in which one acquires language and writing in university-level discourses; he also, inadvertently, gives insight to students interested in producing a more academic stance in their authorship. In the article, his focus centers around the delineation between writer-based and reader-based approaches, and their standings in the university. While rooting out what he believes to be the pitfalls of many remedial writers¾ as they relate to the two forms of writing¾ he offers teachers and writers ways to view revision, which he purports will help the writer conform to a discourse. In her article, “Bridging the Pedagogical Gap: Intersections between Literary and Reading Theories in Secondary and Postsecondary Literacy Instruction,” Lisa Eckert¾ like Bartholomae¾ is concerned with the level of production in the postsecondary setting; however, she approaches this concern from a completely separate stance. Whereas Bartholomae keeps his scope on writing, Eckert extends this scope to reading and literary theory, and pedagogical inconsistencies and miscommunications between secondary and postsecondary institutions; and, because of such, her audience becomes limited to teachers. Both articles offer solid support for their arguments, and make arguments well worth contemplation and assimilation; however, both fail to attend to avenues of import: what each other’s article discourses. Reading and writing cannot extricate from the larger body of cognizance, without losing something in the process. This reason creates a basis for my argument: that there needs to be a synthesis between bridging the pedagogical gap (which creates a greater understanding of theoretical processes) and pragmatic application of writing.

Bartholomae refers to basic writers as writers placed in remedial level writing classes (62). This view does not discredit the basic writer¾ in fact, he applauds the writer for “try[ing] on the peculiar ways of knowing, selecting, evaluating, reporting, concluding, and arguing as if the writer were in the discourse” (60). Bartholomae acknowledges that there is a level of apprenticeship in the process, but he attends to the idea that there is only one way to accurately approach analytical writing at the university level. To him, a writer must “appropriate (or be appropriated by) a specialized discourse” before the writer is able to find “some compromise between idiosyncrasy [sic], a personal history” and the precepts of the discourse (61). Difficulty arises here, as most apprentices are not instructed as to the ways in which academia runs¾ they must acquire the theories of a discourse by finding the commonplaces. Bartholomae defines a commonplace as a concept which will “dictate its own set of phrases, examples, and conclusions” (63). Rightfully, a commonplace will not achieve commonality until one has visited such place. Ergo one cannot suppose to assume an air of authority until one has learned a discourse. This approach seems post facto, in the sense that one must enter a world of expectations without being taught first the expectations. Even Bartholomae, in his argument, acknowledges that “it is very hard for them to take on the role - the voice, the persona - of an authority whose authority is rooted in scholarship, analysis, or research” (62). He goes on to express that a writer’s slips into an authoritative literary first-person come from lack of understanding: the discourse, and the audience.

His remedy, as he agrees with Flowers, is that “teaching students to revise for readers, then, will better prepare them to write initially with the reader in mind” (Bartholomae 64). The problem with structuring revision around reader-based writing lies in the fact that ultimately the writer must find his own voice; which means that he must take another step¾ away from the reader. This concept couches in the ideas Flower and Hayes state on page 66: that a writer’s thinking and writing progresses through the process of revision for the reader, so that the writer becomes the “writer” uninvolved from the burden of the reader; and, that the writer’s own writing assumes a power of authority, and a new voice. The anomalous problem with this occurs when the discourse dictates the writer; so, is there such a thing as writer-based writing? This, as Bartholomae states, “is Barthes’s famous paradox” (67). The fact is that the reader must be taught to understand both methods, and be aware of both when he writes. Because, separate from one another, they are both ineffective and remedial.

Teaching to differentiate between effective and ineffective methods, as Lisa Eckert explains, before the time when it is necessary to have a mastery of these skills, is not being done. She notes that, as students progress, teachers expect them to have an understanding of the discourse “without explicitly teaching them how to do so” (111). Her approach decidedly offers that the problem originates long before the writer ever reaches the university. And, she notes that this lack of instruction leads to the student’s lack of “assuming an interpretive stance on their own, students come to class expecting¾ even requiring¾ teachers to explicate the nuances of the text for them” (111). Like Bartholomae, Eckert believes that the students are more than capable of performing the tasks required; where they agree is the fact that the students are not being given the tools of understanding and making cognizant the concepts behind the reasons why a particular discourse operates the way it does.

So it seems that, in both cases, there needs to be a precedent set for pedagogy. Eckert provides a succinct proposition for this:

Transfer can be mediated by introducing students to critical theory as scaffolding for metacognitively constructing meaning from text; in other words, by explicitly teaching theoretical approaches to literature, English teachers better enable students to transfer reading strategy skills to literary analysis and interpretation. (112)

The basis of this method for teaching the theories of a given discourse prior to expectation affronts the problems that archaic approaches produce. Additionally, it advocates awareness¾ just as Bartholomae advocates awareness of the reader.

Having an awareness of a discourse and its methods, theories, and audience thus becomes the goal; so, in that, it seems that the pedagogical model has been working upside down. Instead of allowing the student to acculturate to the discourse, while teaching fragments of it, the university should be teaching the discourse as a whole: allowing the student to interpret the fragments. In doing so, the teacher, student, and discourse itself must be taught (and gain) an awareness of the inextricability of each element making up that discourse.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gee! He must be right

Gee addresses several aspects of what he calls "discourse" (later: Discourse--with a capital D) to suggest that one does not truly belong to a discourse until one becomes the discourse through acculturation. He calls this his "identity kit," which involves social networks and media within a social network. I think that Gee has a good perspective, here. Again, with Gee, we see that theorists attempt to stratify concepts of literacy and literacy acquisition into distinct categories, which do not contain any crossover. I think that this is a counterproductive approach to theory on literacy; however, I do believe that it is necessary to address when talking about the ways in which one acquires literacy. My understanding is that there are multiple literacies, not just one sense of literacy. To say, like Gee does, that one cannot belong to more than one group effectively is absurd. There is no such thing as Mushfaking. There is, I would agree, a level of apprenticeship--as there is in everything.

Barton gives us a sense of this breakdown and the ways in which it is seen. I thank him for his pyramid structure, but I would have liked for him to more clearly define "register."

Monday, November 9, 2009

Synthesis thing of Gee and Barton.. x2!

