Basic Writing Journal 13
Shannon Carter's The Way Literacy Lives chapter four, “The Way Literacy Stratifies” discusses ways in which universities have stratified their basic writing programs. Carter's opening quote from Mary Soliday claims that “the primary function of basic writing in the institution now and always has been to serve the needs of the institution as much as it is to serve the needs of the students” (61). Bam! The universities that teach basic writing courses have worked to put students that come from a lower socio-economic status in remedial courses. It is especially prevalent in Texas, where standardized testing has flourished. Here at TAMUCC we have a diverse population of students and many of them are first generation college students. They may be traditional in the sense that they are 18 and just graduating from high school but otherwise many of them (at least 10 in my 2 composition classes) are english as a second language, which marks them immediately as non-traditional. Though Texas chose to “maintain standards and provide remediation” (62) but they have not helped to uplift these non-traditional students, only to make them feel worse about being “underprepared” for college. No one comes to college prepared, if one knew what to expect in college then they would already have their degrees. Ana and Mike are used as case studies throughout, but the focus shifts away from the violence of literacy to it's stratification. Carter taught Ana, a blind Mexican student in her college course and attempts to empower all of her students via Paulo Freire's pedagogical studies. Freire's Pedagogy of the City expresses both Ana's and Carter's attempt at liberatory literacy, Ana may fight for changes within her discourse communities and others as well. Her blindness did not cripple her, she fought for every step of her literacy and may change it for others with disabilities as well. At least I believe that is what Carter was going for in her pedagogical approach. Mike was a golfer, a very good golfer, but he had never had a lesson but he read about it. That is how he developed his literacy in golf. Micheal Smith and Jeffrey Wilhelm discuss the gender gap in learning literacy in it's various forms. Their study revealed that the four boys preferred and were more passionate about their extracurricular activities rather than the utter boredom expressed in their school writing. That doesn't really surprise me, most people- regardless of gender- prefer their out extracurricular activities to school work. Carol Severino found similar results when she addressed the gap between home literacies and school literacy expectations Marilyn Marina is discussed in this chapter and in chapter 5. Marina discusses types of knowledge that students bring to the table that universities, not even the students', consider real knowledge. This type of knowledge is the one I believe in, social construction. Students will bring a wealth of knowledge about various things, it is just that the academy does not view it as usable knowledge or even as something they can work with. Instead the academy and the students discount their unnamed knowledge because neither believes it to be useful, despite it's daily use. Facebook and Twitter all develop writing and literacy but they are in the lowest rungs on the academic ladder. Basic writing is barely a rung above them. This remedial placement ignores all prior knowledge and assumes that students do not even know how to construct a sentence even though they text every day. In order for students to grow and learn, we must encourage them to question what they are being asked to learn and the methods in which they learn it. Carter claims that “rhetorical dexterity asks them to do both, but to function on the social function of language rather than individual learning strategies as they do” (66). Carter discusses discourse communities and James Gee alongside Mike Rose, Deborah Brandt and Cynthia Selfe. I like Carter's use of Eric and his growing digital literacy, it really shows how technology developed into it's own discourse community. The “real time strategy game” seem to really develop the ability to multi-task but is that transferable to the classroom? I liked that in “The Way Literacy (Re)Produces” Carter mentions the Online Writing Lab (OWL) that I tell my own students about all the time. I have shown them how and where to find and use it via google and my wiki page. The OWL has been so helpful to me as well since I am also a student. I have the MLA manual but it is much easier to just look a question up online real quick over examining the contents and flipping around reading through. With OWL you can point and click, it's so easy. It's hard to consider something as digital literacy until you encounter someone that doesn't have the literacy that you are utilizing. A newcomer to the discourse community that has not been able to develop his “mushfake” or enculturate yet. This book really showed me how contested, controversial and important literacy is in all of it's forms.