What I’ve Found Most Interesting

We’ve all thought a lot about literacy.  We’ve considered what it is, what it means to be literate, how we can help someone who is illiterate, what experiences help someone to become literate, a seemingly never ending list of considerations and discussions.  The thing I have found most interesting though is that there is such disagreement among scholars as to what literacy is, yet there is also so much importance placed on literacy.

You would think that we wouldn’t measure literacy unless there was a clear definition as to what it is.  The reality though counters this idea.  We’ve read a number of measures that discuss the downfall of literacy, the decline in reading, and the increase in technological forms of literacy.

So if there are so many different interpretations of literacy, how can there be one reliable measure.  One measure may concentrate on just reading and writing, and another may focus on technology and cultural literacy.  Typically when we study things we know what we’re studying, but in this case it’s almost as if there are so many different dynamics that we’re measuring something unmeasurable.

Let me know what you think, and what have you found most interesting about our study of literacy?

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“Learning” German

At the beginning of seventh grade, Dorseyville Middle School students were instructed to choose a foreign language to master.  Students could opt to change their language of choice in high school, but the idea was to pick something in seventh grade and stick with it throughout your senior year; by the time you graduated, you’d have mastery of your foreign language of choice.  The options were French, Spanish, German, and Latin.  Beautiful people took French, smart kids took Latin, the vast majority took Spanish, and a smallish group of clueless indifferent students decided to take German.

I took German.

I didn’t exactly have a reason for taking German other than I had to pick something and I have a bizarre fondness for deep guttural hissing, but I stuck with that language all throughout high school.  By the time I graduated I had completed German V AP.  In my six years of “vigorous” German training, I had picked up a handful of coarse phrases, some basic grammar rules, and several simple questions (i.e. “where is the bathroom”, “could we eat something”, and “where is the post office”.)  While my friends across the hall were discussing organic chemistry and Bolivian genocide in Spanish class, chattering away in a blaze of rolling r’s and upside-down exclamation points, I found myself sitting in German class trying to translate the original Brother’s Grimm version of Little Red Riding Hood for the third time.  Something just didn’t feel right.  We had both started our respective language studies at roughly the same time, so what was the deal?

For a while I blamed myself.  I’ll admit it, I didn’t exactly try very hard in German, but just being there had to have counted for something, right?  I knew a couple of kids taking Spanish who couldn’t tell you what a direct object was that were nevertheless practically fluent in their foreign language.  I then turned on my teachers; surely their ineptitude was at the root of my problems.  If only I had had Senora Fontes to teach me my German, maybe I would have learned it better.  Somehow, that logic didn’t seem right either.  Eventually, I came to the conclusion that my deplorable lack of German proficiency was a result of both my own laziness and my sort-of-lousy teachers, but that it also had something to do with all of those wasted lessons that we had discussing German culture.  There were times when we’d go through a whole class just listening to Herr Richards ramble on (in German) about Oktoberfest, and this is a waste of time.  I would have much rather learned about the German language itself, not the flavor of German culture.  If we had spent more classes learning cases and vocabulary than talking about the Brothers Grimm and Angela Merkel, maybe I would actually have something to show for my six years in German other than a few curse words and a bad attitude.

What were your experiences with foreign language throughout high school?

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Taking Stock of this Semester

Hope everyone had an excellent Thanksgiving break! As we wrap up our class for the semester, I realize that we’ve explored numerous ideas relating to literacy. We’ve examined literacy through so many contexts, and now, we daringly imagine its future.

Since we don’t have any readings this week, I want to use this post to see what you guys have thought about this class, especially what concept(s) relating to literacy is/are most important to you (either in general, or for the “Future of Literacy” project). That is, when most of us become teachers, which ideas from this class will you always remember? Which ideas will influence the way you teach, the way you think about literacy?

To start, though I don’t plan on becoming a teacher, I think Brandt’s ideas on sponsorship of literacy and the way we learn to write in the twentieth century are particularly valuable to keep in the back of our mind. I definitely buy her idea that literacy sponsorship may be inherently good, but it may also have a darker side, the “withholding literacy” aspect. Furthermore, the idea that literate ability is the ability to position ourselves in literacy’s emergent and recessive forms strikes at the future of literacy and how we place ourselves in literacy’s ever-changing nature.

