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.