The Way Literacy Lives really said some things to me about the ability to read being as much a social activity as it is a personal one. The inmates who cannot read trade items with others so that they have access to communication and opportunities through the written word. If we look at the ability to read as something so necessary that people find resourceful ways to make it happen, then shouldn’t it be taught that way in our schools? As a survival skill that, as the final pages in our reading suggest, may take us places or open doors for us that cannot be even conceived of right now in our tiny little minds. Yet we think we are going to say what our written language should be used for by testing its mastery using only criteria or applications we think are important or necessary.
Thinking about it in this way is scary because we are essentially losing part of what makes our literacy relevant a bit at a time and until we lose it all and suddenly need it or want it back, the sand continues to slip from the hourglass. There will always be those resourceful enough to make the best of any situation, but how can you be clever when there is no material from which to create your solution? This reminds me of the section in the Brandt reading about sponsorship and how it comes in a form that is not always obviously labeled as sponsorship. Help of any kind that elevates you above the station or position you are in would be sponsorship. Could what the state does to our children and their literacy be considered sponsorship? I think that they think it is, but truly when you do not open up the field of opportunity and instead you narrow it down into a pinprick of a pathway that is actually constraining the choices offered to anyone. So only the people who are already in the top echelon are going to have the fortitude to make it through this narrow passageway of growth.
It is strange when you really consider the fact that reading, writing, and literacy in general are offered to anyone freely-now not everyone is in a circumstance where it is convenient or feasible, but it is still really free to us all. I have so many students who turn their backs on this gift that I am sometimes almost begging them to take advantage of and at the same time there are people that really need it and really want these things, but the goal is unattainable for them. Such a slap in the face, and by the tie some of my students try to really take advantage of an education it will only have gotten harder and harder to succeed as life continues to build up around them.
As a teacher and simply as a human being I need to try and be a sponsor for literacy by relinquishing control over all of the information for myself and sharing in with those who want to partake of it. Being more aware that being a sponsor is something that is largely unconscious explains why it is still such a struggle for some people when available resources are right in their midst. The people holding the resources for literacy are more accurately withholding the resources for literacy. I think that the quote in the Carter book about there being violence in literacy that no one told him about is so powerful and so true when you think about what we could be doing for one another and we are not.
Mike Brown 11-15
Who is a basic writer? Is the term simply based on criteria set by a higher learning institution? In formulating her own opinion of basic writing, Shannon Carter offers, "Since the very beginning, basic writing has been an activity system charged with fixing 'deficient,' 'deviant,' or otherwise 'broken' writers… (25). The label that is placed on a basic writer is a consequence of many different rationalizations. One method that places the basic writer label on a person is a result of the assessment and placement given to students. An incoming freshman will take a college entrance exam in order to be placed in certain levels of a class based on the test score he or she makes. Even though this test is just a onetime examination, actually a snapshot of the student's overall writing abilities, the assessment has a lot of weight not only in the student's immediate future, but also his or her overall college career. If the student takes the assessment and scores below a prescribed minimum score, then the student is eventually going to be tagged with the label of a basic writer. In chapter one, Carter discusses assessments in different contexts. One topic is teaching to the test. I have heard this phrase throughout my college career. I place the blame for this teaching method solely at the feet (solely…at the feet) of the Texas legislature. Once the state set standards for teachers to ensure their students meet and exceed, the stage was set for this teaching SNAFU. Once the government started dictating to teachers how to teach their students, the outcome was set: teachers and students became frustrated, and test scores remained low. In chapter 2, Carter discusses various assumptions about literacy and basic writing such as "literacy is a fundamental prerequisite for individual progress," "Literacy education is equally accessible and relevant to all who want it," and "Literacy has constant value." These assumptions "continue to guide our work with basic writers." In chapter 3, Carter changes the discussion to Ana, an emigrant from Mexico who is blind. The story presented illustrates her experiences with literacy education and the inequities that were and are still present.
15 November 2011
The forces that shape our literacy learning and practices… “people do not become literate on their own; rather literacy is sponsored by people, institutions, and circumstances that both make it possible for a person to become literate and shape the way the person actually acquires literacy” (Brandt 331).
I think Brandt put it best when she writes how “patterns of sponsorship [are linked] to patterns of stratification, competition an reappropriation” (348). The sponsors of literacy have the power to control the dimensions and dynamics of their community of practice. Whether it is a video game company infusing cyberliteracy into a gang of gamers or a mother reappropriating the monetary dynamics of her household, sponsors of all forms manipulate literacy to enhance their own being. Is this a bad thing? I do not think so. If a person learns a new literacy from a sponsor, and they try it out, it is up to the person whether or not to continue applying this literacy to their life. This new literacy can replace old literacies.
For instance, I have this lab student who produces some excellent responses. Many times, I ignore the administrative prompt and I tell the students to freetype whatever is on their mind. This student wrote a page and a half of text describing a football game. As feedback, I told him he should consider being a sports journalist. After class, he asked if this was something he really could do. I felt he had a fine grasp of the literacies of writing and sports. The combination of those literacies seemed to, as Carter attunes, liberate his being into something far removed from just being a struggling freshman at Del Mar. I try to explain this to all students, but there are a spattering of students that utilize a literacy they enjoy with the cross-literacy of writing with style and comprehension. These are the students that will not be stratified by a sponsor, but instead will form their own place within society that enables them to have a happy existence on this planet. Their “private sphere and consciousness” will not be effected by the stratifying concepts of literacy sponsors spew.
The master narrative has much to say about the American Dream. I may have appropriated the sportswriter literacy to the student, but that is because I understand the not-so-subtle master narrative of United States culture. It is the almighty dollar literacy that flows through veins of all entities, animate and inanimate (still animate as a literacy) that exists under the sponsorship of the United States. The United States government as a sponsor is both explicit and latent. Brandt writes, “…it also explains why the powerful work so persistently to conscript and ration the powers of literacy” (336). Reading Brandt makes me wonder about the raising of standards in the new STARS assessment exam. The powers or sponsor seem to be attempting to raise the standards of living in a society. Yes, the standards may raise the literacy level of students, but it also creates a larger divide between those who do not have the access to resources that would help them achieve these new literacy standards. Literacies are never static and always changing to accommodate the desires of power structures.
As an aside: Since this literacy design can be applied to any community of practice, the different literacies between creative writing and technical or academic writing has been a major barrier for me to overcome. I am used to the freestyle ways of creative writing where there are no strict rules for the use of language. The other literacy of proper academic writing constrains my hand and mind.
end of ed's response