So what do you guys think? What’s the most influential literacy-related idea to you?

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Can Kindles and Books Coexist?

Recently I attended a lecture by Anne Patchett at the Carnegie Music Hall. She’s an author and seems to be a pretty good one, although I’ve never actually read any of her stuff. She seems like a wonderfully down to earth lady with a great respect for reading and books, and she’s been popping up in the news lately for opening a tiny bookstore in Nashville. She was shocked to see how much attention she’s been getting. http://www.npr.org/2011/11/16/142413792/ann-patchett-opens-parnassus-books-in-nashville

But that’s not the entire point. In her lecture she spoke about trying to bring back the book and the importance of tiny bookstores with staff who can actually recommend things, instead the online marketers such as Amazon who cannot. She also discussed how she doesn’t use e-readers (i.e. Kindles), but her husband does. Interestingly enough, she also mentioned how much MORE he reads now because of the convenience of the Kindle.

This kind of relates to our Future of Literacy projects as Kindles are beginning to catch on a whole lot. What do you guys think about them, and how do you think books are going to hold up against Kindles? What are the pros and cons?

Hope you all had great Thanksgiving breaks and didn’t get trampled in the Black Friday craziness.


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Thanksgiving Literacy

Between the Thanksgiving holiday and the wedding that I attended, this long weekend’s activities have really prodded me into thinking about culture and cultural literacy. Most of us I am sure have been celebrating Thanksgiving through our whole lives, so we do not necessarily pay attention to all of the small things that go into the holiday, but after taking in all of the deconstructionist thinking that we have considered this semester, I found myself really looking twice at every little event.  From the ritualized turkey eating to the traditional turkey bowl football game, my family has a strict pattern of Thanksgiving activities that we adhere to year after year, knowledge of which to my thinking constitutes a kind of literacy.  Does anyone else agree? Can something so specific and small scale be looked at as a literacy?

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Laughable intellectual endeavors


I found this book at the library and absolutely HAD to check it out to see what this woman was saying. First, peep the book:

“Losing Our Language: How Multicultural Classroom Instruction Is Undermining Our Children’s Ability to Read, Write, and Reason”

Maybe you can see the attraction here. I basically checked out the book with the sole purpose of reading parts of it, (as a student reading for pleasure only produces guilt in me, as I know I should be slaving through the original Don Quijote,) cultivating a strong dislike for Sandra Stotsky, and walking away from the experience even more certain that the anti-multiculturalism movement is still alive and well. And, basically, that has been the experience.

Stotsky’s basic hypothesis is that classics have been switched out for “simplistic tales that fail to develop our children’s ability to read, write, or think”. So ideally the traditional Anansi stories of west Africa, tales of contact between Europeans and indigenous populations like “I Heard the Owl Call My Name”, and Afrocentric kids books like “I Love My Hair!” would all be eliminated in the name of better educating children.

Is this lady serious?

She also asserts that “in an effort to incorporate more ethnically varied readings into children’s textbooks and raise minority students’ “self-esteem” basal readers have been systematically “dumbed down””. Totally, Sandra! Making traditionally marginalized kids feel comfortable in their learning environment? WHAT A DUMB IDEA!

Thoughts? Just wanted to share this treasure that will be available at the Carnegie Library as soon as I return it … which will indeed be soon.

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Making a list.. and checking it twice, thrice, etc

Hello all! So we all know what is upon us.. By this time next week, we will have hit Black Thursday and Cyber Monday… Not long after that we are going to be close to Christmas. This weekend I surfed the internet and *gasp* read paper ads to find the deals I’d be looking for. No, I’m not going to be there at 5 AM (Actually, I hear they are open at 10:00 PM now!!!), but I do like to find things that’ll save me some money! Those little things for $5 that are usually $10-$15. While talking to my cousin, apparently kids will now just google things, print out pictures, and that is their Christmas list! Imagine how easy it would have been for our parents to attach a link to the item we desired!

Now I remember having drafts 1-439 of my Christmas list, to get it just right! With the advances in technology, we see kids are able to type theirs up! Also, any item they want is just a quick search away! Although I can’t say it surprises me, it is intriguing to see how much we have gotten away from writing.