Barton and Gee focus their essays mainly on how literacy affects the individual in the outside world. While both authros believe that literacy is more than just reading and writing, they each have their different methods of separating the two.
Gee has two essays explaining his theory: "Literacy, Discourse, and Linguistics" and "What is Literacy?". I would like to start explaining "What is Literacy?" first. In this essay, Gee focuses on his theory of the "discourse". He writes a discourse is "a socially accepted association among ways of using language, of thinking, and of acting that can be used to identify oneself as a member of a socially meaningful group or 'social network.'" The discourse serves as one's "identity kit" which helps the individual fit into a certain group. Of course, one can be a member of several discourses. Gee goes on to explain how discourses affect the individual, and how many discourses can lead towards some conflict and confusion. Gee goes into elaborate detail of his discourse theory to, in my opinion, help him push another opinion onto his readers. Through his examples of acquisition versus learning, Gee forms a hypothesis about learning literacy in schools. Because he favors the acquisition method over learning, Gee states that, in order to properly teach literacy, different strategies must be adopted. According to this author, reading is not the only subject in literacy, and many children are being left behind with the "learning" approach. Gee's other article pays more attention to the discourse groups one is a part of. His example of the man who walks into a bar and speaks "bar language" to his friend is the prime example of this theory.
Barton splits literacy into three parts: registers, genres, and discourses. Registers are described as "different ways of talking in different situations". Genres are similar to the genres we think of when we think of movies, books, and so on. Finally, discourses differ in how the language is used.
Gee's pieces interested me the most this week. Oh, and I find it very useful that Gee gave us his definition of literacy!! Here it is: "Literacy is control of secondary uses of language." There is only one thing that upsets me about one of his so-called facts. It is kind of off topic, but I have noticed it in many of our readings. Like on page 22 of the "What is Literacy?" article, Gee mentions mainstream students. For some reason, the author groups rich, mainstream students as always being smart and successful, while the poor, minority families are thought to have horrible grades and a poor grasp on education. I do not understand why a poor student can't be just as smart as a rich one. For me, less privileged students have the ability to be just as successful, and just because a student is poor, does not mean he or she should be grouped up with the less smart students. That's all!
I agree with Giroux on the topic of textual authorites, insomuch as I think that social networks and cultural heirarchy rules the world of academia. However, I don't know that I would back out in scope so far as to say that there is a deliniation between society, politics and such that he professes to suppose. Though it may seem reductionary, there seem to be links from everything back to social groups. And I disagree with him that the teaching of these texts is linked to developing cultural capitol, just because they are deemed "Great Books" by the textual authorities. Cultural capitol is gained through discovering any type of society, not only the books that one reads in the cannon; which, more books, from multicultural backgrounds, are finding their way into the school setting.

In reference to his interpretation of methods securing the voice of the masters--through instructing only one right interpretation to a text--I disagree. I have seen, more often than naught, teachers breaking away from this classical style of teaching. Maybe that is just my own isolated experience, but that is all it takes to start a grassroots movement. I believe that teachers are seeing this captures the motivation of their students, more than the classical method of instruction. His "fight the man" disposition can also act as a testament to the more than isolated essence of this movement.

When he speaks on texts and writing, his report offers a staunching mentality of the textual authority on the other. As aforementioned, I think that this is a trend of the past, however I do not disagree that this or any of the other views he tests have not been relavent in the near past. I for one, growing up, have seen how this plays (and played) out in the institution. As David mentions, he has seen a need for textual authority, at times: so have I. Just to think... where would one be in school without the direction of authority? Imagine going to a classroom where the teacher did not have a list of books that were commonly or socially accepted to instruct in the area of interest. It would be hit or miss. And, as David offers, it would be hit or miss. One cannot be forced to respect or assimilate textual authority. But it's good that they try.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


My son is in a class with primarily Mexican-American children, and when I would observe the class I would find that some of the teachings were inappropriate. Because my son is the only African American in the class and the rest of the class is Mexican it seemed to me as if the teacher did not care about how I felt and taught a bilingual class, which I was bothered by because my son is still learning English. I feel that if she would have gotten my approval and explained to me the affect it may have on him, if any, than I would have not had a big issue with it. I eventually agreed to it, but there are still some concerns. I feel that with my experience of learning one language I did just fine as a literacy learning. I feel that if we all knew the same language that we could impact better, but I think knowing other languages can also broaden our minds. I feel that with learning literacy one would not be able to focus on their home language simply because of learning the language society complies with.

In the beginning M&G refers to the roles of teachers as one who guides and enables activities as a thoughtful process and more. I understand and like where Moll is coming from, but feel as if teachers don’t just guide students they influence them as well. The material that students are taught are not to help students get there and let them decide, they are suppose to take them on a journey that will stick with them for life.

I feel that with M&G she speaks about the knowledge in a household and I feel that besides school the knowledge from home that is practiced or shown daily is important due to repetition becomes a natural process. For example, if my son observes his father work on a car his knowledge will slowly build. I truly feel that the literacy acquired at home is a great attribution to what is learned at school. I feel that this article is acknowledging the minority group for their hard work throughout the family, but at the same time explaining that Caucasians aren’t ambiguous. As if Caucasians don’t work hard compared to minorities. The article was good, but I feel that there was more than just one side.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

In the article “Reading Texts, Literacy, and Textual Authority”, Henry Giroux stands stalwartly against the tide of the prescriptive usage of textual authority. He contends that the usage of “textual authority as forms of social and political discourse bear significantly on the ways in which knowledge and classroom social practices are constructed in the relations of domination and oppression”(87). In other words, Giroux believes that the current system of instruction uses text as a medium from which students acquire “cultural capital”(87) which comes from the “Great Books”. It is his opinion that schools then become centers of cultural oppression, where the ideals of western culture are imprinted in the minds of the students. Schools tend to teach students to decipher the original meaning of the text rather than interpret it for themselves. This leads to the attempt to reproduce the same “legitimate cultural capital”(87) which “authorizes the voice of the masters”(87). This discourse serves to perpetuate one particular version of Western Civilization, and leads to an “Elitist notion of the canon”(88). However it is not just which texts that are chosen which is the real issue, but how they are allowed to be interpreted.

Another point Giroux makes is that the curriculum is a political construction. The selection of the texts is never objective, there is always some aim that the curriculum is set to teach via some opinion. Giroux says “Curriculum, by its very nature, is a social and historical construction which links knowledge and power in very specific ways”(88). The way in which curriculum is set up maintains a “hierarchy of forms of knowledge to which access is socially distributed”(88) and from this reasoning the idea of the “great books” comes to be. Curriculum can be seen as a strategy which offers skills, but the cost of it is the continuation of privileging particular histories, experiences and interpretations. By this method, the histories and experiences of the other is effectively silenced or marginalized by the curriculum set forth by the dominant group.

