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Ira David Socol Michigan State University
Literacy (as) Tyranny
Ira David Socol is a doctoral candidate, Research and Teaching Assistant and Special Education Technology Scholar in the College of Education at Michigan State University. His primary research interests include Universal Design Technology and the sociocultural intersection of technology, education, and understandings of disability. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in technology implementation in general education classrooms, and presents globally on technology and education. Ira’s previous experiences include training in art and architecture, service as a member of the New York City Police Department; work in computer networking in schools and universities, a brief stint in journalism, and many other professions. He is the author of one short story collection, A Certain Place of Dreams, and one novel-in-stories, The Drool Room. He blogs at http://speedchange.blogspot.com Approaching education from a post-modern, and post-colonial perspective, and as someone who struggled in his K-12 and university experiences, Ira tries to bring a student-centered focus to his research and teaching, believing that our goal is to create access to opportunity, and to allow students to find the path to that opportunity which is appropriate for themselves.
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Abstract Is the way we teach literacy in schools, and the technologies we choose for literacy, imperialist in nature? Using a form of post-colonial literary analysis, and a writing form designed in itself to challenge our “universal” assumptions of literacy, this research seeks to broach the subject of whether our commitment to literacy, and “print-literacy” (or “print-like literacy”) is designed to liberate students or to force them into in to narrowly defined compliant roles. The investigation uses a broad spectrum of sources – from literature, educational research, history, and media to pull apart the essential links between literacy, technology, and concepts of colonialism.
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11. Theft and Lies This paper has eleven parts. Each has been assigned a prime number, though the numbers are in no discernible order. In doing this I have stolen ideas from both The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon1 and Producing Erotic Children by James Kincaid, which is Chapter Thirteen of The Children’s Culture Reader (Jenkins, 1998).2 Although in both cases, those authors’ decision to persist in a similar scheme may have rationales different from mine. There also might be a bit of theft from Dave Egger’s A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius3 – at least in the sense of an overweight introduction. Kincaid’s eleven parts are described as, while not “carry[ing] the same importance; nonetheless, they are exactly symmetrical and harmonious.” And his eleven parts do not include his description of the eleven parts – which is set apart as an introduction – as in A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. But I will not do that. The “Introduction” or “Preface” or whatever you choose to call this, is a literary device which attempts to suggest that the entirety of a text is not equally important to the understanding of that text. This is not just a surprising position for any author to take; it is a normative literary convention which seems to demand some kind of investigation. By citing both works of fiction and academic articles in an academic article, and using them in the same way, I am actually threatening certain potential readers and the world view that they bring to reading – just as I did at the beginning by using the words “theft” and “lying.” This is intentional, of course. As is the initial quotation of a decidedly postmodern author. As is this sentence structure. I might have used a different number of parts from Kincaid – I deeply considered seven, with it’s undertones of magic and Vegas and Mickey Mantle, and thus, perhaps, deeper undertones of sex and alcohol, but I chose to stick with eleven. Prime numbers made sense as well. Not just for the seeming assault on our tendencies toward linearity, but also because, while they are clearly divisible – can not 151 be divided as 10x15.1? – we have been taught to see them as unique ideas – separate and indivisible, and that does seem like a lovely conceit. Eleven is the number of players on a football team, though only one is allowed to use his hands to touch the ball within the confines of play on the specified field. Though these
Haddon, M. (2002) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Doubleday. London. p. 11 Kincaid, J. (1998) Producing Erotic Children. In Jenkins, H. The Children’s Culture Reader. NYU Press, New York. p. 241 3 Eggers, D. (2001) A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Simon & Schuster. New York. p. ix Footnote Footnote: Footnotes are used in this paper alongside other citation forms, and these notes do not use citation shortening forms, rather they repeat full information. This is done to support future editing of this article or quoting from this article, or using this article as a source of the texts quoted herein. The assumption is that this will never be a completed, fixed, text, and the structure of the citations should reflect that truth,
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players are rarely, if ever, equal, they are all vitally important, they all have numbers, and they all have positions to play. In FIFA rules, three of them are also replaceable. I am thus using another literary device, a metaphor. A metaphor is a device so closely tied to culture and personal brain structure that it itself becomes a metaphor for what I am investigating in this paper. 29. I find people confusing. This is for two main reasons. The first main reason is that people do a lot of talking without using words. Siobhan says that if you raise one eyebrow it can mean a lot of different things. It can mean "I want to do sex with you" and it can also mean "I think what you just said was very stupid" Siobhan also says that if you close your mouth and breathe out loudly through your nose, it can mean that you are relaxed, or that you are bored, or that you are angry, and it all depends on how much air comes out of your nose and how fast and what shape your mouth is in when you do it and how you are sitting and what you said just before and hundreds of other things which are too complicated to work out in a few seconds. The second main reason is that people often talk using metaphors. These are examples of metaphors I laughed my socks off. He was the apple of her eye. They had a skeleton in the cupboard. We had a real pig of a day. The dog was stone dead. The word metaphor means carrying something from one place to another, and it comes from the Greek words μετα (which means from one place to another) and φερειυ (which means to carry), and it is when you describe something by using a word for something that it isn't. This means that the word metaphor is a metaphor. I think it should be called a lie because a pig is not like day and people do not have skeletons in their cupboards. And when I try to make a picture of the phrase in my head it just confuses me because imagining an apple in someone’s eye doesn’t have anything to do with liking someone a lot and it makes you forget what the person was talking about.4
Haddon, M. (2002) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Doubleday, London. pp. 14-15
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I have just used a very long quote. I have been told not to do that – that that is not “academic” writing. Instead of this long quote from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time I am supposed to write something like, “metaphors can be confusing to children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (Haddon, 2002).” This may have something to do with the idea of not “stealing” the words of others, or it may be about ego – if I wrote, “metaphors can be confusing to children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (Haddon, 2002),” then only those who knew the book would really ‘get’ the allusion. This paper is long. It is confusing. It breaks most rules of academic writing. At its heart I believe is a look at the socio-cultural constructions of literacy and the contemporary battles surrounding those constructs, from a viewpoint located deep within Postcolonial Theory. Postcolonial Theory not only doubts truth, it measures “truths” through lenses of power.5 This is important to me. Education is about power in society, and at the heart of that, a specific notion of literacy, and the power that form of literacy confers on its practitioners, is all about who will have power and who will hold power. The question of power is particularly important at moments of technological and social change. These changes bring disruption to the power structures in society, and may alter who the “winners” and “losers” are. Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Joseph Pulitzer might have had very different life trajectories had not their skills matched with a moment in time. Part of the search in this paper is for an understanding of how changes in communication technology have changed society, and as a result, how concepts of literacy, and the needed structure of literacy education, must be changed. I showed a quote from Haddon’s book to a classroom full of pre-service teachers. The quote I used also contained the name “Siobhan.” “How is this pronounced?” I asked. No one knew. “See-OHB-Han” was the most common suggestion. “So would it have been fair,” I asked, “to come in to the room, call on one random person, and demand, “What do we know about Shee-vahn’s view of disability?”’ “No,” they all mumbled. “How would anyone know how to pronounce that?” someone said. When I have coached football, if the players match up with the idea, I like to run a 3-5-2. That is, three defenders, a very flexible five-player midfield, and two strikers. It is an aggressive arrangement, and it can often be devastated by a strong counter-attack. But it’s the way I like it. There’s no reason to go out into a game trying to draw. Another metaphor. ;-)
Rizvi, F. (2005) Postcolonial Perspectives on Globalization and Education. AERA 2005 Postcolonial SIG AGM Invited Talk. http://www.aera.net/uploadedFiles/SIGs/Postcolonial_Studies_and_Education_(153)/Working %20papers(5).pdf
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1. God and Man at the College of Education “Spent much of the paper arguing against a well-respected research method.” [the negative critical comment on a negative result given to this paper’s author on a doctoral level examination by an anonymous faculty reviewer] Unexamined beliefs. Print is the primary way in which important information is communicated. Books are the foremost information technology. Who publishes a book is an important part of judging that book’s value. Education primarily occurs in educational institutions. Credentials prove knowledge. New media is more likely to be distracting than supportive of educational goals. Literacy – defined as the ability to read alphabetic text on a printed page – is the most important skill education can teach. There is a “normal” way to read. There is a “normal” way to learn to read. There is a “normal.” The god of print literacy hovers above the buildings, and the colleges of education operate on faith. The god of modernism hovers as well. As does the god of progressive history. It is a trinity, but it is a unitary and powerful god. It is a strong and fully absorbed faith. Just as “lapsed Catholics” tend to believe even as they disagree, so do the educators accept even if they know the evidence contradicts. It is impossible to separate education from the society it is designed to reproduce. It is impossible to separate literacy from the society which has created that literacy. And thus it is natural that in most cases, the assumptions which underlie educational practice – for example, the school building, the shape of the classroom, the idea of set times for school attendance, and set ages, or, the value of reading, the value of writing, the notions of ink on paper as an information transmission system, are rarely examined. Yes, writers such as Postman and Weingartner (1969) might challenge these ideas, or an academic such as James Gee (1998) might doubt, but if these questions ever arrive in the process of teacher education they are typically found in brief mentions of ‘controversial viewpoints.’ For the most part we pursue or educational intentions as the nineteenth century British pursued empire, with a religious certainty defining our place in the world, and the place of our subjects (students).
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“In the words of Prince Albert, the Exhibition was founded on the great complementary principles of “the unity of mankind” and “the division of labor,” through which mankind approached the fulfillment of its “great and sacred mission” – the use of God-given reason to discover the laws by which the Almighty ruled creation, so that by applying them man might “conquer Nature to his use.” The purpose of the Exhibition was to “give a true test and a living picture of the point at which the whole of mankind has arrived in this great task, and a new starting point from which all nations will be able to direct their further exertions.” “The most obvious lesson of the Exhibition, however, was that in pursuing their sacred mission, not all men had advanced at the same pace, or arrived at the same point.”6 Stocking’s description of the Crystal Palace Exhibition in 1850 London might be equally descriptive of the “sacred mission” of education. We will apply the rules we perceive as given by God in order to conquer our students and convert them for our use. But the most obvious lesson we take from our observations, is that not all our students are ready or worthy.
Stocking, G. (1987) Victorian Anthropology. The Free Press. New York. p. 3 The included quote is from Albert, the Prince Consort of the United Kingdom, in a speech delivered at a banquet at the Mansion House on 21 March 1850 as recorded in Martin, Life of the Prince Consort, 3rd Edition, p. 247.
