Extracurriculum of Composition

Like my classmates, I am also interested in what I read for the Gere article, The Extracurriculum of Composition. I am taking note at when Gere talks about the history of the acceptable composition that we accept today. I found it interesting that the “extracurriculum” was a nonacademic tradition that led to the development of English studies.

So outside of the classroom, college studies were participating in these clubs that actually enhanced their composition and ultimately their literacy. This brings me to the idea of sponsorship and schooling that we have talked about before. What should you value more, the traditional setting of learning in the classroom or the extracurriculum activities that also enhance composition and literacy? Or are they equally important in developing into a literate person? Why?

Extracurriculum of Composition… Does it still Exist?

I’m particularly interested in the extracurricular writing groups. I read Mints post on this where the question posed was “Do writing groups exist?”. I myself have not had much exposure to writing groups per say. Maybe it is due to my ignorance, but I don’t recall even hearing about writing groups at the University of Pittsburgh that focus on writing for fun. The Gere article as initially written in 1992 and then revised and re-released in 1994 if I am correct. I am interested anyone is or has participated in a writing group? If not, has there been a disappearance of writing groups that Gere discussed?

In response to the disappearance of writing groups, I have my own hypothesis. I wonder if the rise of the internet and social media could be a cause for the disappearance of these organized extracurricular writing groups. We live in a society were it is very easy to go online and write anything you want on any number of forums. Social media is on of those forums, although the writing on social media is usually much less constructive. Also on the internet anyone can critique anyone else regardless of their background or qualifications. So in some ways there might not be so much of a disappearance of extracurricular writing such as a shift to less formalized groups. I think this can be seen as both a good thing and a bad thing. A good thing because more people can participate in easier ways but also a bad thing because writing on the internet usually receives less constructive criticism from qualified peers.

Do you think that extracurricular writing groups have disappeared and if so why?

Are there really writing groups?

In the Gere article, she describes the Tenderloin Women’s Writing Workshop, and Lansing, Iowa Writers Workshop in which they are groups of people of the community coming together to develop their writing with the help of each other. While reading this article I questioned her when she said that these groups are just a “tiny portion of the enormous number of individuals” that take part in groups like these (76). If this is such a large population of people how have I never heard of these groups? Have you heard of any? Gere claims a major reason we don’t know of these groups is because our history focuses on classroom literacy rather than outside the classroom walls. Do you agree with her points?

Along with this, I know at least ten book clubs, and zero writing clubs. Writing clubs does not even sound right to me. Why do you think that reading is able to be sociable while writing is personal? Would you want to share your writing in these clubs?

Feedback: Yay or Nay?

In both of this week’s readings we learned about women’s writing communities and informal education. In Anne Ruggles Gere’s  “Kitchen Tables and Rented Rooms: The Extracurriculum of Composition” the female writers in these roundtable groups speak of the impact coming together to write has had on their lives. As adults many reported of the importance of feedback and sharing their work. “You gotta get rejected and get applause.” (77) says one of the women, and this brings me to my question is feedback apart of the beauty of writing and reading (e.g. literacy)? 

I ask this question because as an aspiring writing teacher I am always looking for new ways to hopefully engage students in writing and reading. I know that composition can be a therapeutic outlet for students but in my experience it is hard to get my students to notice that themselves. So if communal feedback is an engaging part of read/written literacy I want to infuse peer feedback into my everyday lessons.

How do we create an environment that fosters for healthy bilingual and multicultural growth?

What I got from the Viera paper, last week’s discussion, and my personal experiences is that it is so hard for immigrants to come to this country and maintain their background successfully. The South Hills Azorean community talked about how the immigrants had a very hard time balancing their language skills in their native tongue and English.

I had a very similar experience but it also impacted my cultural roots. My brother and I have grown very distant because it feels like America has such a strong sense of its culture that it overpowers immigrants. Not only that, but many parts of America have a hard time embracing all cultural traditions and being open to all experiences. For example, growing up Kwanzaa was always mentioned as somewhat of a joke and “not a real holiday” as opposed to Christmas. We celebrated Christmas Break, not Hannukah or Kwanzaa or even a Holiday Break. There are certain “American Traditions” that are valued over the others and that makes it hard for an immigrant to blend in their culture into what they thought was the “Melting Pot of America”.