Giroux also contends the issue of the separation between literature and writing classes. Whereas literature is seen as legitimate in acquiring the skill of reading, Writing is marginalized as a “pedagogy of skill acquisition”(88). In other words, writing is simply a method used to acquire the skill of reading rather than as a ““creative and genuine” form of cultural production”(88). This seems to continue with the theme that new views are effectively silenced by this system.

What I think Giroux intends to convey is that the idea of textual authority legitimizes certain views of the world through the perspective of the authors of the “great books” while marginalizing the interpretations of the reader through usage of power driven curricula. Even the choice of the “great books” in the curriculum is based on representing certain views more than others. There is a preference for the writings of white males, while other minority groups may be represented but disproportionately so. Thus, the opinion of the other is marginalized by the dominance of the representation of those in power, and textual authority becomes a vehicle for oppression.

The idea of textual authority gets me thinking that while it has good intentions, as Giroux points out, it is definitely pushing some angle of world view on the students. I have always been against the idea of textual authority in my life, but I do see the need for it in some situations. It can be argued that a common interpretation is needed to share a mutual experience with someone else, especially in an academic setting. However I believe that texts are a highly personal experience. Therefore, to me, the idea of textual authority can never be accepted. I suspect that the reasoning for so many failures to acquire these views is due to the cultural, socio-economical, regional, and dialectic differences between every person. The attempt to push the views of some writer with which the student disagrees will only result in reluctance at best, and a total shut down to any literature at the worst.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"Lessons from Research with Language-Minority Children"

I had many problems when reading this article. Many of which became problems because I have grown up in a household held together by a teacher. I have seen the frustrations and the joys that come with the job and I have witnessed the hard work and dedication it takes for young children to succeed. This article I feel undermines all the reasons of school and learning and therefore undermines the ability and dedication of teachers across the states.

The beginning of the article portrays an environment that allows and encourages a bilingual learning atmosphere, of which I am completely pro. However, I cannot help but disagree with the practices allowed in the teacher's classroom. Being on the linguistic track of my English degree, I am learning how second language learner acquire their language. I understand children may need to take notes and create projects in their first language but I don't agree and won't understand why it is consider ok for that child to turn in projects and papers in their first language. However heartless this may sound, we are in the United States, and to function in this country, one needs to know how to learn in,. read, and write in English. To overlook this seems to be an injustice to the children.

If a teacher wants to practice a bilingual teaching style that is great but how are children expected to learn the language of the country if they aren't taught to read, write, and learn in that language. Practicing duality in literacy is one thing to discuss but the examples given are not practicing duality but rather allowinf children to revert to what is easier for them, their first language. I admitt the children are reading the texts in English, but when will the child learn to write in English? Is it possible to give no value to our language and uphold the languages of other countries above our own? I find many flaws in that type of teaching.

The other main point of the article revolves around ideas of interacting with the multitude of cultures represented by the children in your class. Once again, maybe I'm too prideful, but how is it completely the teacher's responsibility to encourage parents to be involved in THEIR child's classroom. Granted surveys may not encourage parents to be involved, and bring their cultural knowledge to the classroom, but shouldn't, as a parent, that want and drive to be involved in their child's schooling be there any way? I find no fault in the teacher not begging parents to join the classroom but rather point the finger in the direction of the parents themselves. The examples highlighted in the article are one of a kind parents and the article fails to realize parents do not, in my opinion, give enough value to their child's education. And that lack of involvement is not due to lack of teacher need or outreach but in faults of the parents.

I may seem hostile but at some point blame needs to put on someone else's shoulders. Teachers are to teach and parents are to encourage the learning in all aspects of life; whether it be in the classroom or at home. Without the two working together, I feel the child has been failed and left to fight on his own.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Response to Moll and Gonzales

I seem to be having the same questions about this work that the post before me has already talked about. Getting to know the families and situations of foreign students may seem beneficial to those students, but what about the students that are already indigenous to the region? I seem to remember only a few foreign students in my entire twelve years of grammar and high school, so for me the time and effort that would be needed for this heavy task does not seem worth it if it were only benefitting a small amount of students. Our class discussion of morals and values can also come into play here. Maybe some students come from broken or abusive families, so should schools be encouraging children to ask others about their home life?
No doubt, the information presented by these foreign families sounds very entertaining and interesting for a class discussion or two, but if these practices that Moll and Gonzales speak of were ever implemented, I feel that it should be kept to a basic minimum. The authors mention that "many of the families know about repairs, carpentry, masonry, electrical wiring, fencing, and building codes" (161). The question emerges: How important are these skills to grammar students? Some of the projects given to these students also sound more like a field trip than actual work. It sounds like the projects are more concerned with finding activities that everyone can participate in rather than challenging students to their grade-level potential.
I could see these practices working effectively in a small classroom. The task seems too overwhelming for a crowded classroom, and from the looks of it, it sounds like crowded classrooms are what we have to look forward to in the future.

What They Left Out

Moll and Gonzalez note that the students in their study, "borrowed from each other's experiences in making sense of the stories, relating them to their own lives, and evaluating the worthiness of the books" (156). I can vividly recall the literacy of my childhood; and, when I do, I see the same stultifying effect of the canonical rejection/acceptance. Then, comic books were of great importance to me, because they allowed me to connect with my peers--my social network. The language found in the books my school was to have me read was far too difficult and not applicable to my world. As Moll and Gonzalez report, there is a greater advantage to using multiple languages in the acquisition of literacy, because it allows minority students to tap their own "funds of knowledge" (160). While I concur that biliteracy is important, I further propose that even in one's native language melioristic barriers form from the influences and pressures of the textual authorities. For, I was involved in school activities occurring in my native language, yet I didn't have access to funds of knowledge because the concepts presented were far from my reach.

In their conclusion, Moll and Gonzalez quote Wallace's statement that literacy moves "beyond minimal interpretations of [...] the ability to read and write to a view of literacy as a resource which offers possibilities of access to what has been said and thought about the world" (171). Even in a native language, literacy, funds of knowledge, and ideas die from the irrelevancy of the words, subjects and concepts to the seeker. This surfaces in the Freedom Writers, where all of the students participate in speaking and learning the same literacy, in the same language. In the film, there is no empowerment of the students in the "dumb class." These kids seek to participate in the acquisition of literacies which will allow them to tap their funds of knowledge: magazines, artwork, gang signs, etc. The film implies that the students have created a norm for literacy relevancy, through the evaluation of the books which the textual authorities would have them read.

