200 words, roughly. “Literacy, like land, is a valued commodity in this economy, a key resource in gaining profit and edge” (Brandt 558). If literacy is so valued, why might so many of us have such complicated relationships to reading and writing, perhaps two of the most important features of literacy? Make a text-to-text or text-to-self connection in your response. (15 minutes)
Literacy, the essential ability to communicate in the common language, is a widely valued skill that is assumed to be easily learned and therefore required. Besides the possible cognitive difficulties, caused by severe learning disability or other communicative disorders, reading and writing acquisition can have significant challenges for the learner. The language, culture, and relevance all come into play when learning the language. It is part of the reason why black students are more likely to write “winner” literacy narratives that describe explicit rewards for their work. Their culture emphasizes different socially accepted phrases and values, and explicit rewards are meaningful (in early cognitive development) because they are less likely to find the transition of language type natural. It is the same reason for white, privileged kids to have a higher likelihood of writing “victim” narratives. The language came naturally to them and they felt that it was their school’s fault for not catering what they wanted to do. This added complexity to their relationship with the subject, as they begin to view their failures as being a problem with their overall self rather than their skill in the subject. Privileged children never experience the necessity for hard work, and thus feel the need to blame anything else. In my own experience, I simply did not want to communicate by reading or writing. I wasn’t skilled in the area, and it didn’t come naturally to me, I was more of an “outsider” narrative in that way.
200 words, roughly. Table 1 identifies eight distinct cultural narratives of literacy (Alexander 615), and the bulk of our reading selection is dedicated to discussion of these types. Pick any two “little narratives” that interest you, explain each of the little narratives and Alexander’s view on the type, and discuss your reasons for being interested in each type. (Note: “Success” is not a little narrative, so it is off limits for this question!) Remember: Quote & Explain. (15 minutes)
Alexander proposes seven “little narrative” categories to provide insight into the typical perspective of the writer. One of the perspectives of narratives that I tend to dislike, is that of the victim narrative. Victim narratives describe instances in which the writer feels victimized based on their literacy skills, and blames their disinterest and inadequacy that follows on the specific negative situation. I always found this viewpoint to be interesting, but always disliked the author after reading. I was never sure as to why this type of narrative irritated me, but Alexander cleared it up for me. Those within the category show the “willingness to adopt the victim role [that] may be the product of entitlement where, from [the writer’s] privileged socioeconomic place, [the writer] sees it as a natural right to critique schooling and pedagogical approaches” (Alexander 618). The writer of the victim role refuses to see the inadequacy as a product of their own behaviors, and I find that so annoying. It’s the epitome of the personality that I don’t like. I can put up with a lot, but people that don’t put in effort and then refuse to take responsibility for their inadequacy disturb me. The other interesting cultural narrative is one that I may identify more with. The outsider describes a role in which the individual does not assign blame, but does not fit into the overarching group based on their negative or apathetic attitude towards literacy learning. “Other outsiders wrote about how they were not interested in furthering their literacy skills (although they thought they should be)” (Alexander 622). I find it fascinating because although it is similar to the “victim” role, it does not assign blame in its disinterest. If anything, based on my own “outsider” narrative, the blame goes to the writer. The writer feels guilty, which means the writer is taking responsibility as they should be.
200 words, roughly. Every literacy narrative has both the student/writer and a person (or persons) that Brandt might call a literacy sponsor. Williams notes that it is “intriguing to consider the identities students construct for teachers” (344). Choose any two of Alexander’s categories and consider how students represent the identities of the relevant sponsor(s). Be sure to quote and explain. (10 minutes)
The literary sponsor describes the role of a person that positively influences facilitation of student learning. This role can influence the student directly, through encouragement, or indirectly. In the “little narrative” identities the specific voice of the author shares a specific perception of these sponsors. In child prodigies, children that “conceiv[e] of themselves and their literacy abilities as exceptional” (Alexander 619), the sponsor is a person that inspires them to achieve their goals. Not much description is given to their identity beyond what is needed to inspire the writer. In such a case, the sponsor directly facilitates the student’s learning. The sponsor wants the student to gain literacy skills, and the student uses the inspiration to show off their natural intelligence and abilities. Another example is the rebel identity, a person that “choos[es] to dismiss values and pedagogies promoted in schools” (Alexander 621). Rebels would be inspired by going against the desire of the teacher. This would be an indirect facilitation of the student, as it was not the teachers intention for the student to perform the opposite behavior. In such a case the sponsor would be described with negative connotations, such as being overly strict, or stupid.