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17. Imagining Logic “In Russian, pigs go hroo, hroo. Note that these are rolled r's and the h is more of a hk sound, like when you try to build a loogie. (Don't try and pronounce the K, just flem up the H.)”7 Do pigs speak with a different accent on the broad plain extending west from the Ural Mountains than they do on the broad plain extending west from the Mississippi River? Do people with different languages hear differently? Do people with different cultural backgrounds hear differently? Is language completely arbitrary? “More bluntly, it suggests that there is no such thing as human nature independent of culture.”8 Clifford Geertz noted in 1973, “We are, in sum, incomplete or unfinished animals who complete or finish ourselves through culture – and not through culture in general but through highly particular forms of it.”9 But we are faced with a conceptual challenge in our enlightenment–oriented, modernist environment. “[T]he approaches to the definition of human nature adopted by the Enlightenment and by classical anthropology have one thing in common: they are both basically typological. They endeavor to construct an image of man as a model, an archetype, a Platonic idea or an Aristotelian form.”10 Geertz says. If we have an ideal man – an ideal form of human nature – and that form looks a great deal like “we” do, then there is little perceived benefit for us to understand that the creation of that form is simply the result of random accident. It makes “us” look at best lucky, and at worst, no better than anyone else. This terrifies. It terrifies religious fundamentalists who can not construct a world in which “proper” behavior is a choice or a random event (both in what is “proper” and in whether to conform) and thus can not accept Darwinist understanding. And it terrifies academics and educators who can not construct a world in which their superiority is the result of both superior vision and superior effort. “Modern, overloaded individuals, desperately trying to maintain rootedness and integrity...ultimately are pushed to the point where there is little reason not to believe that all value-orientations are equally well-founded. Therefore, increasingly, choice becomes meaningless. According to Baudrillard (1984: 38-9), we must now come to terms with the second revolution, “that of the Twentieth Century, of postmodernity, which is the immense process of the destruction of meaning equal to the earlier destruction of appearances. Whoever lives by meaning dies by meaning" (Ashley 1990).11
Blount, Jr., R. (2008) Alphabet Juice. from The New York Times 16 November 2008 http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/16/books/chapters/chapter-alphabet-juice.html 8 Geertz. C. (1973) The Interpretation of Cultures. Basic Books. New York. p. 49 9 Geertz. C. (1973) The Interpretation of Cultures. Basic Books. New York. p. 49 10 Geertz. C. (1973) The Interpretation of Cultures. Basic Books. New York. p. 51 11 Ashley, D. (1990) Habermas and the Project of Modernity. In Theories of Modernity and Postmodernity. Turner, B. (ed). London: SAGE
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So, if “we” are to maintain our inherent sense of superiority, and the progressive understanding of history upon which modernist education is constructed, there is little room for accident or random choice in history of our world, our society, or our language has been constructed. “We” must imagine a logic behind it. And if “we” imagine a logic behind it, “we” imagine an inherent correctness – a correctness unmatched by other cultures. Roy Blount, Jr. begins his book on language, Alphabet Juice, and his discussion of the sound a pig makes, with a counter-narrative, an imagined conversation beyond the realm of comprehension by the typical educational decision-maker. According to scholars of linguistics, the relation between a word and its meaning is arbitrary. In proof, they point to pigs. Steven Pinker, in Words and Rules, observes that pigs go oink oink in English, nøff nøff in Norwegian, and in Russian chrjo chrjo. That may look arbitrary. As if it went something like this: English committee member #1 What'll we put down for pig noise? Member #2 (whose motives are unclear) Let's name it for my uncle Oink. Member #3 No, we need to capture more of that grunh, grunh ... Weary groan arises. Member #4 In Russia ... He or she is shouted down…12 The problem is that if this concept was accepted, we could correct these ridiculous decisions – these accidents – from the past. We could argue – convincingly – that there is no reason to continue spelling through that way, or comb, or school. We could debate sentence structure and alphabet choices. We might even “prove” that media which offered multiple representations was clearer than single-form media. We would lose certainty, and in losing certainty, we would lose all of our instructional strategies for literacy. A quick look at the United States’ government’s National Institute for Literacy website13 suggests little room in the process of teaching reading for ambiguity or argument: “Research has indicated that in kindergarten, phonemic awareness can be acquired from instruction usually lasting a total of 20 hours or less, though some individual children might need more instruction to be able to segment words accurately.”
Blount, Jr., R. (2008) Alphabet Juice. from The New York Times 16 November 2008 http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/16/books/chapters/chapter-alphabet-juice.html 13 http://www.nifl.gov/partnershipforreading/questions/questions_about.html
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“Systematic and explicit phonics programs teach children letter-sound relationships directly in a well-defined sequence. Most systematic phonics programs carefully sequence phonics generalizations from least difficult to more difficult, including all major generalizations for consonants, vowels, consonant or vowel blends, and digraphs. It is important to provide instruction in the application of letter-sound knowledge to reading and writing activities along the way as letter-sounds are acquired.” “One effective indicator of reading fluency is to have a student read a passage from grade level material aloud for one minute. A score is given representing the number of words the student read correctly.” “The direct and explicit teaching of comprehension strategies helps K-3 students become active readers who are engaged in understanding written text. Teachers provide direct and explicit teaching of comprehension strategies through explanation, demonstration or modeling, guided practice, and opportunities for children to practice using comprehension strategies when reading grade-appropriate children's text.” “In the current climate of accountability and prescribed curricula there appears to be little space for ambiguity and uncertainty,” Teresa Grainger of Canterbury Christ Church University writes in Classroom Interaction in Literacy (2003). “In literacy, accuracy in written construction and referential responses to text foreground much practice. Security and certainty are offered to teachers in the form of clear curriculum objectives, commonly used pedagogies, and explicit assessment criteria. Such boundaries have created valuable shared frameworks within which the profession is expected to operate. Arguably, however, they have also limited teachers’ and children’s experience of ambiguity, their appreciation of multiple perspectives and alternative ways of seeing and doing.”14 Grainger goes on to explain her rationale. “Learning to tolerate ambiguity and uncertainty are critical life skills in a world in which technological innovations are driving rapid economic and social change. The ability to adapt to conditions of enduring unpredictability and contestability deserves the attention of educationalists.”15 But Grainger reveals her position as fully outside the US educational mainstream by then citing Rosenblatt (1978) and Reader Response Theory, as well as Iser (1978) on
Grainger, T. (2003) Exploring the unknown: ambiguity, interaction and meaning making in classroom drama. In Bearne, E., Dombey, H. and Grainger, T. Classroom Interactions in Literacy. Open University Press. London. p. 105 15 Grainger, T. (2003) Exploring the unknown: ambiguity, interaction and meaning making in classroom drama. In Bearne, E., Dombey, H. and Grainger, T. Classroom Interactions in Literacy. Open University Press. London. p. 105
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“exploring the gaps in texts,”16 and Moyles (1994) on “learning to live without knowing.”17 That there is no room in the imagined logic framework of the US government for Grainger, et al’s desire for ambiguity, is no great surprise. In the same volume the University of London’s Charmian Kenner notes with a sense of progress that the British government no longer actively opposes allowing children who are English Language Learners to use their previous lingual knowledge.18 This is, indeed, a breakthrough. “We” have been so certain in our imagined logic that we have long opposed allowing “illogical” texts – be they “dime novels,” radio, film, television, “comic books,” “blogs,” or text messages – to infiltrate our sacred schoolrooms.
Grainger, T. (2003) Exploring the unknown: ambiguity, interaction and meaning making in classroom drama. In Bearne, E., Dombey, H. and Grainger, T. Classroom Interactions in Literacy. Open University Press. London. p. 106 17 Grainger, T. (2003) Exploring the unknown: ambiguity, interaction and meaning making in classroom drama. In Bearne, E., Dombey, H. and Grainger, T. Classroom Interactions in Literacy. Open University Press. London. p. 106 18 Kenner, C. (2003) An interactive pedagogy for bilingual children. In Bearne, E., Dombey, H. and Grainger, T. Classroom Interactions in Literacy. Open University Press. London. p. 101
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139. Disagreement “Disagreements about different ‘methods’ of teaching imply differences in beliefs about how children learn which are rarely made explicit.”19 Geekie, Cambourne, and Fitzsimmons (1999) find themselves wrestling with the “socalled ‘psychological model’ of reading [which] is based on research which assumes that the human mind, like the computer, is essentially an asocial processor of information.”20 “Top-down theorists propose,” they continue, “that reading is meaning driven. Information stored in long-term memory allows print to be processed in large meaningful chunks. Reading problems occur, these theorists say, when the reader tries to process small, meaningless units of information which clog the short term memory and prevent the reader from maintaining a focus on meaning.”21 In an asocial processing scheme, there are only a few possible answers to questions. Answers can be “correct” or “incorrect” as in both Calvinist Christian doctrine or western arithmetic. Answers might also be randomly chosen – a chance occurrence. And answers might be more or less relevant to a given matrix, as in Google’s search schemes. But answers cannot be debatable. Disagreement is not possible without submitting that disagreement to the same structure. One answer is correct and all others are wrong. One answer is randomly chosen, and thus no definable difference can be established. Or one answer is more “relevant” to the question/task/issue at hand than the others – in other words – it is the “better” answer. Teachers, Edwards and Mercer say, “Have the task of ‘scaffolding’ children’s first steps towards and into this culture, of supervising their entry into the universe of educational discourse. This is done by creating… a contextual framework for educational activities.”22 (1987) Frameworks and scaffolds, of course, limit as they support. You only get to climb where the framework allows. Stray from the prescribed route and you will fall. So as teachers scaffold, they control, they imprison. The universe of educational discourse sets absolute boundaries which prevent disagreement, block alternative understandings, and establish “meaning” as something indisputable. “In time, Rhona no longer needed to invoke certain things as contextual,” Geekie, Cambourne, and Fitzsimmons report from a classroom. “The children became familiar with the steps involved in writing a story. They referred spontaneously to charts and books as sources of information about how to write the words they needed. In other
Geekie, P. Cambourne, B. and Fitzsimmons, P. (1999) Understanding Literacy Development. Trentham Books. Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. p. 1 20 Geekie, P. Cambourne, B. and Fitzsimmons, P. (1999) Understanding Literacy Development. Trentham Books. Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. p. 1 21 Geekie, P. Cambourne, B. and Fitzsimmons, P. (1999) Understanding Literacy Development. Trentham Books. Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. p. 1 22 Edwards, D. and Mercer, N. Common Knowledge. (1987) Routledge. London and New York. p. 161
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words, certain things became part of the taken-for-granted, shared knowledge which made it possible for children to negotiate new understandings of writing. And so new areas of common knowledge were established which formed the basis for yet further growth in understanding and competence. And so it went.”23 (1999) But is this actually an opportunity for new ways of thinking? Or is it indoctrination? Should students “spontaneously” act all in the same way or should these actions and acts be understood as deliberate? Can one be both a critical thinker and a spontaneous/automatic operator? Years ago a friend from the Netherlands visited me in New York. One day she went to visit a local elementary school. She went with a teacher I knew to be a ground-breaker and rule-breaker, a creative and exciting educator. My friend came home that afternoon almost physically shaking. “I couldn’t believe it!” she declared. “They made all these little children stand up and recite a loyalty oath! I’ve never seen anything like it except in films of the occupation!” Imagine what she might have thought if she had seen a 21st Century reading program in a school using the Success for All system,24 or in a KIPP Academy,25 or in any US school required to adopt single-method instruction for reading under the US ‘No Child Left Behind’ Act?26 As American education has stumbled aggressively into a “Standards-based” stance,
Geekie, P. Cambourne, B. and Fitzsimmons, P. (1999) Understanding Literacy Development. Trentham Books. Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. p. 44 24 Success for All Foundation. http://www.successforall.net/_images/pdfs/MTYT.pdf Chant Teach the students the following chant for Lesson 10. Play track 1 of the CD, and quietly say the words along with the voice as you pantomime the actions. Do this one or two times. Stop the CD and review each stanza with the hand motions. Stress the underlined words. Lesson 10 Chant This is how I feel today. (Pat your chest as you say “feel.”) This is how I feel. (Pat your chest as you say “feel.”) Look at my face. (Point to your face.) And you’ll see how I feel. (Pat your chest as you say “feel.”) I smile (point to your smile) when I’m happy. I frown (point to your frown) when I’m mad. (Cross arms over your chest.) I go boo-hoo (Pretend to wipe away tears.) When I feel sad! Say Boo! (Shout the word boo.) and I get scared. (Make a scared face.) I’m sleepy at night. (Lean head on folded hands to show sleeping.) Now say it with me. (Wave hand as if you are inviting the students to come with you.) Let’s get it right. (Wag finger as you say each word.) This is how I feel today. (Pat your chest as you say “feel.”) This is how I feel. (Pat your chest as you say “feel.”)