But what about the process of reading and writing? Doesn't it allow for a greater access to the understanding of what has been said about the world? In that affect, is it not greater than what is said? Whether it is said or written in one's native language, or a language foreign to the seeker, thought must be understood through the acquisition of a word. Second, the thought will be evaluated by peers and a social community to the relevancy of the text. So, literacy must first be converted to an easily understood language, and then addressed through the motivation of the seeker; yet, further addressed through the motivation of the seeker, while maintaining relevancy and understandability. All groups do not have the same background and access to literacy, regardless of language.

Thus, studying minority, bilingual households can be of great importance to the methods of the teacher; though, at the same time it fails to address the issue of working-class students, in the native language, with less access to funds of knowledge.

Friday, October 23, 2009

M&G Reading Response

In the reading by Moll and Gonzalez, I soon became aware of a different world of literacy that hadn�t before seemed to exist. Of course there were some hints at it in the Freedom Writers movie and some of the previous readings, but I felt this paper did a good job of examining specific cases of home literacy.

The main points of this article which really struck a chord with me were on just how passive the classroom experience is to a student. Not being from an especially colorful background myself I would find it difficult to make the connection between classroom and home literacies. The suggestion to use literacy as a tool to connect with resources from the family and associated communities is a sound one. Teachers should provide motivation for children to exploit these resources as suggested.

The portrayal of a bilingual family as offering more resources to a child seems to make sense and the article seems to suggest that monolingual families are at a sort of a disadvantage. I�m not sure I entirely agree with this conclusion, however it seems little was done to show the monolingual family perspective. Still, the article did a good job of showing examples of cultural literacies which don�t necessarily mandate a bilingual family.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Betty Bass vs. Barton and Farr

In her delightful synthesis of the two reading pieces, Betty Bass gives a concise and clear summary of the points Barton and the Hamiltons are making. First and foremost, the comparison between Lankshear's negative connotation of functional literacy and the views shared by Barton and company had a potent effect on me. Instead of looking at literacy as a single element, these authors suggest that there are many different (yet equally important) forms of literacy. The literacy one uses in the workplace, although different, is just as efficient as the literacy one utilizes with friends and family, colleagues, and other acquaintances. The literacy events people throw themselves into determines which form of literacy they will employ in the particular situation. In a sense, literacy becomes not only part of an individual, but instead focuses on the many different groups and circumstances obtainable by a group of individuals.
It appears that Miss Betty Bass is very interested in the situation with the Chicano Americans that are showcased in Farr’s document. She leaves us with a question at the end of her post: Should motivation only arise from an instance where a family member wants his or her child to have a better chance in life than their parents? It is almost sad to think that this is the only circumstance where a person would want to venture out and become more educated and literate. It is almost as if more fortunate people take their education for granted. Here, there are immigrants trying their absolute hardest to gain a further education while Americans here almost have education thrust upon them. It is a very difficult question to answer!
In the end, Betty Bass effectively leaves us with a thorough summary of the two authors’ work. Her subtle questions and comments at the end leave us to ponder about these arguments brought up in the text, and keep us thinking about the literature even when the assignment is finished! Great job!

Betty Bass Beats Barton and Farr by Far ;)

Betty Bass seems to have made a clear deliniation between literacy events and literacy practices. Also, she notes that literacies develop differently between different communities, and that their multitudinous and structured applications allow for a crossover between both the autonomous and ideological models: the funtionality of the literacy taught by the community becomes integral to the community's practice. She further purports that the two theorists are more centered around the motivation of a particular individual, or group, as the impetus for the acqusition of literacy. I fully agree.

Her understanding of what defines motivation captures a more analytical and broad sense of the word: motivation. Miss Bass includes in her post that motivation is "contingent on a few factors," which she goes on to state (as they relate to the articles being examined). To her understanding, motivation can be squelched if: there is insufficient support behind the subject, if the fear of assuming a position in the literacy is too great, or if the literacy does not present a promising return in the life of the subject. I agree.

In singling out these factors, Betty has identified with the key presumptions behind the arguments of the two theorists: Barton and Farr. Tying the her presumptions to the presumptions of Barton and Farr, she builds a strong argument for the overlap of the two models--ideological and autonomous. So what? In doing this, she creates a cohesion on a larger level: one that promotes the continuum theory. Well done.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Barton Literacy Farr

I actually liked and appreciated Barton’s piece of literature. In Barton’s piece, he discussed the importance of individual’s and their environment. One’s community and other surroundings, I feel, have the biggest influence to do with one’s learning. Only small amounts of people are able to overcome the problems affecting them in their community and attend college and an even smaller amount that graduate from college.

In The essay about Barton and Farr, I found that Barton made more sense instead of the other literacy theorist. Barton concluded that there are three things that are important: literacy events, literacy practices and literacy activities. At first when I read about these I wondered why they were defined the way they were. In my opinion a literacy event should be going to school as to where a literacy practice would be reading, and literacy activities described as different tasks that are surrounded by literacy, but that’s just my thought. Barton described literacy as a “human activity that is social and located in the interaction between people (3).” Barton continues with saying that literacy has many different levels just by what the person likes are.

In Farr’s literature she describes the lives of Mexicans. I do not think that the essay only described Mexicans because clearly every race has its own difficulties and struggles. Mexicans however, seemed to be more noticed and more exploited by the news. Mexicans come to the country legally and illegally looking for a better start and the one priority they plan and follow through with is an education and if its not for them its for their children. The one problem I see is that once their children come and are taught the language they feel they are in no need to learn it. Farr’s argument that women fear going to school more than men because of the area is new information I had no idea of.

I understand where both authors were going with the study or the essay and I feel that the way of life is complicated whether it deals with environments and social levels or a family trying to make it in America. I feel that Betty made the essay understandable and a great summary.

LankShear and Onggy

In this class I have learned so much in the amount of two weeks. Lankshear and Ong are just one of the many authors that we have read and discussed. In Mona’s elaboration of the two I felt that she had great insight about how both authors went about discussing their research and interpretation of literacy and how it affects the world. Mona’s paper was a excellent interpretation for me as well. I was able to comprehend more of what both texts discussed.

