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WEEK 2 Blog Posts, Comments, and Dialogue

alesnick's picture

Please use this space for this week.  Thanks.


laik012's picture

Through the Lens of Education

I completely agree with Jordan that “the standard” for English in Malaysia is not the same as “the standard” in Zimbabwe. On one hand, I feel that there should not be one right way of speaking English or better known as the white method of speaking English. On the other hand, as we have discussed in class, there needs to be a standardize way to facilitate communication for the function of daily activities. One of the suggestions that I take from that lecture is how we should discover similarities within each other rather than make clear distinctions and categorized ourselves so easily. This may be quite abstract at the moment but I believe if explored further, this statement has potential to reduce racial tensions.

kdmccor's picture

I think about power with

I think about power with respect to my experiences with students at Parkway.I am supposed to be helping my students learn to write essays. Often the students I work with have wonderfully deep and compelling ideas they wish to write about.   Even the most articulate speakers among them struggle to write.  They find it challenging to put sentences together into a coherent paragraph, and the idea of composing an entire essay feels daunting to them.  When they’re willing to show me what they’ve written, I find prose that is plagued by grammatical errors and problems with fluent usage.  It’s hard to read.  I find myself frustrated by their inability to express themselves effectively in writing.  It’s not their fault.  English classes at Parkway do not teach students to think of themselves as writers.  Essay assignments are infrequent, and expectations are low.  By the time students reach reach their senior year, the teachers and administrators have already decided which students are capable of succeeding beyond high school, and which aren’t.  Lately, I’ve been thinking about this particular aspect of the school’s culture as one that perpetuates oppressive power dynamics.  Some students are told that they will never people able to succeed in an academic setting, that they will never be capable of contributing to the discourse of those in power.  They are told they won’t be  able to participate in this discourse because they are incapable of learning the correct language.  Perhaps they simply refuse to assimilate to the constraints of a dialect that has denied the validity of their voices.

I’ve been thinking about the way voice and validity were explored in the pieces by June Jordan and Laura Delpit.  Jordan, in her challenge to the idea that Black English is “incorrect,”  helps me to complicate my own understanding of the work I’m doing with Parkways students.  I have always questioned whether it ought to be my job to “correct” their grammar as a means of teaching them to participate as insiders in a dominant discourse.  I ask myself how I can provide them with a service that will be useful to them, without insisting that they ways of speaking and writing that I am comfortable with are more conducive to their “success.”  Similarly,  Delpit suggests that educators shouldn’t think of what they do as giving their students voice.  Voice, she argues is something students already have and use.  Educators must learn to hear.  I wonder whether I might be able to hear and appreciate my students’ voices, while giving them tools to participate in a dominant discourse when it would benefit them to do so.  

ckeifer's picture

I think you are making a lot

I think you are making a lot of important points here. It is every teacher's duty to help their student's succeed as well as hear them and appreciate all the things they have already accomplished. I am drawn back to something you said in the journal group about how you don't want to be the teacher who hands them back a paper covered in red marks.  It is (in my opinion) necessary to correct mistakes in order to grow and learn from them but maybe there is a better medium through which to do so. In Noa's Ark, Shwarzer talks a bit about the problems associated with corrections that are made carelessly or without discussion.  Perhaps if you have time to dedicate to the individual student and talk through the corrections made, a paper full of red marks will seem less daunting, be more effective, and promote learning.

Siobhan Hickey's picture

Literacy as access or communication

The Portlandia sketch emphasizes the degree to which people's access to the internet and the millions of resources it houses gives a sense of there being a body of knowledge that exists outside of people but is ready to be tapped into (and the more one taps into it, the more in tune one will be with a certain culture.) Transmitting data through SMS, however, feels different because all information is sent from one body to another, whether those bodies be organizations or individual people. Knowledge is gained through being “communicated to and from” instead of “seeking out information.” I hope I am not falling into any sort of simplistic trap of stating that people in developing countries are more connected and communicative with one another than people in the U.S., for instance, or that they do not actively seek out information from print or internet sources created by third parties. I simply wish to explore further how the differences in what kind of information and communication technology people use may affect how they view literacy as something that must be attained in relation to some external body of knowledge or in relation to other people and the institutions they create.

dcenteio's picture

Is the USA really the most advanced country?

After reading today’s articles I was instantly “smh”. These types of learning/teaching styles were being utilized in far less advanced countries for far more reasonable prices. “In India, Reliance Communications sells handsets for less than $25, with one-cent-a-minute phone calls across India and one-cent text messages and no monthly charge — while earning fat profits. Compare that to iPad buyers in the United States, who pay $499 for the basic version”.  This quote instantly speaks out to the materialistic consumerism that has tainted the United States. If we are the most advanced than why have so many other countries found means of passing our expertise with far fewer costs?