Look at my face. (Point to your face.)
SFSchools Blog http://www.sfschools.org/2007/02/where-have-all-kippsters-gone.html Mendez, T. (2004) Reading choices narrow for schools with federal aid. The Christian Science Monitor. http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0129/p12s02-legn.html
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It has pushed ever deeper into a belief system that views the student mind as that computer-like asocial information processor. Put a specific input in, expect to receive a specific output. Of course this requires a corollary belief – that if the specific expected output is not received, the processing equipment is defective. Disagreement, under this structure, effectively becomes impossible. Answers are either meaningless – that is random, or they are “correct” or “incorrect,” or they are “better” or “worse.” And the students who give “incorrect” answers, or “worse” answers are defective. Thus, disagreement can be a fatal activity in the classroom. Thus, alternative readings are essentially impossible. Thus, any true operating form of either multiculturalism or postmodernism becomes impossible. In Peter Høeg’s novel Borderliners, set in an ‘inclusive’ educational experiment in Denmark in the 1960s, the power of this is demonstrated. Students faced with an intelligence test, are also forced to conform to the Lutheran world view of society. Answers may not just be “incorrect” or “worse,” they may actually prove a mental defect: A letter came from her. It was not in her own words, it was a quote straight out of Binet-Simon. She must have learned it by heart, just by reading it. "There was once a grasshopper, who had sung merrily all summer long. Now it was winter and he was starving. So he went to see some ants who lived nearby and asked them to lend him some of the stores they had laid up for the winter. `What have you been doing all summer?' they asked. `I have sung day and night,' replied the grasshopper. 'Ah, so you have sung,' said the ants. `Well, now you can dance.' " Beneath this she had written: "What is the moral?" It was so deep. It showed how she had figured out that this was a problem from the "fourteen years" level and that I must have had it. She had, therefore, used what I had written to her and discovered the system behind Binet-Simon. At the time when I had been given this story, I had come close to answering that the moral was ants were not helpful. But this would not have fitted in very well with the other problems. Instead I had sensed Hessen, and then I had said the moral was that one must seize the moment. I had been able to see from her face that this was the correct answer. Reading between the lines of Katarina's letter, I understood that she, too, had been about to give the wrong answer. That was why she sent it to me. She knew that we had both been about to give the wrong answer.27
Høeg, P. (1994) Borderliners (De måske egnede) as translated by Barbara Haveland. Farrar Straus Giroux. New York.
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The original Danish title of Høeg’s novel is enlightening. A book about inclusive education is titled De måske egnede – “for those who might be useful.”
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353. Othering Texts (a very brief sense of history) In his 1998 book, Youth, Popular Culture and Moral Panics: Penny Gaffs to GanstaRap, 1830-1996,28 John Springhall describes the cycle of destabilizing effects which arrive with each change in media delivery or popular content form. Reviewing the book, Charles Hatfield sums it up, “The advent of new communications media has proved especially threatening to visions of ideal childhood, for children's use of such media tends to be early and formative. Such early exposure challenges the mediation of parents, teachers and other authorities, and often incites adult panic.”29 In order for a society to invest in schools, a perceived need must exist. In order for society to invest in a system of social reproduction, a perceived need must exist. In order for a society to make “literacy” a priority, a perceived need must exist. What is the need which pushes a society to make these decisions? Is the need transmission of culture? Is the need transmission of a work ethic? Is the need preparation of trained workers? Is the need development of compliant citizens? Or is the need the development of creativity? Of personal voice? Is the goal to allow for multiple representations? Multiple ideas of knowledge? “Learning is not to be found on a printout. It's not on call at the touch of the finger. Learning is acquired mainly from books, and most readily from great books. And from teachers, and the more learned and empathetic the better. And from work, concentrated work. Abigail Adams put it perfectly more than 200 years ago: "Learning is not attained by chance. It must be sought with ardor and attended with diligence." Ardor, to my mind, is the key word.”30 “Some traditionalists warn that digital reading is the intellectual equivalent of empty calories. Often, they argue, writers on the Internet employ a cryptic argot that vexes teachers and parents. Zigzagging through a cornucopia of words, pictures, video and sounds, they say, distracts more than strengthens readers. And many youths spend most of their time on the Internet playing games or sending instant messages, activities that involve minimal reading at best.”31
Springhall, J. (1998) Youth, Popular Culture and Moral Panics: Penny Gaffs to Gansta-Rap, 1830-1996. St. Martin’s Press. New York. 29 Hatfield, C. (2002) Book Review. Youth, Popular Culture and Moral Panics: Penny Gaffs to GanstaRap, 1830-1996. The Lion and the Unicorn. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. 30 McCullough, D. (2008) The Love of Learning. Commencement Speech at Boston College, Boston, Massachusetts. http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/rvp/pubaf/08/McCullough_BCCommencement08.pdf 31 Rich, M. (2008) Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading? The New York Times, 27 June 2008. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/27/books/27reading.html
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“Last fall the National Endowment for the Arts issued a sobering report linking flat or declining national reading test scores among teenagers with the slump in the proportion of adolescents who said they read for fun.”32 One of the ways to ask about a society’s perceived purpose of literacy and education is to see which texts are “included” in curricula and which are left out. A look at Puritan New England in the seventeenth century, for example, would find only the Bible and books of Common Prayer “included,” and all other “popular literature” (whether printed or oral) doubted as to its moral value (Wright 1920). A look at late nineteenth century American culture would find the works of Horatio Alger – with their emphasis on moral judgment, hard work, and capitalist success – “included” but other ‘dime novels’ – filled as they were with rebellion, freedom, and independent lives – quite firmly excluded (Springhall, 1998). In 1960s and 70s America, books that told of rebellion and creativity within the basic shape of American society – from Fitzgerald to Hemingway – were “included.” Those which threatened those boundaries, either in written style or content, whether old or new – whether Dos Passos or Kerouac – were excluded. This split is also obvious when we see ‘preferred forms.’ Early New England thought songs were slothful, while celebrating the fixed nature of print. Turn of the twentieth century America thought books, especially expensive books, far more worthwhile than vaudeville or early film. Much was made in the last half of the twentieth century of youth wasting their lives on television as book reading declined. Often, forms of communication perceived as “easier” by the elites are derided. Socrates thought reading far easier than memorizing, and since that time, reading has consistently been seen as “more difficult” (and thus more worthy) than listening or watching. Film classes are considered “easier” than literature classes. Art History as “easier” than literary history. Books with larger words – more “difficult” vocabulary, are considered more valuable than “easier” fare – and surely more valuable than a graphic novel. The question is – is difficulty for a large part of the population a legitimate measure of worth? Or is it a system of preserving and/or controlling power?
Rich, M. (2008) Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading? The New York Times, 27 June 2008. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/27/books/27reading.html
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1553. Does changing technology change literature and literacy? “From a sociocultural perspective, the nature of literacy shifts with societal changes. Our society is increasingly using visual and auditory modalities to communicate through such technologies as television and computers. In this paper, I coordinate sociocultural perspectives of literacy with semiotic theories of literacy. Using ethnographic methods, I examined the semiotic nature of literacy activities in a fourth-grade classroom in which the students had computers on their desks and five multimedia workstations in their classroom with internet access. The results indicate that the children's literacy activities had many similarities with the visual and auditory literacies prevalent in our society. The implications of these findings are significant because they do not simply call for new emphases in literacy education, or a new curriculum, but go to the level of redefining literacy education.”33 Main Entry: lit·er·a·ture Pronunciation: \li-tə-rə-chur, li-trə-chur, li-tə(r)-chur, -chər, -tyur, -tur\ Function: noun Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin litteratura writing, grammar, learning, from litteratus Date: 14th century 1archaic : literary culture2: the production of literary work especially as an occupation3 a (1): writings in prose or verse ; especially : writings having excellence of form or expression and expressing ideas of permanent or universal interest (2): an example of such writings <what came out, though rarely literature, was always a roaring good story — People> b: the body of written works produced in a particular language, country, or age c: the body of writings on a particular subject <scientific literature> d: printed matter (as leaflets or circulars) <campaign literature>4: the aggregate of a usually specified type of musical compositions34 lit·er·a·ture (l t r- -ch r , -ch r) n. 1. The body of written works of a language, period, or culture.