In my opinion Lankshear was confused in a sense of what he ultimately believed in. Lankshear in the beginning spoke of literacy as one having it or not having it and in some ways I am able to relate to that because I know people who cannot read and therefore are not able to write, but one can achieve literacy with the help of a literate person. Lankshear’s Autonomous Model of Literacy was a little on the harsh side when it came to literacy as a skill. It seems as if I told someone that I had the skill of literacy and they couldn’t read I would be hurting their feelings. That would be the negative understanding to agreeing with Lankshear. In Mona’s essay she responds by saying that Lankshear relies on concrete ideas, but I feel he is still seeking the term and background to literacy himself. Lankshear’s next move was discussing the ideological model by Harvey Graff and seeing his point of view. The Ideological Model of Literacy seems more accurate than all of the models discussed.

The idea that literacy depends on the person, their surroundings, and their way of learning explains the way people are. If one was to go with the Autonomous Model they would see that literacy is not “used in the same manner and for the same purposes” is wrong. Literacy is taught differently throughout life and throughout classroom. Cultures believe in different teaching methods and I’m pretty sure that most teachers do not discuss literacy as often or early as it should be. The models of ideological and official are more understandable and reasonable than the autonomous model. The Official Model focuses on society and how one would just need to fit in their surroundings and not necessarily know literacy. The Official Model is more common because everyone wants to fit in to their surroundings and sometimes chooses to put literacy on hold to have common ground with other people.

Ong’s ideas were not my favorite either, but I was open to listen. If Ong had a problem with writing he could have recorded his whole study, but instead we don’t have to listen to it. Ong does not understand that people need to write text because not all people are good at oral. Some people are deaf or mute and if they are not able to speak or hear how are they able to produce their ideas? I feel that people have stronger and reliable minds when it is wrote down. Plato and Socrates weren’t able to understand that not all people have strong memories and that people need pen and paper otherwise many ideas that have made man function would not be on earth. The mind is a wonderful thing, but at the same time too much information can be bad for oneself.
Mona’s argument throughout the essay was directly on point and a great stand view. The thoughts that Mona expressed were very powerful and I feel that we both were able to relate to the same arguments presented in front of us. I feel that in order for us to understand literacy more we need to express more stand views, but find an essay that brings us to a conclusion of exactly what literacy is only if we are able to find one.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Lankshear and Ong Stuff

(Whoops! Thought I posted this already! But here it is!)

Reading these first couple articles has definitely opened my mind to an ongoing argument I had never really thought about: is there a negative side to being literate? The topic seemed pretty black-and-white to me; popular thought appears to be that one who is literate is far more successful than one who is dubbed illiterate. After all, it’s almost human nature to want to reach out and communicate with others, and this task appears relatively impossible if literacy is removed from the picture. Although I do not agree with the argument that Lankshear and Ong are making, they do bring to light some resilient examples in which literacy can be damaging. Nevertheless, it is still my belief that people are doing themselves a great disservice when choosing to remain ignorant of literacy.
Ong’s piece opens with a possible definition for the illiterate individual which, unlike Ong, I believe to be quite accurate. He says “[t]he term illiterate itself suggests that persons belonging to the class it designates are deviants.” It only seems fair to imply that these illiterate characters are far less likely to succeed in life, which therefore may lead to deviant behavior. A person will most likely encounter some form of literacy in his or her lifetime, most importantly in the working environment, and the literacy barrier in front of that person is going to unleash vast consequences. While it is not necessarily required to be literate to become successful, it will definitely pave the road and make life much easier for the person struggling down the road to literacy.
I really despise the argument that the spoken word is superior to the written word. I cannot wrap my brain around it! While I like the debate that the written word is unable to defend itself when asked a question about its content, this argument seems to have far too many holes in it to remain stable. How effective is the spoken word once the speaker is gone? Some might like to make the argument that listeners can pass the message down to future generations, but then the whole “game of telephone” problem emerges. Also, history shows us that there are certain people who like to tweak and manipulate the words of others so the writing mirrors their own ideas or thoughts. Put simply, the written word simply survives the test of time, while the spoken word has no chance of making this same accomplishment.
Of course, being literate is not the answer to all of life’s questions. It is not a fool-proof formula for success, nor is it a one way ticket to happiness. Nevertheless, it is a powerful tool, and writers like Ong and Lankshear should not degrade it simply to make the illiterate population feel special and privileged. Communication is a wonderful skill to utilize, and literacy is one of the many steps taken in obtaining this skill.

Friday, October 16, 2009

barton and farr

Barton, David and Mary Hamilton, Understanding Literacy as Social Practice
Farr, En Los Dos Idiomas: Literacy Practices Among Chicago Mexicanos

