Basic Writing Journal 12
Deborah Brandts “Sponsors of Literacy” article brings new insight into the field of literacy because prior to this article it would seem that “previous research focused on the development of literacies in individuals, ignoring outside agents” (333). These outside agents are actually what provide functioning illiterates (and in a few instances literate) people information they need for understanding the world. Carter points out that illiterates are not as badly off as Barbara Bush and others would have you think. They learn ways around not reading, using tactics that literate people may use as well. Simply asking someone what a sign says or for bus stop information, literates and non-literate people alike do this. It's just easier. Brandt's article highlights the use of such individuals, cultural practices, ideologies and institutions all lend to literacy. There are many forms of literacy today, digital (gaming, programming, web design, and others), along with musical literacy and various other forms of literacy with specialized jargon based on what discourse communities you participate in. People with access to these literacy sponsors are often from a higher socioeconomic background- this can include race and class and even gender. Those with access to literacy sponsors benefit, however I believe that Carter is explaining that literacy sponsors are all around us all the time. We just have to be able to ask for help.
Carter utilized three separate theories to frame her arguments about literacy, the New Literacy Studies (NLS), activity theory first proposed by Vygotzky and adjusted to apply to literacy by David Russell, and critical theory which analyzes the theorist, the theory, and critics and advocates for whatever you may be analyzing (Carter 16). Carter wants to emphasise the importance of rhetorical dexterity in her book and gives this definition for it, “rhetorical dexterity attempts to develop in writers the ability to negotiate the school literacies celebrated in the current social order in ways that are as ethical and meta-aware as possible” (18). Carter also provides the A&M- Commerce definition of a basic writer, “those who have failed either the “reading” or “writing” portions of the state-mandated, “objective” test THEA, formerly the TASP (11).