Baker, E.A. (2000) Sociocultural Theory, Semiotics, and Technology Implications for the Nature of Literacy. Reading Improvement 37.3 p101. 34 Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary http://aolsvc.merriam-webster.aol.com/dictionary/literature accessed 12 October 2008
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2. Imaginative or creative writing, especially of recognized artistic value: "Literature must be an analysis of experience and a synthesis of the findings into a unity" Rebecca West. 3. The art or occupation of a literary writer. 4. The body of written work produced by scholars or researchers in a given field: medical literature. 5. Printed material: collected all the available literature on the subject. 6. Music All the compositions of a certain kind or for a specific instrument or ensemble: the symphonic literature.35 literature a body of written works. The name has traditionally been applied to those imaginative works of poetry and prose distinguished by the intentions of their authors and the perceived aesthetic excellence of their execution. Literature may be classified according to a variety of systems, including language, national origin, historical period, genre, and subject matter.36 How did “literature” become “written”? Were the Homeric legends not literature until they were written down? Were the Norse sagas or the tales of ancient Ireland not literature before they were available as bound books? What creates the specific difference between the Old Testament tales as they were retold as oral histories across generations and those same tales once they were written onto sheepskin scrolls? Is watching and interpreting a film fundamentally different – in cognitive terms – than reading a book? Did ancient Greeks know history in a fundamentally different way when they saw it performed by traveling dramatists than they did three hundred years later when they might read the same stories? These are the first questions, and they are fundamental. Those attempting to answer some of this in the “popular press” will often turn to spurious comparisons: Yes, it is different to read Dr. Zhivago and watch Jackass. But is it easier to watch Last Year at Marienbad than to read Crimson Tide? Or television, video games, internet activity will be blamed for obesity, or anti-social loneliness, and intellectual passivity. ‘”You just sit and take images in with no intellectual or emotional engagement," they say. "You are a passive receiver rather than an active participant,"’ reports a university professor of religion and Greek in a blog entry defending television viewing. He notes that those “readers” making these accusations are sitting by themselves in chairs absorbing fixed data.37
The Free Dictionary http://www.thefreedictionary.com/literature accessed 12 October 2008 Encyclopedia Britannica Online http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/343579/literature accessed 12 October 2008 37 http://caritas2.blogspot.com/2006/04/television-vs-book.html
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While they are making these comparisons, they are never discussing content – only a process that they both find comfortable and which, in their minds, offers status. “This report documents a national crisis," Gioia [of the National Endowment for the Arts] said. "Reading develops a capacity for focused attention and imaginative growth that enriches both private and public life. The decline in reading among every segment of the adult population reflects a general collapse in advanced literacy. To lose this human capacity - and all the diverse benefits it fosters - impoverishes both cultural and civic life.”38 This focus on privileging one form of literature, one form of communication, can only be maintained by one of two philosophies: A belief that human communication forms are static, or, a belief in a steady trend of human progress in human communication forms which reached its apex in 1900 in northern Europe and the United States and which must be preserved as static now. “Technology is frequently held to be transforming social relationships, the economy, and vast areas of public and private life,” David Buckingham says. “As Carolyn Marvin (1988) has indicated, such discourses have a long history. She shows how the introduction of electricity and telecommunications in the late-nineteenth and earlytwentieth centuries was both encouraged and challenged by discourses that attributed enormous power to technology. … The telephone, for example, was celebrated for the way in which it could make business more efficient and facilitate more democratic forms of social life, yet it was also condemned for its disruption of intimate relationships and its unsettling of established social hierarchies.”39 Technologies are assigned either magical powers – socially transformative, liberating, democratizing – or they are viewed as demonic threats to established social structures and hierarchies. But in both arguments there is a strong sense of technological determinism. “[T]echnology is seen to emerge from a neutral process of scientific research and development, rather than from the interplay of complex social, economic, and political forces,” Buckingham adds. “Technology is then seen to have effects—to bring about social and psychological changes— irrespective of the ways in which it is used, and of the social contexts and processes into which it enters.”40 Technology, however, rarely arrives without a societal need. The ancient Greeks and Romans both had steam engines, but without a societal function, these essential tools of the industrial revolution were simply toys. The French Second Empire had fax machines but no interest in fax machines. The idea vanished for over a century. Would Gutenberg’s typesetting system have been such the grand success it was without the concurrent rise of
National Endowment for the Arts (2008) Reading at Risk, online summary http://www.nea.gov/news/news04/ReadingAtRisk.Html 39 Buckingham, D. (2008) Introducing Identity. In Youth, Identity, and Digital Media. MacArthur Foundation paper. p. 11 40 Buckingham, D. (2008) Introducing Identity. In Youth, Identity, and Digital Media. MacArthur Foundation paper. p. 12
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the Reformation? Would railroads have been developed prior to the need to transport coal? So technology succeeds because it fills an apparent cultural void. And culture responds to the technology by transforming around the new technology. Various genres of writing grow, and the percentage of literate citizens grows, and a religion based on written text develops – then – movable type appears to support those developments – then – using this new technology, new genres of writing grow and literacy expands and changes. Fiction, supported by the printed text in ways poetry – with its oral tradition – is not, outstrips the older form. People learn to write novels and they learn to read novels. The success of novels produces other forms of writing – the beginnings of journalism. These new forms of writing and reading create the need for machine made paper, rotary presses, the linotype machine. And as these new forms of writing – in this case journalism in particular – grow, the need develops for rapid communications, and the telegraph, telephone, and radio are developed, along with even newer forms of representation, photographs and films. At each step education tends to lag behind, teaching the prior technologies and prior communication forms. Buckingham says it, “takes the form of what might be called “information determinism.” Information is seen as a neutral good, which appears as if from nowhere.”41 Educational activist Alan November puts it differently, calling schools a “reality-free zone,” and he describes the disconnect between his son’s information tools outside of school and those he is allowed to use within the school’s walls, “He cannot post the official notes that day so those who subscribe to his teacher's math blog via an RSS feed can read what's going on in his class. His assignments do not automatically turn into communities of discussion where students help each other at any time of the day. His school has successfully blocked the cool containers Dan uses at home from "contaminating" any rigorous academic content. It is an irony that in too many schools, educators label these effective learning tools as hindrances to teaching.”42 What November is seeing is that educators often fail to understand that the context of information, and the delivery system for information, do indeed matter. They are missing the crucial idea of that continuous interplay of culture, technology, and literacy. If today’s society needs the flexibility of alterable text, the non-linearity of hypertext, and the textual interaction of blogs, it is probably not a result of the arrival of internet technologies. The arrival of technologies instead is likely to be a response to pent-up demand after 500 years of living under the constraints of Gutenberg technology and the forms of literature and literacy that those inventions spawned. The dam broke only after more than a century and a half of new media technologies, from the telegraph and the penny newspaper, from radio and television to telephones and rapid mail delivery, from
Buckingham, D. (2008) Introducing Identity. In Youth, Identity, and Digital Media. MacArthur Foundation paper. p. 11-12 42 November, A. (2007) Banning Student “Containers.” Technology and Learning. June 2007. http://www.techlearning.com/showArticle.php?articleID=196604487
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photography to mimeograph machines, created a societal need for a next generation of technologies which would offer a final liberation from fifteenth century structures. And the literary and literacy forms now appearing have their roots in those earlier breakthrough technologies, from the ‘media clip’ fiction of John Dos Passos to the cinematic fiction of F. Scott Fitzgerald. From the blog like conversations of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road to the complex ambiguity of Michelangelo Antonioni’s films. From the “New Journalism” of Tom Wolfe to the accent-driven creative spelling of Thomas Wolfe. In each case new media and old media, and media formats themselves, feed off each other to create startling breakthrough advances in culture. “The isolation of painting after 1830 as a viable and self-sufficient category for study becomes highly problematic, to say the least,” writes Jonathan Crary in Techniques of the Observer. “The circulation and reception of all visual imagery is so closely interrelated by the middle of the century that any single medium or form of visual representation no longer has a significant autonomous identity.”43 In the period he is describing, technological leaps (rotary presses, lithographic engraving, machine-made paper, new sculptural and architectural casting techniques, photography, new transportation systems) combined with new social facts (widespread movements of people, colonization of “exotic” places, the ability of “average” people to travel, a dramatic expansion of education) to alter ideas about how we “saw” and what “art” was. Today we stand in a similar environment. ‘“It may look as though kids are wasting a lot of time hanging out with new media, whether it’s on MySpace or sending instant messages,” said Mizuko Ito, lead researcher on the [Macarthur Foundation] study, “Living and Learning With New Media.” “But their participation is giving them the technological skills and literacy they need to succeed in the contemporary world. They’re learning how to get along with others, how to manage a public identity, how to create a home page.”’44 These students are bringing the trends of a changing society together, but in many ways they may be doing it because they have to, because the meanings of literacy and literature have already changed, and unlike their teachers, they will need to live in the future.
Crary, J. (1990) Techniques of the Observer. MIT Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts. p. 23 Lewin, T. (2008) Study Finds Teenagers’ Internet Socializing Isn’t Such a Bad Thing. The New York Times. 19 November 2008. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/20/us/20internet.html
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41. Othering Students “As teenagers’ scores on standardized reading tests have declined or stagnated, some argue that the hours spent prowling the Internet are the enemy of reading — diminishing literacy, wrecking attention spans and destroying a precious common culture that exists only through the reading of books.” – Motoko Rich in The New York Times, 27 June 2008.45 Standardized. Enemy. Precious. Common culture. Only. “While oral culture has a rich immediacy that is not to be dismissed, and electronic media offer the considerable advantages of diversity and access, print culture affords irreplaceable forms of focused attention and contemplation that make complex communications and insights possible. To lose such intellectual capability – and the many sorts of human continuity it allows – would constitute a vast cultural impoverishment.” – Dana Gioia, Chairman, National Endowment for the Arts in the preface to Reading at Risk, 2008.46 Irreplaceable. Focused. Contemplation. Complex communications and insights. Intellectual capability. Human continuity. Impoverishment. "I cannot live without books," Thomas Jefferson wrote to Adams late in life, knowing Adams would understand perfectly. Adams read everything --Shakespeare and the Bible over and over, and the Psalms especially. He read poetry, fiction, history. Always carry a book with you on your travels he advised his son, John Quincy. "You will never be alone with a poet in your pocket. In a single year, according to the U.S. Department of Education, among all Americans with a college education, fully a third read not one novel or short story or poem. Don't be one of those, you of the Class of 2008. Make the love of learning central to your life. What a difference it can mean. If your experience is anything like mine, the books that will mean the most to you, books that will change your life, are still to come. And remember, as someone said, even the oldest book is brand new for the reader who opens it for the first time. You have had the great privilege of attending one of the finest colleges in the nation, where dedication to classical learning and to the arts and sciences has long been manifest. If what you have learned here makes you want to learn more, well that's the point. Read. Read, read!” – David McCullough, Address to the Graduates, Commencement Exercises, Boston College, 19 May 2008.47 Cannot live without. Always. Central to your life. Read. Read! We are clearly in grave danger. Let us, for a moment, skip over the fact that neither McCullough nor Gioia, or even The New York Times, can define, or be bothered to attempt to define, “reading.” Let us simply focus on the overwrought panic expressed
Rich, M. (2008) Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading? The New York Times, 27 June 2008. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/27/books/27reading.html 46 Gioia, D, (2008) Preface to Reading at Risk. National Endowment for the Arts.Washington DC. p. vii 47 McCullough, D. (2008) Address to the Graduates, Commencement Exercises, Boston College, 19 May 2008. http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/rvp/pubaf/08/McCullough_BCCommencement08.pdf
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above. This is not just language normally associated with grave security threats, it is the language of crusaders. Failure to stop the drift of our children away from books and toward digital screens is every bit as imperative as victory at the Battle of Tours (or we might say, Battle of Poitiers, or, in Arabic: ( معركة بلط الشهداءma‘arakat Balâ ashShuhadâ’) the Battle of Court of The Martyrs48), the A.D. 732 battle for the soul of Europe. Standardized. Enemy. Precious. Common culture. Only. Irreplaceable. Focused. Contemplation. Complex communications and insights. Intellectual capability. Human continuity. Impoverishment. Cannot live without. Always. Central to your life. Read. Read! On the side of the printed and ‘legitimately’ published book – on the side of light – we have standards, culture, commonality. Focus, human continuity, complex communications, and intellectual capability. While in the dark flicker rate of the computer or mobile phone screen we have impoverishment and our mutual destruction. If this sounds familiar, it is because it is the constant refrain of much of our literary canon. As Joseph Conrad saw the creeping threat of the non-literate natives in The Secret Agent and Heart of Darkness, and the even more powerful threat created when those from our “common culture” become entwined in that darkness,49 (Young, 1995) so we are now being told that our culture is being threatened by a powerful invader and those traitors who have aligned with them. They will as surely destroy our libraries and the fabric of our lives as the barbarian Norsemen destroyed the abbeys and libraries of ninth century England. The threat, of course, is from our children, and we can argue (Rich), wail (Gioia), or pray and plead for conversion (McCullough), but the threat is real, the threat is imminent. Our future has become our destruction. Standing at the gates of our civilization is a horde: Simply take the reverse of Gioia’s words about the literate society he sees as lost – unfocused, uncontemplative, simplistically communicative, with no insight, no intellectual capability, and no interest in human continuity. With this view in mind, we would certainly expect our classroom interactions to be a battle. And it is a battle with an alien force. ‘“Nobody has taught a single kid to text message,” said Carol Jago of the National Council of Teachers of English and a member of the testing guidelines committee [said in Motoko Rich’s New York Times article]. “Kids are smart. When they want to do something, schools don’t have to get involved.”50
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Tours Young, R. (1995) Colonial Desire. Routledge. London. p. 2 50 Rich, M. (2008) Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading? The New York Times, 27 June 2008. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/27/books/27reading.html
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“You see them everywhere,” John Palfrey and Urs Gasser write in the excerpt from their book Born Digital that they have chosen to post on their website. “The teenage girl with the iPod, sitting across from you on the subway, frenetically typing messages into her cell phone. The whiz kid summer intern in your office who knows what to do when your email client crashes. The eight-year-old who can beat you at any video game on the market —and types faster than you do, too. Even your niece’s newborn baby in London, whom you’ve never met, but with whom you have bonded nonetheless, owing to the new batch of baby photos that arrive each week. All of them are “Digital Natives.” They were all born after 1980, when social digital technologies, such as Usenet and bulletin board systems, came online. They all have access to networked digital technologies. And they all have the skills to use those technologies. (Except for the baby—but she’ll learn soon enough.)”51 Palfrey and Gasser add these sentences: “Maybe you’re even a bit frightened by these Digital Natives.” “There is one thing you know for sure: These kids are different. They study, work, write, and interact with each other in ways that are very different from the ways that you did growing up.” “Digital Natives are tremendously creative.”52 “Digital Natives perceive information to be malleable; it is something they can control and reshape in new and interesting ways.”53 Palfrey and Gasser are not being negative. Their entire book is about promise: “And Digital Natives have every chance of propelling society further forward in myriad ways —if we let them.”54 And yet they choose to describe “Digital Natives” as unitary, born differently, and completely outside “our” experience. They begin by describing an entire complex generation as outside of society-as-we-know-it. “Native” – as a word - carries significant connotations in American culture and American literature. The Visual Thesaurus55 links it to words like “aboriginal” and “indigenous.” Wikipedia says, “However, in the context of colonialism - in particular, British colonialism - the term "natives", as applied to the inhabitants of colonies, assumed a disparaging and patronising sense, implying that the people concerned were incapable of taking care of themselves and in need of Europeans to administer their lives; therefore, these people resent the use of the term and consider it insulting, and at present Europeans usually avoid using it.”56 It should be fair to assume that two Harvard University law professors57 did not choose this term out of naiveté. These “natives” use odd and simplistic communication structures. They do not speak in grammatically (for English) correct sentences. Rather they “text” and “IM” and “tweet.”
