Friday, August 15, 2008


Huot, Brian. “Toward a New Discourse of Assessment for the College Writing Classroom.” College English, Vol. 65, No. 2 (Nov., 2002), pp. 163-180
fantastic stuff here. Really good stuff on portfolios, very practical too in terms of grading issues and how we need to redefine assessment, separating it from grading and testing. I want all CI people to read this!
Huot, Brian. “Reliability, Validity, and Holistic Scoring: What We Know and What We Need to Know.” CCC. Vol. 41, No. 2 (May, 1990), pp. 201-213.
A lot of distinctions worth knowing: reliability and validity, and how they are confused and how V gets slighted. Also, “direct writing assessment.” Definitely wortth reading again. Huot discusses the uses of holistic scoring, though, and none of them refer to clasroom grading. But I think that is indeed a form of holistic grading—at least the way we're using it at Emmanuel. Maybe that's a mistake? It begs the question, what are we doing and what are we after? He's talking more about course placement and large scale assessment. But isn't that kind of what we're doing? You've also got norm-referenced and criteria-referenced testing. But this is all about testing. Is that differrent from classroom writing assessment? Should it be? I'm confused. Good.

McAndrew, Donald C. and C. Mark Hurlbert. “Teaching Intentional Errors in Standard English: A way to 'big smart english'.” English Leadership Quaterly. 15. 2. May 1993.
Interesting stuff about SE and errors. Cites Joe Williams. Not sure I buy the thesis, though. They do bring up the very important point about the value of error in growth. Big.
Murdick, William. “What English Teachers Need to Know about Grammar.” English Jourrnal (In Press). ??
This is great stuff. I have to read it again. He analyzes some of the vast unconscious grammar rules a child must know in order to say, “I let Mary keep it.” Also talks about diffferent types of errors, not just TSG, but generative grammar. This essay might be huge for me to use. I left TONS of notes on the backs of pages with ideas for papers, classes, etc. What I would like to do is take some of this and bring it outside of the English Dept, though.
Kolln, Martha. “Everyone's Right to Their Own Language.” CCC. Vol. 37. Issue 1. (Feb. 1986), pp. 100-102.
takes up the issue that everyone and everybody are indeed not singular. Interesting, though I'm not sure if it's useful to me. She distinguishes each from everyone, and I'm not sure I buy it: everyone in the room was singing their own tune—is okay, but each person was singing their own tune—is not. Interesting. I wish she had taken it to the level that, by definition, every-one means that there must be more than one one. Okay, I'm done.

Heath, Shirley Brice. “Standard English: Biography of a Symbol.” Standards and Dialects in English. Skopen, Timoth and Joseph M. Williams (Eds.). Cambrdige: Winthrop Publishers. 1980.
Amazing stuff here. Traces the current obsession with SE from its beginnigs, which seem to be around the turn of the 20th century. Talks about how until the mid 1800's variety in language was seen as a positive, not a negative, and how that didn't change until after the civil war, I think. A tremendous resource for exploring the truths and history of SE.