In class my group spent some time analyzing the customs of the United States. We spoke about the individualist mindsets that develop here, the notion that “if I try, I will go far”, and the “I, instead of we”. My group member mentioned that it feels that your life goal is breaking apart from your parents and proving that you can be independent and care for yourself. It was interesting to relate it back to the text and see that we could use simple and cheap technology to advance the country as a whole, yet many choose to invest in the most popular and expensive products in furthering the “I” instead of the “we”.

rschwartz's picture

I was thinking more about

I was thinking more about this yesterday, after I heard an interesting comment on the radio. It was a (really annoying) talk show on some top-40s radio station. The host's mother had just purchased her first iphone, and they called her to talk about it. Somewhere along the way, they started talking about the Blackberry, and someone mentioned an iphone cover for a Blackberry--that is, a cover for your Blackberry that makes it look like an iphone. The host made a comment along the lines of, "well some people are really embarrassed to put their Blackberry out on the table." This comment was interesting to me for a lot of reasons. In today's world, our phones are a huge part of our daily literacy experience. There are codes for self-expression via text message and email -- standards, if you will, set by the discourse community within which you're communicating. (For example, it'd be weird to text your friend with perfect spelling and grammar; but it would also be weird to text or email your boss with abbreviations like "LOL" and "OMG.") But this quote emphasized that there are also standards for the device that we use for communication. How does that fit into the mix?

laik012's picture

Reply to "I was thinking more about"

I really enjoyed your blog post and was struck by how some people are actually embarrassed with their blackberry. It never once occurred to me that texting has its own discourse and people who do not know abbreviations such as LOL, OMG, TTYL are perhaps even left out. This led me to think that this phenomenon does not apply only in the virtual world anymore. I know many people especially students who express themselves with internet/texting terminologies. Does this ability to know this particular this slang affect our social circle? What will the future of the standards of literacy be? Will it include knowing this informal language as a requirement to live an ideal life?

rschwartz's picture

What's survival?

I’m very and interested in the way that “literacy as adaptation” varies across cultures and contexts—the standards of “literacy” required for survival vary greatly, depending upon the characteristics and institutions of a particular society or culture. In a small group discussion last week, my classmates and I suggested that the definition of “survival” varies, as well. What does it mean to survive, or to adapt? For example, we apparently consider writing checks, reading prescription labels, and paying bills essential for adaptation or survival in contemporary America. We’ve also placed reading newspapers into the “literacy as adaptation.” What happens to a person who cannot write checks or read prescription labels? Perhaps they cannot live safely or comfortably, and perhaps they struggle to navigate American legal and financial institutions. But what happens to a person who cannot read the newspaper? In this thought experiment, I’m imagining a person who can pay bills and read labels, but cannot read the newspaper, magazines, books, etc. Surely this person can live safely, and perhaps they manage to navigate American institutions. Somehow, though, we conclude that this person lacks certain adaptive or survival skills. Apparently survival or adaptation in American society requires more than mere existence.... We concluded that “literacy as adaptation” is a fluid and ever-changing category, depending on what you mean by “adaptation,” and what society or sphere you mean to consider.

Following our conversation, I was left with a question that, I am quite sure, will resurface throughout the semester: what is the role of the school? That is, what version of “survival” should schooling help to ensure? 

Hallie's picture

Musical Literacy

"Many people see it [musical literacy] as an element of the "State of Grace" literacy--it offers a perspective on the world that is perhaps not helpful in the strictly productive sense, but is helpful in the cultural capital arena...It's almost as if literacy has a double-meaning for music.  Are you note-based literate, or are you a listener?  Can one listener be more musically literate than another?"

maddybeckmann's picture

Hallie, I have been thinking

Hallie, I have been thinking a lot about how to really define literacy and though my ideas are not directly linked to music I have some of the same thoughts. However music is a wonderful way to try to understand different literacies and different discourses. Cultural capitol has a lot to do with how we navigate our social settings. Are their certain types of music that certain discourses are literate in? How does one navigate what type of music or study of music a particular social setting values?  Your post also questions productivity. I wonder what types of literacy are more valued than others and are some not valued at all? 

p.s. I love your drawing!


ckeifer's picture


My father is dyslexic. He was treated poorly by the nuns at his Catholic school because of a lack of communication and understanding of why he struggled to read and write while the other students in his class acquired these skills without difficulty. He was forced to reside outside of the dominant discourse. Eventually my father learned how to adapt to his environment and evolved to become part of the literate. I decided to share this story because the discussion about Black English vs. Standard English reminded me somewhat of my father’s story. Just as there are multiple forms of English (such as Black English) there are multiple ways of acquiring and using English (such as the way individuals with dyslexia do). I do not intend to equate being a minority to having a disability but rather state that it is disabling to not be a part of the dominant culture. In effect, our school environment was not built for individuals with learning disabilities just as it was not built for individuals who do not speak the dominant language. We said in class that the barriers around schools need to be more permeable and I think that this philosophy applies to individuals with learning disabilities or differences and is in fact extremely necessary.

lesaluna12's picture

Connection between Neoliberalism and Literacy

When discussing our journal entries in our journal groups, my peers and I made an interesting connection between neoliberalism and literacy. Neoliberalism promotes the idea of becoming independent and individual achievement where you just worry about yourself and those who stay behind just don't make it. When we were discussing we noticed that from our own personal experience, when it came to learning how to read, we just worried about ourselves and let the rest of our peers figure it out on their own, which is similar to the ideas behind neoliberalism. I thought this was interesting because it made me think just how effective is neoliberalism then? Because there are people across the nation who are struggling on how to read and its not even children but adults too. If we are so used to thinking about ourselves and our own gain then how are we going to help others and what's best for the country as a whole? 