Palfrey, J. and Gasser, U. (2007) Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives. Basic Books, New York. http://borndigitalbook.com/excerpt.php 52 Palfrey, J. and Gasser, U. (2007) Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives. Basic Books, New York. http://borndigitalbook.com/excerpt.php 53 Palfrey, J. and Gasser, U. (2007) Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives. Basic Books, New York. http://borndigitalbook.com/excerpt-2.php 54 Palfrey, J. and Gasser, U. (2007) Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives. Basic Books, New York. http://borndigitalbook.com/excerpt-3.php 55 http://www.visualthesaurus.com/landing/?word=native&ad=mwcom.dict.txt1 56 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native 57 http://borndigitalbook.com/authors.php
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They lack sophisticated language and rely instead on ideograms, whether “lmao” or ;-) or even . They lack the intellectual focus necessary for sustained straight line study. And, they are “born” to all this. In other words, they are exactly like the Native Americans and enslaved Africans white Europeans encountered in eighteenth and nineteenth century North America. Exotic, strange, and while interesting, dangerous. Surely no complex culture could be lying among those painted buffalo blankets or recursive stories told on the plains. Surely, if Africans are to display any possible intellectual heft they must learn to dress and speak like an Englishman. Let’s go back to Carol Jago of the National Council of Teachers of English. Does she actually believe that, “Nobody has taught a single kid to text message”? Her statement seems to imply that she believes these children are indeed, “born digital,” and that these actions are genetically determined instincts, and not a skill set. This is a surprising view of Darwinist Theory indeed, but perhaps not unexpected in an educational system in which it is often accepted that “success in mathematics depends on some innate ability” (New Jersey Mathematics Coalition 1996)58 Whether this “genetic origin” notion is used as praise (‘Asian students do so well in math.’) or slur (‘Black students will never go to college.’) the goal is to eliminate performance incentive for the teachers by creating a “nothing I can do” paradigm. Carol Jago does not want to teach text-messaging, or she is incapable of teaching textmessaging, but her assertion that the teaching of how best to use a communication tool is unnecessary is absurd. We “teach” many things, from how to throw a ball more accurately to how to read specific genres to how to write more clearly. We teach them even if students arrive at school having learned about these things in other contexts. “Ultimately, like other forms of marketing rhetoric, the discourse of the “digital generation” is precisely an attempt to construct the object of which it purports to speak,” says David Buckingham in a paper written for the Macarthur Foundation. “It represents not a description of what children or young people actually are, but a set of imperatives about what they should be or what they need to become.” 59 Those who speak of the “digital generation” and of “being born digital” and of “digital natives” are not choosing a unique path. Much literature has been created defining “generation gaps” throughout US history, and the process of “othering” children (Howe and Strauss 1992). Surely the communications battle between the “Missionary” and “Lost” Generations, between those raised with books and newspapers and those raised on film and radio, between the earnest intentions of Upton Sinclair and the creative freedom of Fitzgerald and Dos Passos,60 parallels the arguments we see today. But the lack of uniqueness can not be equated with a lack of destructiveness.
New Jersey Mathematics Coalition (1996) New Jersey’s Mathematics Standards. http://dimacs.rutgers.edu/nj_math_coalition/framework/standards/std_vision.html 59 Buckingham, D. (2008) Introducing Identity. In Youth, Identity, and Digital Media. MacArthur Foundation paper. p. 15 60 Howe, N. and Strauss, W. (1992) The new generation gap. The Atlantic. December 1992. http://www.etext.org/Politics/Progressive.Sociologists/marthas-corner/Generation_Gap--Atlantic.Dec92
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In an educational system that has consistently struggled with “the other” (Lareau 2000, Tatum 1997, Macleod 1987, 1995), embracing a notion which makes all students “alien” carries with it the likelihood of a complete classroom communications breakdown. And there is no faster way to create that sense of alienation than by othering the language of any group not holding power.
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61. Othering Texts (this moment in human history) “One day after German class, a young man came up to me with a book in hand. He was a bright high school student with good grades, but he usually clowned around when talking to me; this time he was quite serious. "Look, you should read this," he said. He showed me a copy of Maus: A Survivor's Tale (1986) by Art Spiegelman, a comic book version of the Holocaust in which mice were the Jews and cats the Nazis. The story is based on Spiegelman's father's survival of Auschwitz. Before reading Maus, I had no idea a "comic book" could be so powerful. Maus went on to win the Pulitzer Prize, the first graphic novel to do so, and I recommended it to other students.” – Gretchen Schwarz, Graphic Novels for Multiple Literacies, 2002.61 “If I were a schoolteacher and some dopey teen put an emoticon or dared put an ‘LOL’ in any written assignment given, here’s the mark he or she would receive from me: F. I don’t care if what was turned in was the most masterfully written thing on the face of the planet. If there was so much a hint of netspeak present, it’s insta-fail. Is it true that turned-in written assignments contain netspeak from time to time? Unfortunately the answer to that is yes. Very sad. It is absolutely NOT the responsibility of the teacher to “translate” netspeak from a turned-in written assignment. If you happen to be a schoolteacher and see netspeak on anything turned in, FAIL it and make them do it again until they get it right. I can understand seeing emoticons, LOLs, etc. on the internet because, well.. it’s the internet. But on written assignments? NO, NO, NO.. wrong. Wrong in so many ways…” – Rich Menga, 200862 The above quotes represent two diametrically opposed visions of educational acceptance of new forms of literacy. When students bring differing languages and differing literacies into the classroom, whether that is “Black English,” or a postcolonial world view, or the language of texting, does the teacher “stamp it out” or embrace what it adds to the conversation and attempt to use these lingual additions to improve the communication of all involved? “When the 13-year-old submitted her work she explained she found it "easier than standard English". However, her teacher at the state secondary school in the west of Scotland found it incomprehensible, saying: "I could not believe what I was seeing. "The page was riddled with hieroglyphics, many of which I simply could not translate." At the risk of betraying their age, we invite readers to make sense of the following extract from the girl's work: "My smmr hols wr CWOT. B4 we usd 2go2 NY 2C my bro, his GF & thr 3 :-kids FTF. ILNY, it's a gr8 plc." In more familiar language this means: "My summer holidays were a complete waste of time. Before, we used to go to New York to see my brother, his girlfriends and their three screaming kids face to face. I love New York. It's a great place.” – thisislondon.co.uk 2008.63
Schwarz, G. (2002) Graphic Novels for Multiple Literacies. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy. International Reading Association. http://www.readingonline.org/newliteracies/jaal/11-02_column/ 62 http://www.pcmech.com/article/wrong-wrong-wrong-no-emoticonsmileyslols-in-schoolwork-darn-it/ 63 Sawer, P. (2008) Schoolgirl submits text message essay. The Evening Standard, 19 November 2008. http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-3646022-
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London’s (England) Evening Standard ran the article above on a web page with a masthead that says, “thisislondon.co.uk from the Evening Standard, London Lite.” In other words, they are damning the communication form while embracing it. After all the masthead is “riddled with hieroglyphics” and misspellings itself – “lite”? And is it important, in today’s society, to be able to translate “.co.uk” and know, for example, that it indicates something different than “.com” or “.ie” or “.fr”? Is there value in being able to parse, “thisislondon” or “socialsecurity.gov” successfully? Yet in the same article, “Judith Gillespie, of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said: "There must be rigorous efforts to stamp out the use of texting as a form of written language so far as English study is concerned.”’ Stamp it out. Though to find the Scottish Parent Teacher Council you would need to be able to understand “http://www.sptc.info/” and to contact Ms. Gillespie, one of the “staff members … available for advice and your questions” you’d need to successfully read “email@example.com” or “Tel: 0131 226 4378/1917 - FAX: 0131 226 4378.” Quick questions: Where is the “/” key on my phone keypad? Will that number dial? A Boston Globe article included more balance: ‘”Languages are always changing, and that's a fact that language snobs need to get over and accept - because the only language that doesn't change is a dead language, like Latin,” said Derek Denis, a graduate student in linguistics at the University of Toronto.” was one viewpoint expressed, while “William Fitzhugh, editor of The Concord Review, a journal of high school history essays, draws an analogy to the obesity epidemic: Technology's snack-size communiques are feeding an overall decline in people's ability to communicate clearly,”64 was another. And while William Safire declared, “The trouble is that the stylized drawings of iconography (rooted in the Greek eikenai, “to seem like,” and graphein, “to write”) are threatening to take over the precise communication of words,”65 in The New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor (a newspaper now without a print version) finds an academic who might see things in less absolute terms, ‘”This is really an extension of what teenagers have always done: recreate the language in their own image. But this new lingo combines writing and speaking to a degree that we've never seen before," says Neil Randall, an English professor at the University of Waterloo and author of "Lingo Online: A Report on the Language of the Keyboard Generation.”’66 Is this a battle over language as something fixed? Or is this a battle over the tight preservation of a certain period of language? Can we accept that spelling has changed since Shakespeare’s time and that syntax has changed since Beowulf was written, but refuse to accept change now? Would the letter forms which populate the [US]