Hillocks, George Jr. & Smith, Michael, W. “Grammars and Literacy Learning.” (no more details)
History of grammar texts. !! intentions of grammar: to understan scripture, and “to express esoteric doctrine for the wise, while disguising it from the simple without falsifying it”!!
Gets deep into MAK Halliday’s systemic functional linguistics (SFL). Stuff relevant to my class on p. 728. Cites Ben and spell his name wrong!
Good stuff here about trying/not trying to simplify the linguistic system into user-friendly grammar.
Tons of stuff.
Baron, Dennis. “Teaching Grammar Doesn’t Lead to Better Writing.” Chronicle of Higher Education;
5/15/2003, Vol. 49 Issue 36, pB20, 1p,1
discusses and ACT study that found college profs care more about grammar than high school teachers. How grammar mistakes are “easy targets for critics”. Support for my idea about grammar not as performance but “the real goal of engaging readers in an interesting conversation.”
Hunt, Tiffany J. & Hunt, Bud. “The Conventions of Conventions.” English Journal. Vol. 94. No. 4.
March 2004.
More stuff about how grammar out of context is useless. Talks about the rift that “existed” between those in favor of grammar and those not. Also, a lot of stuff about grammar as a meta-language. Conscious versus unconscious understanding.
Cazort, Douglass. Under the Grammar Hammer. McGraw-Hill. 1997.
Goes over the top 25 most common serious grammar errors, and attempts to provide a user-friendly way of overcoming them.
Yarrow, Rachel. “How do Students Feel About Grammar?: The Framework and its Implications for
Teaching and Learning.” Changing English. Vol. 14, No. 2, August 2007, pp. 175-186
Argues that grammar can be disempowering when taught outside of a meaningful context. Something I agree and disagree with, especially if I want to pursue the idea of teaching grammar as knowledge, not performance. But mostly stuff I like and agree with. Also, some stuff about how pressure make people perform worse.
Williamson, Michael M. “Common Sense Meets Research: The Debate over Grammar Instruction in Composition Instruction.” The English Record. 1986.
Discussion of how we may think we learned grammar vs. how we really did; Hartwell and Eley, etc. Expresses a lot of what I am trying to get across to faculty who assume the position, If they aren't learning it in comp, who is teaching it?
Asseline, Marlene. “Teaching Grammar.” Teacher Librarian. June2002.
Brief review of issues and controversies in teaching grammar, and some vague suggestions at the end.
Andrews, Richard et al. “The Effect of Grammar Teaching on Writing Development.” Brittish Educational Research Journal. Feb. 1006. Seems like a good resourse.
Good overview of many studies that all lead to the usual “grammar instruction doesn't help writing.” Sentence-combinin is found somewhat helpful, but not much.
Hartwell, Patrick. “Teaching Arrangement: A Pedagogy.” College English, Vol. 40, No. 5 (Jan., 1979), pp. 548-554
Teaching technique for improving writing: filling in connetions between disparate sentences. The idea that modes are not found in pure form anywhere outside of school.
• Also, the notion of commitment in a sentence within a paragraph; level of abstraction, rather than just topic sentence and support.
Petrosky, Anthony. (red notebook) “Grammar Instruction: What We Know.” English Journal. Dec. 1977.
Overview of the Elley et al. Study and a study by R.J. Harris (1962). Same stuff.
Farrell, Thomas, J. (red notebook) “A Defense for Requiring Standard English.” PRE/TEXT 1986.
This is where to go if you want that racisti dumbass who doesn't think he's racist but argues that you are racist if you say that standard English is more white than it is black. He even cites the fact that some black people have learned SE as an argument that it therefore must not be white English. Genius.
Elsasser, N & John-Steiner, V.P. “An Interactive Approach to Advancing Literacy.” Harvard Educational Review. 1977. (GP1)
Talks about using Vygotsky's theories and Freire's pedagogy for advancing literacy. Nothing too new here, but some interesting lines about context and education.
Baugh, John. “Response and Comment.” ??? (GP1)
Talks about BEV and has some charts and facts about it. Discussion of how BEV is closer to ancient Greek gramman than is Standard English. Talks about use of standard dialects for domination. (“copula”= linking verb)
Graff, Gerald. “Deborah Meier's Progressive Traditionalism.” Clueless in Academe. Chapter 14.
Really interesting. Must read Meier. Graff at the end disagrees with her “localist bias,” but I think he misses the point there and loses the argument. This could be a good springboard.
---. “The University is Popular Culture.” Clueless in Academe. Chapter 1.
Mentions Julie Lindquist. Talks about demystifying the rules of the club.
“Arguespeak” -- persuasive argument as the language of academe
very in line with my thesis
perhaps missing issues of diverse students, conflicting primary discourses
Kurt Spellmeyer/Carol Severino, “Where the Cultures of Basic Writers and Academia Intersect.” Journal of Basic Writing: 1992. Check it out!
Quote on page 30 I may really disagree with.
“Vertical disconnect” b/w level of ed. Seems like my topic.
Pagnucci, Gian. “The Perils of the Narrative Life.” Living the Narrative Life.
Gian discusses ways in which narrative writing is overlooked in the academy, and what that costs us. He, rightly, argues that academic epistemology itself is a narrative, and that by nominalizing everything, academic writing loses all possibilities for excitement.

William, Joseph. (1981) “Phenomenology of Error.”
classic piece. Also relevant to the idea of context and that trying to educate people by taking rules and their violations as absolute and existing outside of a context is bad and silly.
Shor, Ira & Freire, Paulo. “Do First-World Students Need Liberating?” A Pedagogy for Liberation: Dialogues on Transforming Education
Talks about the “culture of silence” and Shor's “Culture of sabotage” in schools. How to handle classroom behavior.
The limits of education in terms of liberation
*Freire's word-world contradiction (p. 135) here strongly reflects Delpits context-text contradiction.
Brown, Cynthia (1974). “Literacy in 30 Hours: Paulo Freire's Process in Northeast Brazil.” Freire for the Classroom. Ed. Ira Shor.
Shor, Ira & Freire, Paulo. A Pedagogy for Liberation: Dialogues on Transforming Education. (exceprts)
Some really interesting stuff on practical applications of Freire's ideas: issues of power in the class, the authority that the teacher always must have, sexism and racism in the class, rigor, issues of teaching grammar even (very Delpit, I'd say) on p. 73. Also, using students' first-world context as a building point for education.

