Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sponsors of Literacy - Lisa Biscan

Deborah Brandt delivers an intersting essay, "Sponsors of Literacy" in which she connects "literacy as an individual development to literacy as an economic development" (556). Brandt briefly explains that prior to her search, most literacy studies have not yet combined the specific conditions of economics and literacy learning together. Deborah Brandt does not entirely dismiss previous studies, although she does claim them to possess "analytical failre" (556). In saying this, Ithink Brandt recognizes the many aspects of literacy learning. In this essay Brandt's goal is to provide a bridge to the existing gap between literacy, economics, and the sponsors in between.
Brandt introduces the idea of "sponsors of literacy"(556). It is helpful to think of sponsors in commercial terms - the financial sponsors behind the television shows & commercials. Now, think of sponsors in literacy terms. Instead of sitting in front of a television with images, music, words, voices coming at you, prompting you to take-in their message - think of the many people, words, images, voices, institutions, motivations, and materials which have prompted you throughout your life (557). Just like the television sponsors, some messages are overtly conveyed, while some are latent. This is how, who, and what a literacy sponsor is. Brandt suggests that these sponsors play a formative role in literacy learning (557).
Sponsors can be older relatives, teachers, priests, influential authors, ... powerful figures in one's life (557). Brandt notes that we can all fall "victim" to sponsors agendas, whether deliberate or not. While Brandt addresses the literacy sponsors and the sponsors on a social and econmic scale. I also think Brandt acknowledges the inherently psychological nature that the sponsor and the sponsored relationships' entail. These sponsors can strongly shape the sponsered's realm, scope, access to, and desire of literacy - on purpose or without even knowing it.
Brandt places emphasis on the factor of access to literacy with two contrasting studies. Raymond Branch, who is a European American male from an upper-class family has access to literacy in a way that another person does not. His sponsors include his academic father, the university where his father teaches, advanced tehnological resources, and access to educated personnel. Dora Lopez lives in the same city as Branch, is the same age, and has a relationship with the same university. Yet, Dora's access and sponsors vary greatly. Dora does not have access to the same privaledge and power as Raymond Branch because of her gender, econmic status, and social standing. Her sponsors include the bookstore, secondhand technology, and various word-of-mouth opportunities (561). Therefore, each individual does not have the same access or privaledge to literacy learning.
In this article, Brandt shows that "literacy chances relate to systems of unequal subsidy and reward for literacy" (561). Deborah Brandt continues her essay by looking at generalizations of the relationship between economics, access, privaledge, and sponsorship of literacy. Brandt does point out that each individual starts out on a different playing field, and an uneven one at that! While Brandt supports the importance of sponsorship - she does acknowldege the role that the individual also can play in learning the rules of literacy.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Literacy Lirico - Lisa Biscan

Marcia Farr observes and reports the different types and levels of literacy amongst a group of "chicago Mexicanos", or Mexican immigrants in her article "En Los Dos Idiomas: Literacy Practices Among Chicago Mexicanos". The group Marica studies is comprised of approximately forty-five people who live in Chicago and Mexico and make up one social network of "mexicano immigrants" (467). Farr states that her study derives from a conceptualization of communication by Hymes (who I assume is a linguist?). She summarizes Hymes type of research as it "emphasizes the importance of context and holistic understand meaning from the point of view of the members of a particular cultural group" (467).
Farr does not state her own personal research goal, in addition to her announcement that she is carrying out the study within Hymes framework. This puzzled me slightly. What does Farr aim to acheive in this study? I understand that her study is built on Hymes, but what does she aim to achieve? What is she looking for? Maybe she is open-ended on this. Could this also have anything to do with whom is funding the research? I do not have the answers, only questions. Yet, I believe the initial statement "to understand meaning from the point of view of the members" is especially important (467). It seems that language, or the study of language can be circular in nature.
In class, we have gone from Dyson to Szwed to Gee, then Barthalomae, who state their own opinions of the literacy of language as a system. Next, we discover Heath, who does more observation than interpretation. Yet, thus far, no-one has stated that their mission is to understand the meaning from someone else's point of view.
Farr studies "Learning Literacy Lirico" amongst Hispanic adult males (469). Literacy seems to be mostly learned based on generational and economical opportunity in this community of mexicano immigrants. Still, even immigrants who cannot attend formal schooling Adult males, who were not afforded the opportunity Lirico is these males' title of learning to read and write outside of formal schooling.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Protean Shapes in Literacy Events - Sean

In Shirley Brice Heath's "Protean Shapes in Literacy Events" we are introduced the the town of Trackton, and its shifting nature of oral and literate traditions. Heath starts out by explaining the more"traditional" idea that literacy is learned and used primarily as a tool to convey complex ideas, and that the lack of being able to use this tool effectively is what gives individuals and societies the negative stigma of being "illiterate" or "non-literate." This continues on into the discussion of Trackton and their oral traditions.

The first thing heath really gets into is that the discourse in Trackton is more speech based and much less writing based. Any writing that is created is used to simply carry a message, and the message is then discussed at length verbally. Even interviews are conducted verbally from a written form, and the answers are transcribed as they are dictated. This is a prime example of the oral tradition of literacy rather than its use as a more formal or "educational" tool.

This literacy is used as a social tool to convey and teach. Rather than asking direct questions to their children, Trackton parents ask more indirect questions, and challenge their children to explain themselves using language, rather than focussing on teaching them specific words like more "traditional" parents. What's amazing is how this method of raising children can have eyebrow raising moments of seemingly sophisticated language control as demonstrated with Lem's poem about the church bell.