details/Schoolgirl+submits+text+message+essay/article.do 64 Johnson, C. (2008) Is language dead or evolving? The Boston Globe, 16 June 2008. http://www.boston.com/business/technology/articles/2008/06/16/is_language_dead_or_evolving/ 65 Safire, W. (2008) Emoticons, the seamy side of semiotics. The New York Times Magazine. 25 May 2008. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/25/magazine/25wwln-safire-t.html 66 Axtman, K. (2002) ‘r u online?’: the evolving lexicon of wired teens. The Christian Science Monitor. 12 December 2002. http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/1212/p01s01-ussc.html
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Declaration of Independence (where s and f are often indistinguishable) be widely accepted today? What about the eighteenth century printer’s convention of repeating the last word at the bottom of one page at the top of the next?67 Why does the APA citation style exist, should we not still be utilizing glosses?68 Contemporary literacies can be joined to cultural traditions or they can be othered, but the decision to other is a decision to make the teaching of communication techniques less relevant and more difficult. David Buckingham: “These kinds of ideas about the impact of technology tend to take on an even greater force when they are combined with ideas about childhood and youth. The debate about the impact of media and technology on children has always served as a focus for much broader hopes and fears about social change. On the one hand, there is a powerful discourse about the ways in which digital technology is threatening or even destroying childhood. Young people are seen to be at risk, not only from more obvious dangers such as pornography and online pedophiles, but also from a wide range of negative physical and psychological consequences that derive from their engagement with technology. Like television, digital media are seen to be responsible for a whole litany of social ills—addiction, antisocial behavior, obesity, educational underachievement, commercial exploitation, stunted imaginations . . . and the list goes on.”69 Yet there exists a strong challenge to this “grave danger” theory. Perhaps it lies in educators who were, years ago, told that their favorite text forms, from Joyce to Kerouac, from the music of Grace Slick to the films of the French New Wave, were somehow ‘invalid.’ These are educators who seem to understand the movement, the living quality, of both the English language and our definitions of literacy. Derek Denis’s co-author, Sali Tagliamonte, suggests the power of the evolving language in his brief article, LOL, where r u? Teen talk in instant messaging, “In the IM medium, the teenagers mixed highly formal written variants, such as shall and must, alongside more informal variants, such as will and have to. They also employed highly vernacular variants typical of spoken language, like gonna and gotta. This unique fusion of language forms shows that these Canadian teenagers have an astonishingly fluid mastery of the full spectrum of linguistic variants in their speech community, suggesting that IM, and perhaps computer-mediated communication more generally, is not the “ruin” of this generation at all; rather, it represents an expansive new linguistic renaissance.”70 And a college administrator, Dr. Patricia DeWitt,71 asked this in an online argument about text message English and emoticons: “Come to think of it, what is so wrong with emoticons in writing? In a way, they are simply invented punctuation marks. In another
http://www.cooperativeindividualism.org/paine-common-sense-1776.jpg http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gloss%5B3%5D 69 Buckingham, D. (2008) Introducing Identity. In Youth, Identity, and Digital Media. MacArthur Foundation paper. p. 13. http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1162/dmal.9780262524834.001 70 Tagliamonte, S. (2006) LOL, where r u? Teen talk in instant messaging. Idea&s: the arts & science review. 3:2 University of Toronto. Toronto. http://www.ideasmag.artsci.utoronto.ca/issue3_2/idea&s03_02-2a-tagliamonte.pdf 71 http://www.shorter.edu/about/admin_staff.htm
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way, they are visual additions to writing. Writing (in the Western world) has had many visual additions through the ages, such as ornate capitals in medieval manuscripts, modern typefaces (which convey meaning!) and poems that take a certain shape. I don’t use them because I think they are hokey, but maybe that’s because my vocabulary of emoticons is limited.” – Grocheio, Asst VP Planning and Institutional Effectiveness at Shorter College, at 10:15 am EDT on April 25, 200872 These educators have yet to impact the standards-setters of education, those who repeat tests for the literacies of a half-century ago and then complain that new literacies fail to help students to pass those tests.73 Nor have they yet impacted the teacher training field in ways that might help all in the classroom bridge the gap. Yet, othering the texts of our children has become somewhat controversial, and that is a bold step forward.
Inside Higher Ed (2008) Comments on http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2008/04/25/teens http://ednews.org/articles/25000/1/Shakespeare-Didnt-Blog-Author-Says-Texting-and-Testing-AreDestroying-Kids-riting-Style/Page1.html
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5. Anger. “Whereasthe Congressof the united states byaconcurrentresolution-adoptedon the4thdayofmarch lastauthorizedthe Secretaryofwar to cause to be brought to theunitedstatesthe body of an Americanwhowasamemberoftheamerican expeditionaryforceineuropewholosthislifeduringtheworldwarandwhoseidentity hasnotbeenestablished for burial inthememorialamphitheatreofthenational cemeteryatarlingtonvirginia. ”In the tarpaper morgue at Chalons-sur-Marne in the reek of chloride of lime and the dead, they picked out the pine box that held all that was left of ”enie menie minie moe plenty other pine boxes stacked up there containing what they'd scraped up of Richard Roe ”and other person or person unknown. Only one can go. How did they pick John Doe? ”Make sure he ain't a dinge, boys. ”make sure he ain't a guinea or a kike, ”how can you tell a guy's a hunredpercent when all you've got's a gunnysack full of bones, bronze buttons stamped with the screaming eagle and a pair of roll puttees? ”. . . and the gagging chloride and the puky dirtstench of the yearold dead... ”The day withal was too meaningful and tragic for applause. Silence, tears, songs and prayer, muffled drums and soft music were the instrumentalities today of national approbation.”74 Anonymous said... “Ummm...I'm honestly not trying to troll, but I suspect John Dos Passos spaced his words out better than the quote in your post. Just sayin'. 11 November, 2008 23:20 narrator said... “Actually anonymous, it is pretty exact - though your page width may vary the presentation here somewhat. This is an "extreme moment" in the USA Trilogy, and the devices Dos Passos uses elsewhere - such as run together words (he is often credited with creating many US English compound words, from "officeboy" on up) - is carried to an extreme here. 12 November, 2008 08:13 Anonymous said... “Why would someone purposefully write something unreadable? 12 November, 2008 17:14
Dos Passos, J. 1932. The Body of an American. In 1919, in The USA Trilogy. Harcourt Brace, New York.
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narrator said... The same reason people make music which is difficult to listen to, or art that is difficult to decipher. Text has many attributes, it is understood in many ways, and "artists" (authors) can challenge those assumptions. Why, for example, would anyone use calligraphy (or even handwriting) when simple print is easier to read? Why would anyone use complex words when simple words are easier to understand? Why - to make the point more clearly - would people write stories once films were invented? 12 November, 2008 17:19 Anonymous said... “Dos Passos isn't a great author, or even a mediocre author. He's someone who doesn't understand how and when to use a space bar.”75 Certain accomplishments in education are supposed to carry certain privileges. At least, that’s the strong perception. Teachers, teacher educators, educational administrators have all grown accustomed to their status at the top of a certain information management heap. These are the people who read well, who write well, who do very well on standardized tests. They have refined themselves as effective consumers of information. When change comes, in the form of new communicative modes, it is not just difficult for educators, it threatens their status and their view of self. Texting, "AFAIK CU 2NITE,"76 IMing, “@TEOTD AML,”77 Twittering, “#GTA-NYC We're in Google Earth - View the 3d Buildngs and looking at the new Ancient Rome layer - so cool!!” – are all new lingual forms which threaten a sense of power and control just as Dos Passos’ efforts threaten the university professor in the exchange presented earlier in this section. Columbia University professor Samuel Freedman, writing in The New York Times, found his hero in this battle over communication forms: Halfway through the semester in his market research course at Roanoke College last fall, only moments after announcing a policy of zero tolerance for cellphone use in the classroom, Prof. Ali Nazemi heard a telltale ring. Then he spotted a young man named Neil Noland fumbling with his phone, trying to turn it off before being caught. “Neil, can I see that phone?” Professor Nazemi said, more in a command than a question. The student surrendered it. Professor Nazemi opened his briefcase, produced a hammer and proceeded to smash the offending device. Throughout the classroom, student faces went ashen.
http://speedchange.blogspot.com/2008/11/armistice-day-and-socioculturally.html from a blog post and response. 76 http://www.netlingo.com/lookup.cfm?term=texting 77 http://www.webopedia.com/quick_ref/textmessageabbreviations.asp
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“How am I going to call my Mom now?” Neil asked. As Professor Nazemi refused to answer, a classmate offered, “Dude, you can sue.” Let’s be clear about one thing. Ali Nazemi is a hero. Ali Nazemi deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom.78 (Freedman 2007) Later in his article Freedman joins Nazemi is what becomes a joint angry tirade: The poor schoolmarm or master, required to provide a certain amount of value for your child’s entertainment dollar, now must compete with texting, instant-messaging, Facebook, eBay, YouTube, Addictinggames.com and other poxes on pedagogy. “There are certain lines you shouldn’t cross,” the professor said. “If you start tolerating this stuff, it becomes the norm. The more you give, the more they take. These devices become an indisposable sort of thing for the students. And nothing should be indisposable. Multitasking is good, but I want them to do more tasking in my class.”79 (Freedman 2007) The anger is as visceral as it is disjointed. One might want to ask Professor Nazemi if books are among those things that should not be indisposable? Or his classroom? Or the existence of the university at which he teaches? Or is it only the communications systems and structures of those not yet in power which should be smashed with a hammer?