Delpit, Lisa. Other People's Children.
So much in here. Clearly very influential and highly cited. Hard to take too. She points out that a lot of what people like me do in the name of a liberatory pedagogy (especially for nonmainstream students) can serve to worsen the situation, not better it. She focuses a good deal on the importance of teaching the dominatn discourses to these students and raises issues of authority in the classroom. There are some views here that are hard to fit neatly together, thought I won't call them contradicting. Though I do think she deals too quickly with an issue or two, and that these present some weaknesses in certain areas.

Delpit, Lisa (1995). “The Politics of Teaching Literate Discourse.” Literacy: A Critical Sourcebook.
Reacts against Gee's assertion that nonmainstream children cannot acquire dominant discourses in the classroom.

Lunsford, A. A. & Lunsford, K. J. “'Mistakes are a Fact of Life': A National Camparative Study”.
CCC 59:4/June 2008
Bruffee, Kenneth. “Collaborative Learning and the 'Human Conversation'.” Crosstalk.
Thought as internalized conversation (Vygotsky)--collab learning
Writing: internalized conv. Re-externalized: hence, two steps away AND a return
Rorty's “normal discourse”, also “abnormal discourse”
to know a field is to know its ND, not its facts, formulae, etc.

Emig, Janet. “Writing as a Mode of Learning.” Crosstalk.
Britton, James. “Spectator role and the Beginning of Writing.” Crosstalk.
Vygotsky's ideas that writing is drawing words
first-order versus second-order symbolism (objects, words)
written language becomes first-order(?)
learning through imitating identities
Lunsford, Andrea. “Cognitive Development and the Basic Writer.” Crosstalk.
Interesting stuff about working with people just short of the ability to formulate true concepts
*Berthoff, Ann. “Is Learning Still Possible?” Crosstalk.
Vyg and Freire
Pedagogy of exhortation vs. of knowing
Chief law of growth
Triadic Model
dialectical notbeook; abstracting vs. generalizing; argument vs. persuasion.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The future of technology in my teaching/research

After reading many theorists' ideas about technology and literacy (see below), I have a different perspective on how and why to use new technologies in my classes. Like most people, I resist new technologies that I don't know how to use. But this past year, due partly to a class I took at Boston College, I was thrown into WebCT and needed to use it as part of the coursework. Immediately, I saw uses for my own teaching, and I attempted to get my classes up and using WebCT. The problem was that I didn't put it on the syllabus, and while I did have some great success in certain cases, I received enough push back from certain students that I know I have to revise my syllabus to include WebCT. I also need to point out that my schools VPAA, Dr. Frank Scully, has been pushing faculty to use WebCT and is very enthusiastic about it.

Here are some ways I have and will use WebCT. Wait, first I want to speak more theoretically about the role of technology in the classroom, THEN I'll get to my specific uses of this specific technology. I been forced to think more about what technology is, about its past and its future, and where it begins and ends. I never thought of the written word as a technological advance, but after reading about this idea, it seems clear. The larger overall view presented in many pieced I've read lately contains some type of acceptance of the movement of technology--as opposed to a blind rejection of anything new--coupled with a critical eye aim at the benefits or detriments of incorporating new tools--as opposed to a blind acceptance of anything new. I have also thought more about the continuum between what I will call 'us' and 'it'--the idea that technology is somehow separate from us. People complain that it "changes the way we think/read/act, etc.," but claims like this miss some major points: first it separates us from out technology; second it assumed (by saying that something is changing) that any of these aspects were every static or monolithic. The first point here may need more development: We are not separate from out technology. Yes, it shapes the way we think, but then our thinking in turn shape the technology we want, need, use, which in turn shapes our thinking. It reminds me of Gee's (1999) point that without a context, no word has any meaning, but without words, there is no context; that these two entities eternally mirror one another. For me, the same idea seems to apply to technology. The bigger point here is that changes in thinking are not in themselves bad or wrong; they are just changes. Same with changes in language. These elements were never stable, probably never meant to be.

With this idea in mind, I think of the students coming in to college composition. They have very different ideas of privacy than most people didn't 20 years ago. That's just one example. The newer technologies that we wonder if we should bring into the classroom--these are part of their primary Discourses. To NOT bring them in seems to violate every notion of Freirian Praxis (that's for you, K.).

