You are on page 1of 5

Matthew Price

Professor Cassandra Blandford


UWRT 1103
12 September 2015

Literacy Memoir
Its hard to remember back to a time when reading was not an option and I was unable to
read even small words. Some of my earliest memories involve me reading basic things like labels
on household products or very small phrases like Happy Birthday Matt on birthday cakes. My
personal experience with literacy and with reading and writing started amazingly and has coasted
downhill for a long time. From a young age I liked to read books that interested me at that age
such as the Magic Tree House series, A to Z mysteries and many others. As I grew older, the
books I read varied and Magic Tree House turned into Harry Potter and other larger books
because as my vocabulary and understanding of rhetoric grew, the more I wanted to experience
it.
In the United States of America, children are taught in very early years of schooling how
to read and write and comprehend the pieces of information that they are taking in. There are
special products advertised on television that market specifically to new parents that claim to
help their child read and write at younger and younger ages. To take a step back and look at the
emphasis placed on literacy and the ability to understand things is astounding. Anywhere you go
in the United States of America you are forced to read and comprehend what the words are
telling you whether its ordering food at a restaurant or reading a sign on the side of the road
warning about speed limit or new construction. I cannot imagine what it would be like to live in
1

the United States of America, or for that matter anywhere, without the ability to read and
understand the point that the words are trying to make.
But the reality is that there are a vast number of people all around the world, even in
America, that cannot read or write even in very basic ways. In certain countries around the world
reading and writing is not a part of daily life because of an oral communication method or
because it simply is not a part of their culture. In those countries, little to no value is placed on
the ability to read and write because it is perceived as a useless skill compared to others that help
them succeed in their day-to-day lives, especially when they are struggling to find food.
However here in the United States of America, there are those who cannot read because they are
not offered the same opportunities as others have been. Alexie Sherman speaks of life in a Native
American reservation and how classmates and peers refused to learn because of the
circumstances that came along with knowledge. They were expected to be illiterate, so they sank
themselves down to that expectation and cheated themselves out of valuable life skills.
As unfortunate as this is perceived to be, I truly believe that someones required level
of literacy depends entirely on the culture of the individual. Some cultures do not need the ability
to read and write because they simply dont use it on their day to day basis. Furthermore I
believe that here in the United States of America there is a disproportionate amount of emphasis
placed on classes that teach reading and writing literacy. I think that public school systems along
with college admittance requirements should not require all of the English classes and language
arts classes that they require throughout the many years of schooling that the student must
undergo. The constant scrutiny that the student has to undergo with their diction, use of rhetorical
devices, proper grammar and more can dullen the students desire to learn and to write, such as
what happened in experience as a student. When a student is forced to adhere to such strict rules
2

of writing, then no matter how interesting the topic of the essay or assignment is, the students
desire to write about it will diminish over time.
In my own personal experience I have seen this happen with classmates and myself as we
went further in our educations. From standardized testing and writing assignments on the EOGs
and EOCs all the way through the SATs and ACTs, there has been a dramatic change. In
elementary school, writing was limited to rare occasions in class and the EOGs, and I enjoyed
writing far more and it felt easier to write long essays about topics provided because the rules
werent as strict and we wrote what we felt. Then as middle school and high school came the
amount of writing and testing increased exponentially so that now we had to use rhetorical
devices and our creativity was limited. Eventually it was time to take the SATs and creativity hit
a low point, as I remember asking around me after the test was over what other people wrote for
the writing prompt and realizing that everyone in the room wrote almost the exact same thing.
And as my final English class in high school arrived, I realized that only a select few in
the classroom were even remotely excited to be there while the vast majority of the class
including myself and to a certain point my teacher also didnt want to be there. What was once
an education filled with interesting and engaging writing prompts had transformed into class
after class of busy work that never seemed to end. The busy work seemed to be the worst of the
educational experience because of all of the extra work that we were doing with no real purpose
or educational value. This work created a disconnect between the students and the instructors that
handed it out. Without the engagement of the students, there is no incentive to learn and better
themselves as writers.
That being said, a basic level of education and literacy is required to be a productive
member of todays technology based society and culture because of the high amounts of reading
3

and writing comprehension required to do just about anything involved in day to day activities.
Especially today, cell phones are a large part of society and take a high level of literacy to use
with almost every aspect of them involving reading what something does or interacting with
people among the infinite other things that you can do with cell phones. Computers also play a
huge role in todays society with everything from emails to the typing up of literary assignments
and checking assignments and grades online, its essential to read and understand what it is that
is being assigned. Even without the technological literacies that are required, people must be able
to read and write for recreational activities as well as professional duties. In order to even get
food from the grocery store, you must be able to read what exactly it is that you happen to be
buying. All of these however, require other literacies than just simply reading or writing alone,
but these literacies are built from the foundation formed by the basic skills of reading and
writing.
We take these basic reading and writing skills and transfer them into other skills and
types of literacies. For example, we take the skill of reading and we go to Taco Bell and order
tasty tacos off the menu and this forms a new literacy. We also take basic skills and communicate
with one another online to form a new literacy that helps bring people together from all over the
country and world.
Looking at the discussion posts that weve done since beginning this course there is
definitely a variance of opinions about writing in particular. Some have had great experiences
where teachers have found unique ways of making things personal to the students and made
writing fun for them. But there is also a group that grew more disinterested as time went on in
high school because things were not personal to the students so they didnt feel as attached to
what it was that they were writing. This is definitely the group that I would fall into, as writing is
4

currently still a struggle. But this variance in opinions is great because it helps form a new
literacy for people, and thats the ability to add others experiences to their own to add to an
understanding of why they themselves dont necessarily enjoy writing but another student does.
This literacy can and will help people identify why they arent as successful at a certain endeavor
and isolate the factors as to why they arent. For example, if someone doesnt like writing and is
struggling with writing, the general consensus is to make that writing more personal to the
person writing whatever it is that they have to write. And this can be applied to various other
literacies throughout ones life.