The work of Barton and the Hamilton's outlines the way in which one should study a
community of people while observing the types of literacies used and practiced by those people. In doing so, they define key terms (if you will) that become useful in studying a literacy community. The basis of their definitions spawn from their notion that “literacy is a social event” (6) Whereas common knowledge of literacy my appeal more to an individual's reading and writing skills outside of the social networks, this piece encourages that literacy surrounds the everyday interaction with others. With this idea of literacy at play, there are other ideas (key terms) one must understand. In literacy there are two types of happening you can study. The first of which is referred to as a literacy practice; a literacy practice takes place within groups of people sharing and conversing about ideas. The literacy pracitice acts as an umbrella for the meat of a study. It seems most theorists are interested mainly in what people, or groups of people do with literacy. Literacy “events are observable episodes which arise from practices and are shaped by them.” (7) An example, perhaps,would be attending school. The actual attendance of school is referred to as a literacy practice whereas a class discussion on Shakespeare's tragedies would be considered a literacy event.
The authors continue on about which types of literacies they are most interested in studying. Being that most studies are focused on the dominant literacy practices of a community, they tend to find more interest in the literacies that come secondary. They are among the thought that “there are different types of literacies.” (9) Each skill, then, would have its own literacy and within that tight knit literacy, practices and events would evolve. Essentially, book club members have their own literacy; their practice would be joining and reading the assigned book, while the discussion of the text later would be the literacy event. With that comes the understanding that each major, your work place, and minor, Girl Scouts, community you associated yourself with, you acquire a new literacy that allows you to communicate and participate within those set groups. These literacies are learned as a function for each group. Before, with Lankshear, we discussed the idea of functional literacy and it tended to have a negative connotation. Now with Barton and his colleagues, the use of a functional literacy is broadened to the understanding that each community one associates with has a literacy and to function in that community one must know and use that literacy. Therefore, functional literacy now applies not to a high school level of understanding but rather the functionality of a individual's life; a collection of all the literacies one uses, practices, and learns.
Farr's piece on Chicago Meixicanos focuses one this idea of learning new literacies. The article circulates around the idea that immigrants from Mexico, often times, learn to read and write informally. In a society where education comes secondary, many men and women did not learn to write, even in their own native tongue, until they came the the states, where it soon became a necessity. They relied on friends and the little schooling they had to piece together a language that for so long had been only oral to them. Though their writing and reading skills weren't to their grade level, per say, they continued to practice reading and writing every chance they got. The urgency to learn written tradition became an imperative means of communication between the men and families in America and those left behind in Mexico. This urgency however, was contingent on a few factors. Could the friend they where learning from be trusted and if so how much more of the language could he offer? When adult classes are offered, the men often attended community classes where the women didn't feel safe enough to attend. The men also wouldn't attend classes offered at a school for fear of being belittled to children. Despite these drawbacks, the men and women stayed positive. This motivation only, drove the immigrants to continuously practice their language and has now shaped their ideas of formal education amongst their children. With a large support group backing their strategies, families encourage and motivate their children to go and appreciate the schooling offered to them.
The amount of motivation and suppost shown by the immigrants in farr's piece is astounding to me. Though I, too, received and still do receive educational support, I find that many others are not given this. It saddens me that this is not the case in all families. Why is it then, that immigrant families seem to understand the importance and appreciate the education we allow and promote and some may say force upon our children? Should motivation only arise from instaces when one family member suffered therefore his offspring will not?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Text and Context

Through the ever perplexing debate of literacy's promotion of thought, one central issue remains mentioned and glossed over--without context, text ceases to exist. Thought, though it may be further expressed verbatim through text, cannot be said to appear in a more cognitive manner solely because of the production of text as a technology. Because, if one thinks of aurality and understanding as technologies, it could also be hypothesized that the ability to reflect at a higher level of cognition does not begin with the visual stimulation of the text, but in another area of the recesses of the mind. In this way, one may not be said to posses a greater objectionality, just because he is able to reflect upon the written word. Reflection is internal. Here, I agree with Mona's statement that, "writing does restructure thought." However, I respectfully disagree that one hears "every word, and every inflection." I can remember numerous times where I have been involved in an aural literacy-event and have missed many intonations, words, and even complete ideas. I believe that neither form of expression--aural/oral utterance and written--offers a greater importance. Each equally, effectively convey thought.

Addressing the idea that Ong proposes of literacy living in the "autonomous" mode, I offer once again that context dominates this arena, and squash the notion that it is independent of the surrounding elements. Because of this, the ideological model that Lankshear (and Ong, at times) proposes seems to operate more cohesively in the world of literacy. I completely agree with the notion of multiple literacies, because it is the social context of the literacy which is important. In this fashion, context operates on a broader spectrum; it moves out of the technological forum, and into the temporal. Context has everything to do with everything, because life--as a whole--is not an isolated occurrence.

And life, because it changes as we live it, dictates the inexorable fact of an ever changing set of contexts with which one views existence. Such is it that there cannot be a "neutrality" in literacy. Nothing exists in a state of neutrality. And nothingness, because of its complexity resides beyond human comprehension. It cannot be understood with an innumerable amount of spoken or written words.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Lankshear and Ong Response

I can see where the individual authors are coming from in most aspects on the topic of literacy. However I cannot find myself agreeing with any one aspect of either Lankshear or Ong.

I believe that literacy is indeed a technology, and yet I believe it is also connected more deeply than is suggested by the label "technology". The suggestion that literacy is a dead thing does not wholly convince me. I've read many stories that do come alive years after the author has died. However the meaning or life I give it is unique and thus literacy is brought to life by me reading. It is not important to me whether the author's original meaning is brought across by my interpretation. This is not to say that I would not try to understand the author, but tell me how often anyone has completely agreed with someone or accepted every feeling of another person in life!

This is no different than the oral traditions in my opinion. There is no real way to know that the story has changed when we look at an oral tradition. Generation after generation would have slightly modified the story and eventually the meaning may shift just as much as a written text and of course the hearer is now subject to the storyteller's interpretation of the original. It's on this point I think writing is a superior tool for conveying thought.

However, I do not believe that the lack of literacy in a society is a hindrance to productivity and advancements, at least to a point. The modern age does seem to dictate that there be a level of functional literacy that each person must possess, but I believe this is only because we have had the tool of writing for so long that it has been weaved into the very fabric of society. Certainly societies have flourished in the past with a lack of literacy, it is impossible to say whether or not humankind could make it to where we are today in terms of technology without it.

In conclusion, I'd like to mention that I have no firm opinion on these subjects, I'd like to believe I have an ability to see things from both sides, and each has it's merits. I find being on the fence allows me to be a bit more objective than falling into the arguments going on. Perhaps these fine fellows we have been reading should be a little more open minded :)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The battle of Lankshear and Ong!

In formulating my response to Mona’s collaboration and response to both Lankshear and Ong, I find myself somewhere in the middle. Neither do I believe that writing and the literacy it may provide should only be equated to the functionality of the individual nor do I believe that oral traditions provide a more accurate account of the conversation (ideas, discussion, thought processes, etc.). Instead I believe that a hybrid of both concepts would benefit society most fully. Alone the two processes both fail to encourage a higher thinking of the members of society.

As discussed in class, I think the oral tradition and the methodology of learning to read and write coincide within one another. As a child true spoken word may be learned quicker and easier but that is not to say that those same parents don’t immediately begin letter and number and color recognition with the utterance of their child’s first complete word. Singing the “abc’s” seems to be a crucial lesson in a young child’s life, but if the oral tradition can compensate for what the tradition of writing may provide then what is the point of knowing, learning, and studying the “abc’s”? They are learned to allow children to begin to understand how words and letters work together to make comprehensive statements. Nevertheless, I do understand, that in true oral tradition practices, alphabets may have not been learned, studied, or even create, because they had no use correct? Instead the methods used were the art of pictograms, illustrating actions, histories, stories, etc. This form of recording may be considered the first step in the evolution of the written word.