Back to WebCT: I find that my students have a notion that if they write something, they want it to be up for view, even if it's a minor, more internally motivated type of free thinking on paper. Where I used to assign small reaction papers, informal one-page little numbers, just to get them thinking; and where I used to collect them, maybe reading or maybe just making sure the did them-- for the students, this makes the writing seem like it was "pointless." This may not be a new attribute; we all like knowing that our work has affected someone. But now I have stopped asking them to turn them in, and I ask them to post them on WebCT. There is something about the idea that it's out there, that anyone CAN read it-- I think that this gives them more of a sense of purpose. **further investigation would be needed for me to have a more confident declaration to make... I think that this notion of posting naked thoughts might have been difficult for students even a few years ago, but again, my speculation is that it is not a problem for most incoming college freshmen. Big assumption perhaps, but it's something that I could research, or at least see if others have.

That's one way in which I think WebCT is an amazing tool. Just putting something out there may give it more of a sense of purpose, and since those smaller, less formal writings (kind of like this one) form the basis for their larger ideas, the more they feel the small writings matter, the more likely they are to get the bigger effect of doing them.

My goal for this year is to think up more creative way of using online technology like WebCT, perhaps even blogging, to give the students access to the feeling that their writing actually exists in the real world; that it can serve, as Freire might say, as "consciousness intent upon the world," as a praxis, not just practice. (K.? you feelin' me?) X.

Yes, I'll need to think of more concrete applications, but that is my goal for the year. I want to use my students' incoming proclivity for posting thoughts online as a pedagogical tool.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Help w/ Diss Idea

If you read my last post on my dissertations idea, and if you have any ideas for other hip-hop artists or comedians you think I should check out, please, share the love.

Concept Mapping Thoughts

Up until now, I have thought that the main split in thinking about how to gain knowledge was between the rationalist and the empiricists. I was planning to map my idea of how epistemological concepts relate starting with this disctinction. I was going to trace empirical thinking down through structuralism and positivisim, right up to Skinnerian behavioralism; and then trace rationalism down through all of the "softer" sciences, like phenomenology, humanism, ethnomethodologies, even postmodernism. Somewhere in the middle I was going to bring in pragmatism--since it can really relate to either strand-- and then constructivism, though a bit closer to the rationalism side... stuff like that.

But now... I had some "shower thoughts" and I'm gonna shake it up.

I realized that rationalism and empiricism are truly not the big split in epistemological thinking. (Perhaps the article on romanticism got me thinking this way...) I realized that both are equally positivistic: both rationalism and empiricism are equally convinced that the world is indeed knowable; they just disagree about whether your path to those exisiting ideas is one of observation or one of reason. Still, they both come to positivist conclusions about the world. So I now think that the left side of my map will fall under the broader category of positivism and will encompass both rationalism and empiricism. The difference is that all the things I just claimed to be decedents of rationalism? I'm no longer so sure. I now think that the other side of the split--the thing that counters positivism is constructivism. So the main split, as I see it, is whether the world has these truths sitting out there waiting to be discovered, OR if the very notion of truth and knowledge is neither out there in an objective world nor simply made up by us, but is rather constructed in our attempts to find it. This is where Ben, I believe rightly, called Kant the quintessential constructivist.

So I now see the "softer" epistemologies, the humanism, the ethnographies, the critical theories-- I see them descending from constructivism, not rationalism. That's all I wanted to say. I welcome perpectives, arguments, whatevs. Hope this gives someone something to at least think about. -JL

Reaction to Carr's "Is Google Making Us Stupid?"

From the Atlantic Monthly, July/August 2008

It's strange to reading this after reading articles by so many major technology/literacy theorists. I realize that Carr is writing this for a popular audience, and I realize that I am very new to this field, but still... in the company of Hass, Coyne, Radder, Selfe, Postman, Baron, and others, Carr comes off as little more than a dilettante here. I see that he's written a couple of books on technology, so maybe it's more a product of his audience here, but I see some major flaws in his claims and reasoning.

Overall, his answer seems to be yes. If Google's not making us stupid, it's at least changing the way our minds work, going from minds that can linger over large textual passages and think slowly and deeply about their significance—to minds that skim over the top of tons of info without time or care to really consider deeper truths. He reaches this conclusion in some weird ways too. He starts off with his own story and then anecdotes from others, which is cool. But then he acknowledges that “Anecdotes alone don’t prove much. And we still await the long-term neurological and psychological experiments that will provide a definitive picture of how Internet use affects cognition.” This seems like a weird concession, and it paves the way for what I see—and again, it may be because of the intended audience—as a poor mixing of methodologies, one where he shifts from each one just as he's about to lose his argument. When the empirical science doesn't back him up, he goes to stories, etc.

