Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Roberta's Idea's About Literacy

Having a more expansive view of literacy is where I find myself after reading Smith, Ohm, etc. Expansive in the sense that literacy is still "reading and writing," but now, like with any examination of literature, my ability to read and write well depends on context. That is, in order for me to be "literate," it makes sense for me to consider, like Gee's thoughts on primary and secondary discourses, where I am, what context my reading and writing occurs, and how best to read and write within those constraints.

An example of this comes from an experience I had last term with one of my students. This was a second semester, adult freshman who was a productive member of her world: she had a job; she had children; she drove a car. These are not intended to be the only criteria for being productive, but I think you get the picture. She landed in my English class, and we discovered immediately that she had major reading comprehension issues and, as for writing, she lacked even the most basic mechanical skills. It was clear when she spoke, however, that she understood and could analyze the material if it was presented to her orally. As a result of this revelation, she dropped my class and enrolled in some community "literacy" courses. At that time, I was sure she would be seeking help with reading (first) and writing (second). After reconsidering how I define literacy, I've come to think that this student was illiterate by Gee's definition; that is, she was unable to control secondary discourses (the college classroom), but she was fully capable of managing her primary and dominant secondary discourses.

After working on my doctorate for a little under two weeks, the previous paragraphs remind me of an experience I had as an undergrad: I audited a Theories of Personality class at another university. The professor constructed the course in a curious way: he presented Freud's theories first and, as a group, we were convinced that we all were Freudians at the end of the unit. Soon after, we finished a unit on Jung, and we were all Jungians. This leads me to believe that I might have an even more expansive view of literacy when I study more theories and sort them. Perhaps, too, I'll develop my own original theories on literacy (which is my goal, right?).

1 comment:

Beth W. said...

Thanks for providing the excellent real-life example from your course. It's amazing to see how there can be a barrier between primary and secondary discourse. This is why it's so wonderful to have the practical experiences to clarify the theories (and vice versa).