Freedman, S. (2007) New Class(room) War: Teacher vs. Technology. The New York Times.7 November 2007 http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/07/education/07education.html Freedman, S. (2007) New Class(room) War: Teacher vs. Technology. The New York Times.7 November 2007 http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/07/education/07education.html
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79. Empire At the start of the Ken Loach film, The Wind that Shakes the Barley, a young Irish male, circa 1915, is killed by British colonial troops for refusing to answer their questions in English.80 The Macquarie Dictionary, the first academically accepted dictionary of Australian English, did not appear until 1981, 193 years after Irish-English, Scots-English, WelshEnglish and lower-economic-class English accents began joining with indigenous languages on that continent and the development of a unique way of speaking – and writing – English developed.81 In the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries Welsh speakers in schools in Wales were punished and humiliated, including having blocks or lumps of lead hung around their necks.82 At the same time in the US speakers of native languages were punished for using those languages in English-only Indian Schools.83 Communication change is strongly resisted. Communication change is especially strongly resisted when it threatens to absorb – and thus include on any level terms – the communication patterns of those not in power. Language is power. And the teaching and assessing of language and patterns of literacy is power exercised. “Finally, we reach the issues of racism and power,” James Paul Gee states in Social Linguistics and Literacy. “It is widely believed that such issues are “merely political,” not directly relevant to reading and reading research. … But the fact of the matter is that racism and power are just as much cognitive issues as they are political ones. Children will not identify with – they will even disidentify with – teachers and schools that they perceive as hostile, alien, or oppressive to their home-based identities (Holland and Quinn 1987). “Claude Steele’s (Steele 1992; Steele and Aronson 1995, 1998) groundbreaking work clearly demonstrates that in assessment contexts where issues of race, racism, and stereotypes are triggered, the performance of even quite adept learners seriously
Loach, K. (director) and Laverty, P. (writer). (2006) The Wind That Shakes the Barley. Pathé Distributors. London and Paris. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKCxwakIYMM 81 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macquarie_Dictionary 82 Stevenson, S. (2001) History of the Welsh Language, Part 4. http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/welsh_language/68066/2 83 Kahin, S. and Wiles, S. (1991) Interview with Tommy Brown, d.o.b. December 28, 1908. Warm Valley Historical Project – Part II. http://www.windriverhistory.org/archives/oralhistory/Resources/BROWN.pdf and Clarke Historical Library: Treaty Education (2008) Central Michigan University. http://clarke.cmich.edu/indian/treatyeducation.htm
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deteriorates. Steele shows clearly that how people read when they are taking tests changes as their fear of falling victim to cultural stereotypes increases.”84 The cultural stereotyping and culturally assembled superiority that drives the racist, nationalist, and imperial assumptions which underlie literacy education does not prove “western culture” worse – it simply proves that it is not unique, exceptional, or superior. “Oddly enough – though on second thought, perhaps not so oddly – many of our subjects seem to realize this more clearly than we anthropologists ourselves,” Clifford Geertz writes, “In Java, for example, where I have done much of my work, the people quite flatly say, “To be human is to be Javanese.” Small children, boors, simpletons, the insane, the flagrantly immoral, are said to be ndurung djawa, “not yet Javanese.”85 It is important to see the collection of those described by Geertz as not yet human in the context of the American school. “Small children” are the young – thus encompassing all, in a society which resists granting true adult status until age 21 or even 25, who attend our schools and most who attend our universities. “Boors,” defined by Merriam-Webster as a “(1) peasant” or “(2) a rude or insensitive person.”86 In other words, someone beneath our social class. “Simpletons” – people perceived as not smart enough to keep up with the elite of society. “The insane,” an ever-expanding category in American society where every difference is now diagnosed as a genetic and psychological disorder requiring treatment. And “the flagrantly immoral,” which allows those in power to hang a “not yet human” label on anyone who disagrees with the traditional rules of the society itself. But in order to see how “we” understand our own descriptions of the “not yet human” we can not view ourselves from inside – we must begin to see ourselves as Geertz observed the Javanese – from the point of view of the superior outsider. Only then can we understand our school’s treatment of alternative language systems – from street slang to comic books, from emoticons to ‘Black English,’ as the symbol of frightened imperialism that these choices are. And fear is the heart and soul of the kind of British-style colonialism that is now most aggressively practiced by the United States – both internally and externally. To a certain powerful contingent of American decision-makers, anything that is different from their childhood memories is dangerous. “Other countries have greeted soccer with relative indifference,” Franklin Foer writes in How Soccer Explains the World. “But the United States is perhaps the only place where a loud portion of the population actively disdains the game, even campaigns against it.”87 If a leading politician in the United States can actually get up and declare, “I think it is important for all those young out there, who someday hope to play real football, where you throw it and kick it and run with it and put
Gee, J.P. (1990, 1996, 2008) Social Linguistics and Literacies: Ideology in Discourses. Routledge, New York. p. 39 85 Geertz, C. (1973) The Interpretation of Cultures. Basic Books, New York. p. 52 86 http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/boors 87 Foer, F. (2004) How Soccer Explains the American Culture Wars. In How Soccer Explains the World. Harper-Collins. New York. p. 240
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it in your hands, a distinction should be made that football is democratic capitalism, whereas soccer is a European socialist [sport],” as the Republican 1996 Vice-Presidential candidate did,88 then what chance might a Spanish-influenced reading of a school text have, or an urban African-American reading of history lesson, or a British disability studies-influenced understanding of literacy, have of getting a real hearing in our classrooms? Colonialism begins as a way to exploit – in terms of US schools the idea was to create productive workers who would support capitalist economic growth (Kliebard 1995), but as the system atrophies it can become a system ruled by fear (Willinsky, 1998). In this the present American system of colonialism is much like its British antecedent, both internally and externally. The fear of a rising “other” – a dangerous and amoral force with the power to destroy tradition – is to be met by an activist conversion of that other. Whereas the French were more likely to exploit without conversion, with the belief that the ‘overwhelming’ example of French cultural superiority would lead colonial peoples to join them, the British attempted massive cultural re-designs. Not just English language schools for almost everyone. Not just support for missionary work (rare in French colonies, which definitively blocked missionary work in Islamic areas of Africa89). But wholesale exporting of sport, food preferences, even powdered wigs for judges from Lagos to Capetown to Delhi. Just as Americans desperately attempt to bring US style governments and universities, banks and fast food, to Iraq and Afghanistan today. In all cases this is based in internal national policies and tendencies. The French nation/state dominates minority areas but rarely (with the exception of the wars of the Reformation) has used force to accomplish this. The Langue d’Oc and Bretagne both hold on to their antique languages, foods, ways of life, but in both situations French is an omnipresent overlay. In the British Isles and in the US force has been the dominant unifier. English armies were used repeatedly to eliminate and subjugate Welsh, Scottish, and Irish native cultures. US soldiers and policing entities did the same to Native American cultures. Our schools remain places of conversion.90 And we begin the conversion process by enforcing the language of the liturgy.
Foer, F. (2004) quoting U.S. Representative Jack Kemp (R-Buffalo, New York) in How Soccer Explains the American Culture Wars. In How Soccer Explains the World. Harper-Collins. New York. p. 241 89 Mills, W. (2007) French Approaches in Colonial Policy (online course information) http://stmarys.ca/~wmills/course317/4French_Policies.html 90 Popkewitz, T. (1998) The Culture of Redemption and the Administration of Freedom as Research. Review of Educational Research. Spring 1998. 68:1 pp. 1-34.
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3. Liberation Theology I drive 90 miles (145 km) from my home to the campus. The “radio” in my car links to my phone. It also accepts a flash drive. I can talk on my phone without touching it.91 I can send text messages and emails by speaking them. I can listen to my text messages. If I say, “USB,” the “radio” will begin playing books or academic papers that I have downloaded at home, converted to mp3 sound files through free web sites,92 and slid onto the flash drive, or it may begin to play audiobooks read by wonderful narrators which I have downloaded from LibriVox.93 And while I am not fully fluent in the abbreviated spellings of text messaging, my car’s radio seems to know it all. My phone converts voice mail to text.94 Or text messages to sound. I can dictate to it and receive emails of digital text when I arrive home, or at any computer linked to the internet.95 At home my browser spellchecks my work in US English, or in British English, or in French, or in Irish.96 I simply click a flag on the bottom of the screen to make my choice.97 If I highlight a word my browser will read it to me,98 or define it for me, or translate it for me.99 It can also read any online text to me. And if the text is not online, Adobe Acrobat Reader100 or NaturalReader101 or Microsoft Reader102 or WordTalk103 will read it to me. I have not paid for any of those. I can speak to my Microsoft Vista computer and it will write down what I say.104 I can listen to podcasts and watch video podcasts of the best professors at MIT and the University of California.105 I can hear New York Times106 and Guardian107 reporters speaking to me. I can watch films and television shows and listen to the radio from hundreds of nations. I have access to the world’s great writers – the classics108 as well as the newest authors writing fiction in blogs.109 I can write a text, put it through an online translation site,110 and convert it into an animated film111 that I can send to another continent.