What about you guys? Do you type things you want? How do you find those sales? Does anyone use paper ads anymore? Do you have little brothers or sisters making Christmas lists? How are they doing it?

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B-N Kre8v w/ wordz

This is a little revealing, but it’s for the sake of academic discourse, so I’ll make the sacrifice. Also, I am including pictures because they make posts so much more fun!

My roommate and I are both great social observers who really enjoy people-watching. I’ve always enjoyed deconstructing the specimens of my observations, performing a sort of character study of complete strangers; what does the way that guy walks say about him? What’s the intention of his gaze? Why did he chose to wear what he’s wearing?

what does T.I.’s self-presentation say about him? [sidebar: this is an google image search result of “swag”, I personally don’t like T.I.]


What I come up with is arbitrarily founded, based off of deeply embedded cultural and personal values that I may not even be actively aware of, (or that I am fully aware of, such as my inexplicable and supernaturally strong aversion to Toms shoes.)

I hate these.


When time or circumstances don’t permit for real people-watching, the internet substitutes beautifully. Facebook is a fail-proof resource for surveying human behavior. People chose what and how much they want to put online, and whatever gobs of information are available we thus consume and process. You realize patterns and trends, mold images of who you believe the person in question is or wants to be– it can get highly scientific.

Now I know this just sounds like two bitchy girls judging up a storm via the magical internet, but it’s really not as convoluted as it comes across. It’s an act free of malice, it truly only serves entertainment purposes. Though appearances obviously interfere with any evaluation one makes, typically our commentary has very little to do with one’s looks or where their clothes are from.

There are, of course, exceptions.

What we have found more interesting is peoples’ choice of language on Facebook, which is commonly very similar to the much bemoaned texting vernacular. The way people chose to manipulate language has to say something about them, right? So what forces move them to do it in one way versus another? It’s important here to keep in mind too all of the reading we’ve done about language as a tool of judgement, granting power to those who use language in the culturally valued way. When I talk about observing peoples’ writing styles on social media sites I’m not devaluing them because they prefer to say “bcuz” or “cuz” or “bc” (though I invariably read the last one as “birth control” every time.) I’m just asking why they chose to do that? When a writer shapes his language he does it with the purpose of illustrating something important to them; consider Rigoberta Menchú and the fractured Spanish with which she wrote Me llamo Rigoberta Menchú just three years after learning the language (which consequently won her the Nobel Peace Prize.) Similarly the way we as every day people create and fashion words reflects upon us!

Rigoberta Menchú Tumhttp://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1992/tum-bio.html
(she’s awesome)

But this is Facebook we’re talking about, not anything that’s getting any where near Oprah’s Book Club or high school required reading lists. N rytin like dis duznt seem 2 make n-e thing e-zr. (Kind of makes me think of the activity we did with Ms. Carpenter from the literacy council.) So why do people do it? If not for literary reasons, why would someone complicate language? Is this an act of creation, or one of bastardization? Is this reminiscent of e.e. cummings’ linguistic risk-taking or is it something much less valorous?

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Will Santa Survive??

Hello All!

I hope each of you have had an enjoyable weekend! With an event list which included the 5th Anual Whiskey Festival at Heinz Field, a trip to the casino, and a productive trip to the mall…mine was definitely a success!

Speaking of which, while I was at the mall (Ross Park, of course!), and as I was eating at the food court (Sakio Japan – Chicken Teryiaki, of course!) I couldn’t help but gaze down and watch the many families waiting in the winding line to see Santa! As I did so, I began to link this traditional childhood experience to our discussions on literacy and the technological advancements it has made.

When I was a kid (believing age), finding myself teetering on the existence of Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, etc. — I didn’t have any way of discovering the truth other than asking my parents, older siblings or classmates flat-out.  But now-a-days, a lovely little lady named Siri has entered the scene, as well as, of course, the endless infinities of the internet, allowing children the ability to (like I did)…FLAT OUT ask: “Is Santa Claus real???”  This time, however, they are typing the question, not asking it verbally. And this time, their parent aren’t continuing the fib.

But what does Siri answer? Does anyone of a I-Phone 4s?

But more importantly, with these advancements in literacy…what do you think? Is there any way that Santa will ever survive? It sure would be a sad world without him!

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