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?

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