http://www.syncmyride.com/ http://spokentext.net/ 93 http://librivox.org/ 94 http://www.spinvox.com/ 95 http://www.dial2do.com/ 96 https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/search?q=dictionary&cat=all 97 https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/3414 98 http://clickspeak.clcworld.net/ 99 https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/918 100 http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html 101 http://www.naturalreaders.com/ 102 http://www.microsoft.com/reader/default.mspx 103 http://www.wordtalk.org.uk/ 104 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Y_Jp6PxsSQ 105 http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/web/home/home/index.htm 106 http://www.nytimes.com/ 107 http://www.guardian.co.uk/ 108 http://www.online-literature.com/ 109 http://www.smokelong.com/flash/2091.asp 110 http://translation2.paralink.com/ 111 http://www.xtranormal.com/
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I am liberated from the limitations imposed on me through my life by the guardians of print literacy. And I am empowered. On US election day 2008, I sent a “tweet” – fewer than 140 characters (spaces included) – about a voting suppression issue. Within 20 minutes I was on my phone, from my car, speaking to a Wall Street Journal reporter about the issue. There are powerful reasons to believe in the value of bringing unempowered cultures into the culture of the elites. The first is the opportunity and power brought to those who would not otherwise have either. This might be the engine of both peace and democracy. The second is that it is only through the introduction of outsider voices that cultures are refreshed and renewed. Postcolonial Theories thus become an essential way to view the socio-cultural structures of literacy in education. In education all students are ‘the colonized.’ All students arrive as outsiders in one way or another, awaiting their conversion into ‘productive members of society.’ William Butler Yeats, one of the great twentieth-century poets writing in English, was a senator of the Irish Free State. Indeed, Irish literature in English boasts some of the best known writers in what is often termed English literature. Looking at the twentieth century alone, there were James Joyce and Samuel Beckett. Although less overtly involved with politics when compared with Yeats, their writings can also be viewed in a postcolonial context. Joyce, for example, has been aptly described as ‘a central figure for many of the post-colonial writers in English because of the way he comes to the English tradition as an outsider and bends the English language to fit his Irish subject matter and language’ (Jussawala and Dasenbrock 1992:15).112 (Talib 2002) But these are hardly just postcolonial authors. From Robert Burns and Walter Scott to Irvine Welsh and Suhayl Saadi, Scots authors have brought new structures and new visions to English literatures which have altered the mainstream dramatically. As have the authors of Celtic Ireland. Not just Joyce, Yeats, and Beckett, but George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, and all the way to Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney and Booker Prize recipients John Banville and Anne Enright, the cultural viewpoints, lingual structures, and literary rhythms of the much suppressed Irish language and culture have often become the standard setters for fiction and poetry in the English language. The Welsh broke through their own suppression to alter understandings of English language narrative through the work of writers including Dylan Thomas and Wilfred Owen. All of this just from the suppressed non-elite language and communication traditions within the British Isles. To look at the Booker Prize list, going back to 1969,113 is to read the power
Talib, I. (2002) The Language of Postcolonial Literatures. Routledge. London. p. 22 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man_Booker_Prize
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of the oppressed, the outsiders, the insufficiently “English” authors, to alter our understandings of what is possible in language. V.S. Naipul, J. M. Coetzee, Ben Okri, Arundhati Roy, Kiran Desai, Aravind Adiga are among the “colonials” altering the language of the colonizers. There are also powerful reasons to believe in the value of bringing new communications technologies into the culture of the elites. The technology of the alphabet (and writing) certainly allowed for an explosion in literature despite Socrates’ concerns. The printing press and Gutenberg’s movable type did not just do great damage – the destruction of many of the languages of Europe, the spread of opposition to the Catholic Church – these technologies, by making books and eventually news media affordable, allowed the development of both the novel and journalism. The contributions of the telegraph, of film, of wireless radio have been dramatic as well. Could F. Scott Fitzgerald have written his initial view of Daisy’s house (“The lawn started at the beach and ran toward the front door for a quarter of a mile, jumping over sun-dials and brick walks and burning gardens--finally when it reached the house drifting up the side in bright vines as though from the momentum of its run.”114) having never seen the work of a film camera operator panning across a landscape? Would writers working in the World War II era have the same vision of the London Blitz without the knowledge of Edward R. Murrow? And how limited might the John Dos Passos classic USA Trilogy have been without the constant interplay of film, records, the popular press, advertising, and literature itself (Suarez 1999). In fact, Dos Passos book, often hailed as one of the greatest American novels of the twentieth century,115 can largely debunk the arguments that this interplay – and a frenetic, “distracted” interplay at that, is a new creation of this “digital generation.” In Dos Passos’s books he combines four narrative strategies, offering them equal weight as essential to the storytelling. Though two – a fictional narrative and non-fiction biographies of important Americans – are ‘traditional,’ if not before joined together, the other two, the stream of consciousness “Camera Eye” segments and the “Newsreel” segments – assemblages of text and music from a moment in time – are both quite ‘new’ in US literature and, it is clear, in many ways resemble the forms of contemporary online literature most criticized by the educational establishment. The Camera Eye (1) when you walk along the street you have to step carefully always on the cobbles so as not to step on the bright anxious grassblades easier if you hold Mother's hand and hang on it that way you can kick up your toes but walking fast you have to tread on too many grassblades the poor hurt green tongues shrink under your feet maybe that's why those people are so angry and follow us shaking their fists they're throwing stones
Fitzgerald, F. S. (1925) The Great Gatsby. Charles Scribner’s Sons. New York. http://www.randomhouse.com/modernlibrary/100bestnovels.html http://www.adherents.com/people/100_novel.html http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/observer/archives/2005/05/11/the_best_novels_ever_version_12.html
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grownup people throwing stones She's walking fast and we're running her pointed toes sticking out sharp among the poor trodden grassblades under the shaking folds of the brown cloth dress Englander a pebble tinkles along the cobbles Quick darling quick in the postcard shop it's quiet the angry people are outside and can't come in non nein nicht englander amerikanish americain ocj Amerika Vive l'Amerique She laughs My dear they had me right frightened war on the veldt Kruger Bloemfontain Ladysmith and Queen Victoria an old lady in a pointed lace cap sent chocolate to the soldiers at Christmas under the counter it's dark and the lady the nice dutch lady who loves Americans and has relations in Trenton shows you postcards that shine in the dark pretty hotels and palaces O que c'est beau schön prittie prittie and the moonlight ripple ripple under a bridge and the little reverbères are alight in the dark under the counter and the little windows of hotels around the harbour O que c'est beau la lune and the big moon116 Newsreel (1) It was that emancipated race That was chargin' up the hill Up to where them insurrectos Was afightin' fit to kill CAPITAL CITY'S CENTURY CLOSED General Miles with his gaudy uniform and spirited charger was the center for all eyes, especially as his steed was extremely restless. Just as the band passed the Commanding General, his horse stood upon his hind legs and was almost erect. General Miles instantly reined in the frightened animal and dug in his spurs in an endeavor to control the horse which to the horror of the spectators, fell over backwards and landed squarely on the Commanding General. Much to the gratification of the people, General Miles was not injured but considerable skin was scraped off the flank of his horse. Almost every inch of General Miles's overcoat was covered with the dust of the street and between the shoulders a hole about an inch in diameter was punctured. Without waiting for anyone to brush the dust from his garments General Miles remounted his horse and reviewed the parade as if it were an everyday occurrence. The incident naturally attracted the attention of the crowd, and this brought to notice the fact that the Commanding General never permits a
Dos Passos, J. (1930) The 42nd Parallel. The USA Trilogy. Harcourt Brace. New York.
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flag to be carried past him without uncovering and remaining so until the colors have passed And the Captain bold of Company B Was afightin' in the lead Just like a truborn soldier he Of them bullets took no heed OFFICIALS KNOW NOTHING OF VICE Sanitary trustees turn water of Chicago River into drainage canal LAKE MICHIGAN SHAKES HANDS WITH THE FATHER OF THE WATERS German zuchterverein singing contest for canarybirds opens the fight for bimetallism at the ratio of 16 to 1 has not been lost says Bryan BRITISH BEATEN AT MAFEKING For there’s many a man been murdered in Luzon CLAIMS ISLANDS FOR ALL TIME Hamilton Club listens to Oratory by Ex-Congressman Posey of Indiana NOISE GREETS NEW CENTURY LABOR GREETS NEW CENTURY CHURCHES GREET NEW CENTURY Mr. McKinley is hard at work in his office when the new year begins. NATION GREETS CENTURY’S DAWN Responding to a toast, Hail Columbia! at the Columbia club banquet in Indianapolis, Ind., ex-President Benjamin Harrison said in part: I have no argument to make here or anywhere against territorial expansion; but I do not, as some do, look upon territorial expansion as the safest and most attractive avenue of national development. By the advantages of abundant and cheap coal and iron, of an enormous overproduction of food products and of invention and economy in
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production, we are now leading by the nose the original and the greatest of the colonizing nations. Society Girls Shocked: Danced with Detectives For there's many a man been murdered in Luzon and Mindanao GAIETY GIRLS MOBBED IN NEW JERSEY One of the lithographs of the leading lady represented her in less than Atlantic City bathing costume, sitting on a red-hot stove; in one hand she held a brimming glass of wine, in the other ribbons drawn over a pair of rampant lobsters. For there's many a man been murdered in Luzon and Mindanao and in Samar117 Dos Passos also challenges conventions of spelling, of paragraph assembly, even of typographic spacing, and what this work demonstrates is the possibilities that are available if educators and cultural leaders will embrace and include, rather than fight against, contemporary communication systems and formats. Just as writers from Joyce to Adiga represent the possibilities for literature with the embrace of the heretofore unempowered groups in society. The notions of literacy held by The New York Times, David McCullough, and the National Endowment for the Arts are so restrictive, so limiting, that they seek to limit education – and literature – to processes of social reproduction. They are, in fact, so limiting that they would be forced, by their own criteria, to rate Socrates and Homer as worthless illiterates. Those who operate under these assumptions seem to forget that most of the foundations of Western Civilization and human knowledge were laid by people who could not operate an alphabet, and that all human learning prior to the sixteenth century was developed without a single printed, bound book. They also forget that the Gutenberg era was defined by a specific technology system which helped to spawn a specific form of literature. It also created the possibility of the types of rules now so rigorously enforced. Standardized spellings, consistent citation forms, consistent grammar, straight line storytelling, eventually journalism, the novel, biography, and the textbook as we currently understand it, are all products of Gutenberg
Dos Passos, J. (1930) The 42nd Parallel. The USA Trilogy. Harcourt Brace. New York.
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technology, papermaking technology, the technology of the rotary printing press, and Otto Mergenthaler’s typesetting technology.118 The communications technology was a principle driver in the creation of literary form. These developments were not ‘power neutral.’ The technologies of print in the sixteenth through twentieth centuries hastened the demise of languages. They spread dominant languages globally at a pace unknown before. They allowed power to be consolidated. They shifted control of media away from the theocracy of the Catholic Church to an emerging mercantile class and eventually to great capitalists. They permitted the rise of a new sense of cognitive authority – in which a publisher’s name on a book’s frontispiece provided a ‘truth rating.’ They provided authors with access to publishers a source of income. They created the idea of one “being illiterate.” They created “print disabilities.” They favored those with certain attention spans and certain modes of thinking. They made information expensive. I have chosen to only list the problems. I have done this because those who rate these technologies as superior to those which have come before and come after, so often build the same kind of purely negative argument. So the new technologies which have liberated me from many of the constraints of printed text seem to some of us as a chance to redress the issues created since 1500. “Unlike those who bemoan the media’s destruction of childhood innocence, advocates of the new “digital generation” regard technology as a force of liberation for young people—a means for them to reach past the constraining influence of their elders, and to create new, autonomous forms of communication and community. Far from corrupting the young, technology is seen to be creating a generation that is more open, more democratic, more creative, and more innovative than their parents’ generation,” says David Buckingham,119 who continues, “[T]echnology is seen to have brought about fundamental changes in a whole range of areas. It has created new styles of communication and interaction, and new means for constructing community. It has produced new styles of playful learning, which go beyond the teacher-dominated, authoritarian approach of old style education. It is creating new competencies or forms of “literacy,” which require and produce new intellectual powers, and even “more complex brain structures.” It provides new ways of forming identity, and hence new forms of personhood; and by offering communication with different aspects of the self, it enables young people to relate to the world and to others in more powerful ways. Finally, these technologies are seen to be leading to the emergence of a new kind of politics, which is more distributed and democratic.”120 In the end, we are technological creatures. Humans are dependent on, and in many ways, define themselves by their technologies. We describe our cultures by our technologies. We speak of “Bronze Age Greece,” “Iron Age Etruscans,” the “Stone Age in southern Germany,” “the Industrial Revolution and the Age of Steam,” “the Information Age.” Our technological changes bring changes to our cultures and our literacies, a reflection of
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ottmar_Mergenthaler Buckingham, D. (2008) Introducing Identity. In Youth, Identity, and Digital Media. MacArthur Foundation paper. p. 13 http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1162/dmal.9780262524834.001 120 Buckingham, D. (2008) Introducing Identity. In Youth, Identity, and Digital Media. MacArthur Foundation paper. pp. 13-14 http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1162/dmal.9780262524834.001
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how that culture communicates, change as well. We are also creatures who are continuously coalescing, joining, merging, uniting. We look in great surprise at isolated cultures, and celebrate those who explore, trade, and cross great distances. Whenever those mergers come, our literacies change as well. English, perhaps above all other languages, is proof of the value of these processes of change. Our literature and our communication skills have changed greatly since fourth century Germans crossed the English Channel, and they have changed because we have embraced change. Whether there are ‘pivot points’ in history or not is another discussion (Crary 1990), but we now reside at a moment where the weight of society has fallen on the side of the need for education – that reproducer of society – to alter its presumed understandings, and its expressed rules of communication. Stagnation is not a typical human aspiration. We should not hope for that.
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