Hallie's picture

I think this is especially

I think this is especially interesting in light of the topic of "participation."  Just as we were questioning the usefulness of blogging if there isn't always an audience or a continuing dialogue, we should question the usefulness of literacy that does not promote active participation.  “Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.” 
― Paulo FreirePedagogy of the Oppressed Even without saying that young students necessarily need to help their peers along, there is something worrisome in teaching reading, literature, and writing from an individualistic lens.  I agree that literacy should not be considered from a purely capitalistic self-serving perspective.  Instead, we could focus on emphasizing how gaining membership to the "literate sphere" allows for a much more participatory role in society.  Literacy facilitates dialogue, and dialogue promotes creativity, and ultimately, transformation.

kdmccor's picture

I've been thinking a lot

I've been thinking a lot about "participation" in terms of the 'state of grace' literacy metaphor.  In class, we talked about the way our early experiences of literacy in the home: our exposure (or not) to a variety of texts, whether our parents encouraged our development of a literary "aesthetic," influence our ability to participate and engage with written texts.  I think part of developing literacy as a state of grace is developing an appreciation for the aesthetic value of writing.   That is, there is a certain quality of literacy that allows us to appreciate the way an writer's command of language can not only convey information, but can help us to reframe our thinking by eliciting certain emotional responses.  Good writing, I think, provokes us  to reimagine our ideas.  In that way, it enables the sort of "emancipatory" thinking Freire suggests.  However, to be affected in this way by a written text, readers must have the type of literacy that allows them not only to interpret text as information, but to see where a writer is asserting her creativity.  Reading in this way is participatory, because readers engage with the creative process of writing, and in the process of allowing a text to be a springboard for creative and critical thinking.  The question for me is how we can teach this type of literacy in a way that is more broadly accessible.  

emmagulley's picture

Literacy = Integral to Childhood?

I've been thinking about the relationship between childhood and literacy, and the more I think about it, the more and more it seems as though literacy is inherently integral to childhood.  Even the term “childhood” can vary greatly, and the concept of "childhood" is actually a pretty modern, culture-specific construct.  

That said, if we no longer assume that “children”--i.e. humans younger than 10--all over the world have “childhood” in common, what do they have in common?  I believe that when we pose “literacy” as a social form of communication, we can ascertain that literacy is an integral part of “childhood.”  Since all children have some form of communication within their communities and thus navigate their own realities, all children are inherently “literate”--and, indeed, fluent in their own realities.  That fluent literacy may not look the same in sub saharan Africa as it does in Tokyo, but assuming a child can communicate his needs, wants, and thoughts to members of the community--even if not necessarily using verbal indicators--he is inherently literate in the infrastructure of his community.  Just as we need to appreciate the theory of multiple intelligences in classrooms, so too do we need to address, internalize, and accept the “theory of multiple and inherent literacies” on the global, almost anthropological level.  

However, I've also thought of a situation that somewhat confuses/complicates my idea, at least for me:  if we assume the “literacy” is inherently a form of give-and-take/communication, and if we assume that all “older” humans negotiate their own literacies in their own cultures because “all” [sic] humans can express their own needs and wants, where does this leave members of the community who express their own needs and wants, but not necessarily consciously, "thoughtfully" [sic] or mechanically?  For example, if we consider a baby who cries when she is hungry--do we want to suggest that habit is her own form of literacy?  If she is able to "communicate" a need to someone around her?  Or is "Literacy" more about participating in a two-way-street, in which case a caregiver's reaction to a baby's needs would not be in the same discourse, and therefore would not be considered a literacy?  
Sara712's picture

Literacy and Childhood

Those are some pretty interesting and difficult questions to answer, and I can't say that I have the answers. However, I do agree with the notion that there are "multiple and inherent literacies;" being an Anthropology major, I often view society with a cultural constructionist point of view. This means that peoples' behaviors are a result (to some extent, I believe) of their cultural environments and upbringings. Therefore, the geographical location and community in which an individual lives can shape that individual's literacy learning. I think the main factor that might run across all cultures as embodying childhood is the phenomenon of constantly and increasingly learning. The phenomenon of learning lasts a person’s whole life of course, but childhood is the time during which a person gains the integral and basic aspects of knowledge. This interpretation of learning as being a universal characteristic of individuals under the age of 10 is similar to your idea that literacy is a universal characteristic, and I would say that they go hand-in-hand.

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