Technologies evolve. That’s all there is to it. They cannot be stopped or delayed. Literacy, and its definition, has continuously been altered, changed, evolved with the times. What was once completely oral based, was translated into art (dance, play, drawings), the development of drawings brought about experimentation with the creation of characters to represent a sound, a thing, or a place. The evolution continued as writing was perfected, and now look at us; we use keyboards as pens, screens as paper, and backspace as an eraser. The evolution of the oral tradition will continue to evolve, to say writing is superior to its mother oral tradition is completely inaccurate. Instead one should see them working together, the mother teaching the child its traditions, passing with them the need for accuracy in spreading what is recorded/ remembered.

The oral tradition I see as the basis for formulating higher thoughts, higher ideas, and promotes the idea of literacy to umbrella more than merely functional reading and writing. Without spoken word, one is unable to reach the highest level of cognitive awareness strived for by all intellectuals alike. With the oral word and the evolutions to the tradition, higher thinking is allowed and encouraged. And that’s what’s important. Not which is better or more accurate, but that the two combined push learners to be more, to explore language in all its aspects and to experiment with the literacies offered to them and those not yet discovered.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Ta-da! Defining Literacy!

When asked to define literacy as accurately as possible, most people might fall short and consider literacy simply the ability to read a novel, newspaper, magazine, or other work. Individuals may clump themselves together with the population that is considered “literate” merely because of the fact that they recognize various letters and words on a page, and they are not drowned in a blurry and illegible sea of punctuation when asked to decipher a sentence. I define literacy not only as the ability to read a piece, but also as the ability to have some form of intellectual thought of what one has read after the words come to a halt at the end of a page. While the actual skill of reading is a pleasant start to becoming literate, it is definitely not the final step in obtaining the coveted prize of literacy.
Reading is, of course, the fundamental tool needed for the literate individual. However, understanding why the piece was written and what it means is almost just as important as understanding the written words. Being able to read something almost seems irrelevant if a reader cannot put his or her new information to good use. Sadly, I have to admit that my observations have led me to believe that an astounding majority of individuals, even students, are not completely “literate.” Outside of my English classes, I hear students throw tantrums when they are told they must read a chapter out of a book. When someone mentions Shakespeare, many students hurl themselves to the floor and label the bard “stupid” and “boring” simply because of the fact that he uses words outside of the typical third grade vocabulary. What these students do not realize is that, if given enough time and attention, literacy can be much like lifting weights; small steps must be taken before one can lift literary behemoths with true potency.
As a student that has been to both private and public school, I believe that I have witnessed and been taught using a plethora of different teaching techniques. Although I do not intend on becoming a teacher myself, I can clearly establish in my mind which teaching techniques, as far as literacy goes, are truly effective. In a teacher’s effort to convince students to read, there are three methods that I have come across the most. Reading a novel out loud in class, listening to a novel on tape, and acting scenes out are all different paths I have been taken down on the road to literacy.
In private school, reading books out loud as a class was the only method used for becoming literate. For me, this process is terribly boring and ineffective. Not only do I find myself losing interest in the words, but as my eyes shift around the room, I notice other students begin to doze off as well. Then again, I think the environment of a classroom plays a dramatic role in whether students pay attention in class or not. The only reason students actually paid attention in these boring book reads was because of the fact that if one was called upon to pick up where the last student had stopped reading, one had better be paying attention if he or she wanted to escape the fate of being publicly humiliated in front of the entire class. A teacher could even take away a student’s recess time (Heaven forbid!) for not paying attention, a luxury not exactly effective in all learning environments. However, I think this technique can be very effective when used properly. I find myself more engrossed in the reading if teachers simply stop every so often to interrupt a student and describe the definition of a word or elaborate on a complex plot situation. Teachers should realize that even a small step like this one can make all the difference in helping students to become genuinely literate.
Listening to a book on tape has always been a nightmare for me, only made worse when I must endure this nightmare with my fellow students. Even the best narrators can become morbidly mundane after a few hours of restless listening. Some narrators practice with different voices, which is sometimes a comical and distracting situation only exacerbated when one must hear the muttered laughter of thirty other students. While this technique definitely ensures that all students are, in a sense, reading the book, retaining information about the piece appears to be far more difficult for a majority of students. Even when I do enjoy the narration, the piece does not seem to stick with me as well as if I had read it at my own leisurely pace.
I would now like to celebrate a wonderful teaching technique that appears all too occasionally in my learning environment. Combining literature with acting, and allowing students to learn and bond together, has been the most effective method I have witnessed. Not only is it an entertaining take on literature, but also it appears to make students more familiar with each other. This, in turn, increases the chance of students going out of their way and asking others what they thought about certain pieces, and underlines any common questions students may have in common. In short, a student appears to have more critical analysis on the work because the ability to retain the information has been so effectively utilized.
Literacy should be something for all people to strive for, whether the person is a student or not. While common belief is that literacy is simply the ability to read, it should be noted that careful perusal and proper understanding of a work is just as important as the words on the page. Literacy is possible for all, and sometimes it only takes a few extra steps to make the difference between being able to read and being fully literate.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

You either have it, or you don't: What is Literacy?

When asked what it means to be literate, most might respond that it means to have a solid understanding of the processes of reading and writing. And, at this absolute statement, the description stops; the party questioned might be shocked or insulted to endure further probing into the question for other definitions, because they have been conditioned that one either has or has not got literacy. It is a thing. It is a tangible and tactile tool which is tied into the patterned, individual and social consciousnesses of the intellectual hierarchy. It is something that helps the possessor overcome situations that the illiterate person would not understand. But it is not just that, it is so much more. Literacy bears no weight on intelligence. Literacy only stands to serve as a medium to reach a desired goal; and, in this sense it is a tool. But, literacy takes incalculable forms, so that in this it cannot be independently defined as only being related to a particular facet.

For instance, when given the analogy of the computer, one might say that there is a possibility for literacy with knowing a computer. However, computers require neither conventional reading skills nor the mastery of writing. So where does the archetypal definition of literacy fit into this analogy? It doesn’t, except for the delineation that literacy is a tool. It is the consequence of having an understanding of how a computer works. So, it can be said that literacy and illiteracy act as binaries: either having or not having. The question is: Having what?

Education, experience, understanding are byproducts of applied literacy. Take, for example, the “uneducated” man who has not completed the fifth grade. He cannot spell “octopus” if his life depends on it, yet excels in his field of pinball mechanics because he has acquired an understanding of the way these machines work. He, through his growth and understanding, goes on to apply his literacy in the mechanical/electrical fields to contribute many inventions to the world¾the first joystick video game, etc. This man is my grandfather. He is a hick, born and raised. By the classical definition he is illiterate.