So how do we create an environment that fosters for healthy bilingual and multicultural growth?

Problems with Cultural Assimilation – Can We Fix Them?

Our class discussion on Thursday revolved around how people of different socioeconomic backgrounds potentially may be lacking in literacy for several reasons, such as motivational factors, home and or work distractions, and potentially who their sponsors of literacy are. For the readings, they discussed a different outlook on why reading levels might be low, and the answer to that is a problem with cultural assimilation.

Based on the readings, and your thoughts on cultural assimilation, immigration, etc., do you believe that immigrants and minorities should conform to already established customs and attitudes that have set the bar for the importance of literacy? Or do you think we should take a pluralist approach, meaning that our nation should be open to different ethnic, religious, and cultural groups to exercise their individuality and help strengthen the ever-evolving definition of literacy so that no one is illiterate? In other words, should those who come into the USA be forced to become like “us,” or should we strive to broaden the meaning of what it is to be a literate American citizen to something more? What dangers do you foresee if we were to remain very by the book or if we were to take more of a pluralist approach?

Changes in Literacy Statistics in America

In class on Thursday, Professor Vee gave us a sheet that covered some statistics on literacy in 1992 and again in 2003. We discussed some things about how the percentage of people in the “below basic” literacy rating decreased, but the percentage of people in the “proficient” literacy rating also decreased. The number of people classified as “intermediate” increased.

What do you think is a potential cause of this trend and what is one solution you think would help that problem?

For example, access to public education for all students would explain the lower amounts of below basic ratings, but the standardized curriculum could also cause lower ratings of proficient literacy. To resolve this problem, perhaps vary the curriculum in schools and focus them on what main literacy standards are expected nationwide.

Fragmented Assimilation

In Kate Vieira’s article, “American By Paper,” she describes a concept that she calls “fragmented assimilation.”  Unlike the usual use of the word assimilation, fragmented assimilation accounts for the dynamic, changing environment and multicultural atmosphere that immigrants enter and assimilate into.  It also centers assimilation on the ways that immigrants use biliteracy to “assimilate partially to multiple host communities that are themselves being transformed by the writing of new immigrants” (Vieira 52).  Do you think that this concept of fragmented assimilation is useful for destabilizing the racist connotation of assimilation?  What is working and what could be better about the concept of fragmented assimilation?

Literacy Ambassadors

In class Thursday, we discussed different communities, and whether it was right to impose different views of literacy upon them, even in attempts to educate. In our reading by Vieira for this week, the relationship between immigration and literacy was discussed. In many of the cases, literacy and bureaucratic measures made it difficult for immigrants to become citizens and help their families immigrate with them. In a few unfortunate circumstances, their misfortunes were abused by others who took advantage of their expired visas or imperfect English.

While outside resources to improve their English and navigate the government bureaucracy would be helpful, there are some potential conflicts. As we discussed Thursday, even good intentions might have negative results on a community’s identity, self-esteem, and culture.

Would it be appropriate to interfere in this situation? Would a hypothetical literacy ambassador be well-received, or would they be seen as an agent of colonization? Does the identity of the ambassador impact the situation, and who would be likely to be well-received, and who might be rejected by the community?

Is the beauty of reading lost?

On an average day I write about three-five emails. Before I go to bed I read the shortened headline articles on Buzzfeed. Due to so many long assigned readings from just about every course I must admit that I have developed impeccable ‘skimming’ skills. All of my daily activities coincide with the “literacy shift” (3) that Brandt talks about in our reading. I do agree that lately I (alongside many of my peers) am more preoccupied with writing than I am reading. I think it speaks volumes that I choose to read articles from Buzzfeed because they are so short and get to the point. Those emails I write are also simple ways of me just getting across direct messages to my co-workers and professors. Looking back I skim each article just enough to get the gist of the thesis. Every time I sit down to read or write my goal is to be as direct, concise, and quick as I can be. My question however is similar to a question Brandt poses, today is the beauty of reading lost?