That being said, I think that Heath is trying to show the reader that these people are merely different than what most people might consider "normal," but that they are in no way "illiterate." They are terribly creative, as evidenced both by Lem's poem, and the schoolteacher's prayer. They can interact very proficiently within their own community, and make use of their language, and that, Heath argues, makes them literate.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A World of Robots

By Devon

Inventing the University by David Bartholomae is basically about the way students fit in at universities. Right away Bartholomae begins by explaining the difficulty students have to learn the discourses of the field they are majoring in. He refers to students either trying to learn the discourse of a certain group in college or how many students pretend to understand and try to act and speak a certain way to get by.

Bartholomae also talks about creativity in his essay. He had students write about creativity, and then he showed who did not fit in to an English discourse and who did by judging them on their vocabulary. By doing this he shows that many students are pretending to be someone who they might not be. That many individuals try to fit into the mold that has been created centuries ago. Many students are successful at fitting in with the discourse they have chosen, but it takes time for a person to truly be part of this lifestyle.

Originality and uniqueness seemed to be one of the last topics. According to Bartholomae, to be original and unique is a difficult task to accomplish. That many students take what they have learned, regurgitate it, and call it original. He also wrote about how students learn how to address their audience by using creativity; that here are rules and a level of authority that needs to be taken into account.

Personally I think Bartholomae needs to be knocked out of his ego trip. In his point of view it seems that there is a caste system or a chain of command for writers. I do agree with him that many students try to be someone they are not just to fit in. I thought that it was interesting that Bartholomae believes that only good writers use a broad and extensive vocabulary. Would that make Shel Silverstein, the author of The Giving Tree, a bad writer? Overall there were many themes in the article, but I feel Bartholomae to be very pompous, and to talk with him about an educated writer would be like talking to a post. Why should anyone have to pretend to be someone they are not? If everyone did that we would live in a boring world of robots.

Richard Rodriguez "Achivement of Desire" - Sean

In Richard Rodriguez’ “The Achievement of Desire” we read the writings of a man stumbling through his early childhood learning experiences to discover one, simple truth. His focus on academic success had served to create the beginnings of an ever-growing rift between him and his family. As this fact is revealed, he then turns around to sift through his early years grade by grade to explain what happened to that close-knit bond that he once shared with them.

In essence, the writings are not necessarily meant to be of scholarly learning. They are more accurately a collection of self-examining thoughts based on the ideas set forth by an educational writer named Richard Hoggart. Hoggart, in essence, explains that a child who strives to learn in his teachings will drift farther from his family in his desire to succeed in school.

Personally, I felt that Rodriguez’ discussion over his own experiences were heartfelt. I felt somewhat moved by the loss of that family closeness he shared with them. I finished the reading hoping that he’d be able to reconnect with them, and be a part of the family once more. With any luck, his educational know-how will allow him to adapt.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The language of listening

I often think about how language can be a barrier between human beings. Along with seperate and conflicting ideologies and belief systems, language is something that powerfully affects the way we interact and identify with other human beings. The idea of listening can be a very powerful tool that accompanies language.

I volunteered for a crisis hotline, RARCC, which provides support and services to survivors of sexual assault. Calls are private and cannot be disclosed to anyone outside of the agency/law enforcement for legal and privacy purposes. The hotline's first priority is tomake sure the person/all persons involved is safe. Crisis intervention is priority.

Listening is 85% of the call. Using language skills to respond in a calm, caring, and logical manner is 15%. In the initial phone call, you do not know the person. You may not even get details about the person. Verbal communication is key. You then meet person in a hospital or law enforcement setting w/in 45 minutes after the phone call. The immediate response you give on the phone affects trust. After someone's trust has just been broken by abuse, conveying this is imperative.

The significance of language is huge. Sometimes victims cannot talk, they need someone first to listen. Then, you become their voice as their process continues.
Through the use of language, you can act as someone's ear by listening, their comfort by instilling trust, their advocate by telling their story, and their sense of hope - as they may continue the process, and later use their language to help someone else.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Anong Language Hablas?

By Devon

To start out I will explain the title of my essay. Anong is Tagalog for the word what, language is English, and hablas is Spanish for you speak. When put together it means what language do you speak? After thinking of the topic of the essay for awhile I realized that the ways I speak with my family, students, co-workers, and friends are all different.

When I am with my family I speak a mixture of English and Tagalog, which many people call Taglish. The reason why this is spoken in my Anglo-Saxon family is because my wife is from the Philippines. I also have two brothers who married Filipinas. Because of this mixture of cultures both English and Tagalog are used in my family. I watch movies and television in both languages, and I also listen to music in Tagalog.

At work I am around children ranging from five to eleven years old and I speak to them as an elementary school teacher should. I never speak to them as my close friends or about all my personal beliefs. I teach them to respect adults and other manners. I even get to teach the Spanish speaking students about having good manners. I learned Spanish while serving a mission and even as a missionary I had to conduct myself with extreme professionalism. But among missionaries we had our own way to talk and our own terms. For example we called new missionaries greenies.

I noticed that when I am with my friends I speak almost as if I am with my family, but I still have a certain way my friends and I joke around. I noticed that I use more slang terms with my friends than I do with my family. For example, I have friends from Saudi Arabia and when we see each other at the gym we call each other beast in Arabic. I would not use this term with my family because it would have no significance to them.

Most individuals have their own way of communicating too. I have heard the way my brothers speak with their friends and they do not speak to me in the same way. I feel that it is the comfort level that a person has which allows him or her to speak a certain way. One way I learned this was when I told a rude joke to my bishop at church. He then told me that it was not polite so I learned that there are some things that can and cannot be said to certain people.