This definition is one that most people still grow up to know, because the world of academia imposes this view upon them. It does so, because it requires its citizens to function in a manner according to the structure of the game. This structural-functionalist approach to literacy can, however, change¾as it recently has. Computers are quickly becoming a staple of the modern definition of literacy, because the new demands of the game are to include computer-literate citizens. This may benefit some, though it may harm others. A generation of literate people has, in the blink of an eye, become illiterate because the game suddenly changed. Though, they might still deem themselves literate, the collective judges otherwise.

Academia needs to emphasize the importance of a literacy definition based around the myriad of applications the literate person can perform. For example, the English teacher teaching his students brings to literacy the supposition that reading and writing are important for an understanding of books, which convey ideas that help one become more literate in any desirable direction. Concomitantly, the science teacher teaches his students the causes and effects of nature; at the same time his focus should revolve around the idea that to become scientifically literate, one will also be literate in reasoning and problem solving, etc.

In my classroom, as a rising English teacher, I plan to stray from the canonized sources. I want to open up a child’s mind to the fact that literacy comes not just from reading novels, poems, essays. There is a great deal of literacy to be found in the graphic novel, the film, oral tradition. Anyone that denies that literacy can be found in a picture need only look to the saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Those words just need to be uncovered, inferred. To do that, one must be taught to be literate in these facets. I plan to include these into my lessons, because these (like reading and writing) are sub-themes which are a part of the mega-theme teachers really try to impart: how to be better thinkers and communicators. It is for the betterment of humanity that we teach. It is for the betterment of the individual that he or she becomes literate. The more ways I can impact a life, I believe, the better teacher I will be. So why would I not? Because it goes against the system that teaches us to read and write. Because the game is not structured that way.

Then what do we do as teachers when we are not allowed to take liberties and teach like we want? Become bankers? No. We need to incorporate our understanding of literacy into the game so that we subvert the structure without revolting against it. I could give examples, but they would be too many to number; because, remember, literacy appears in innumerable ways. However, I will say this: I will try at every given opportunity to impart that literacy is not the end; it is only the medium or process of achieving a desired goal.

Literacy is indefinable, because it is all encompassing. It is perceived, not attained. It is not tactile and neutral. It is active and dynamic, and a part of becoming more aware of something that is worth becoming more aware about. Defining and practicing a modern definition of literacy can help to change the structure which so dysfunctionally controls current social and individual ideologies. It can change the game, and make it worth playing. So it’s not whether you have it or you don’t, it’s how you play the game.


What is literacy? I was asked what literacy was and I found myself being puzzled. Literacy is a word that many people do not pay close attention to. Literacy is a word that I am not able to fully define, but I will try. The history of literacy that I know about is the word illiterate which I know to mean uneducated. Mostly when a person is uneducated or illiterate people look towards reading and writing. In my opinion literacy means being able to read and write, but has more to associate with reading. I think that literacy focuses more on reading than anything.

I expect to be a high school English teacher. I am not sure what grade I would like to teach. In high school I did not hear enough discussion about the word literacy to understand what it means. As a teacher of literacy I intend to teach the students what literacy actually is and how important it is. As a teacher of literacy I found my job very important and I intend to teach the students things they need to know for college, adulthood, and get a curriculum that will not only teach them the basics, but so much more.

In my future teaching practices I see myself teaching students the importance having skills in different subjects, being able to read and write and to think beyond their communities. I know a few people that are not able to read which inhibits them of writing. The most important task I have as a literacy teacher is to make sure all my students get the proper help they need. I have seen people get by and graduate and they needed more help that high school is suppose to give them. I do not see myself just passing a student because my workload is heavy I am going to pass a student because that student has fulfilled all the requirements provided.

When I run a movie in my head for teaching I see myself in front of the board in a dress suit with marker teaching students about a famous book that I love “The Giver or Fahrenheit 451.I would like my students to read lots of books so that they can get a feel of how college works. I see myself assigning writing assignments and going home to my children helping them with their schooling and then grading papers. I mostly see myself helping students who have problems reading or problems that arise that hinder them from doing their homework and turning it in on time. I think I am going to have a good time teaching.

Literacy is a word that many people should not get stuck on when asked in class. I feel that now with knowing the definition of the term I can do better in class and throughout life. It is a simple word that has a deep meaning. Without being about to read and write one can be lost in the world especially if that person has no one to help them.

Defining literacy

Literacy has come to mean different things to me at different times in my life. When I was a child, it simply meant to be able to read and write enough so that I could properly understand the materials assigned to me in my classes. Once I had mastered reading and writing, for a long time it seemed like the job of making me literate was complete. However, as time went by and as my educational level went up, literacy began to grow not just with my vocabulary, but my ability to understand literary tools such as rhyme, meter, tone, meta-language, etc... The time in my life where this new definition of what it means to be literate happened only recently: when I started college. The more I am challenged by my instructors to pick apart literary pieces for hidden meanings or clues to the author's state of mind the more I realized that literacy is not simply understanding the definition of words and being able to understand what is written down on paper. It's understanding that in most every piece of literature the sum of the words do not equal the whole of the meaning.

As a teacher, if I were to start with teaching young children I would almost certainly throw away the book that had the guidelines on how to teach children. I would, of course help them to learn smaller vocabulary words first, but then I would ask the children to think about what they have read. Analyze it for meaning, albeit basic at perhaps the lowest levels. But certainly I would not like my students to think that because they read a book, they have understood it. About the age where The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is prescribed by the schools, I would like to spend a lot of time really analyzing that book. The main reason I use The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as an example is because when I was a student in middle school reading that book, I never fully understood a lot of the things Huck did to be racist or tactics he used to manipulate people. When I read it again in college, The book could have easily taken a whole semester to thoroughly pick apart.

I would then have the students engage with most of the dialogue prompted by questions I would ask about the text. This sort of teaching would allow children to start critical thinking very early and in a way so that they could do their own analysis of reading or everyday life. The early start to this sort of thinking will give our children the ability to be more intelligent about decisions in their lives and careers. Thus, literacy is a huge term indeed, It went from just being able to read and write words to being a potentially life changing thing. To quote and old cliche' knowledge really is power.

Sunday, September 27, 2009