In the light of other theorist, Carr comes off here as a reactionary, and golden-age-afier. He even acknowledges this, but then keeps going almost as if he hadn't. He argues that the changes in the way we think are bad, but never really says why. Why aren't they just changes? This is the biggest weakness I see. He even mentions how people always react to changes in tech—which always bring about changes in thinking—negatively and how many times they are proven wrong... but then he still keeps saying that this time it really is a bad thing...

For example, and I think this is the biggest weakness in his argument, he has two historical examples that can be seen as completely contradictory. He mentions how Nietzsche used a typewriter for his later work, and that this changed his writing, as Friedrich A. Kittler says, “from arguments to aphorisms, from thoughts to puns, from rhetoric to telegram style.” But as a reader, I'm asking if this is necessarily bad. In fact, after reading people like McLuhan, who talks about how the technology of writing itself served to take primal peoples away from their immediate experience with each other and with the world, I could almost argue that Nietzsche’s newer style creeped back toward that immediacy. Right? His later work takes you right to this thought, less mediated by prose. I'm not saying that's good, but I'm rejecting Carr's claim that it's definitely bad.

Then he goes on to talk about how the invention of the clock changed the way people thought too—it turned their thinking into a more mechanical system, which soon led to something that I think Carr would like: the scientific mind. Isn't that kind of what Carr says we're losing? Those abilities to thinking deeply and analytically? Here's where I think he loses it: he only gives a little acknowledgment of that achievement before he goes on to lament the downside of this new way of thinking: “we stopped listening to our senses and started obeying the clock.” Wait, isn't that a lot like how McLuhan said preliterate peoples lost immediacy with the world with the advent of the written word? So which way does Carr want to have it? Is it BAD that Nietzsche’s later style brought readers to a more immediate experience with his ideas, but took away the pleasure of drifting through long passages of his prose to get there, or is it good because it may in a sense return us to that state of immediacy? Or am I missing something? Maybe.

But here's where I really lose faith in Carr and any notion that he might be right; and yes, I realize that it's probably Atlantic and not him, but still, this is really messed up. Before he goes on to acknowledge that he may be acting just like I'm accusing him of acting, he says that this new way of thinking that we're developing falls right into the hands of marketers and advertisers who use our inclination to quickly jump from page to page to sell us their stuff. Okay, probably right. But then this guy goes on to mention Plato's Phaedrus, and it is a hot link. To what? To Amazon, the page where you can buy the book. Come fucking on. I looked it up on Google books, and I found a FREE version of the entire text in about six seconds. So who's selling who, and who is disseminating information democratically? That's bullshit.

It's really hard to get past that. Yes, Carr does suggest that he may be a “worrywart,” but I don't think he actually considers it enough. Things are changing, times change, the way we think changes; things change. Change can be bad; it can fall into the advantage of the oppressive cast who want to keep others down; but it doesn't have to. I think that was Radder's point. But resisting change for its own sake just seems fearful and stubborn, and I don't think Carr has really brought up any reason to react against the way that the Net is changing our thinking other than that fact that the way we think is indeed changes. But has it ever been a stable thing? Should it be? Those are questions he seems to just take for granted as given truths.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Dissertation Ideas 6/14/08

I'm interested in the idea of out-of-school literacies and some of the themes that entails. There are many ways in which people learn literacies, indeed there are many different literacies, and school is only one of these ways. In fact, you could argue-- as many have-- that school is not the most effect of these means, and may actually be among the least effective, perhaps even destructive to these ends, especially if the students are from non-mainstream backgrounds (whose primary discourses contradict school discourse, i.e., what we in our culture call 'literacy'. [Gee 1991])

There are several implications here that are worth exploring: the idea that school discourse is somehow natural, or the 'real' discourse, which is nonsense when you really think about it; the idea that school is indeed the place where literacy, even Standard English literacy, is learned-- again, not so accurate; the idea that students whose primary discourses run counter to school discourse are bad learners, deficient, lazy, etc., and that their home discourses are somehow destructive; finally, and perhaps most importantly, the idea that schools completely suck at using students out-of-school strengths and building upon them, perhaps because we are so obsessed with the idea that if something is enjoyable or comes naturally that it is wrong and that school must be torture for our society to be getting its money's worth. I'm interested at looking at ways in which the literacies that students already have are the very elements that we need to build up and encourage; that we need to stop being prejudiced against marginalized discourses as 'wrong' because this is NOT the only way to maintain SE as the appropriate discourse for certain settings, that is, school, work, media (mostly), stuff like that.

Along the lines of the idea that school is not where students learn literacy, I think Gee's (1991) distinction between “learning” and “acquisition” is helpful. Learning is the process through which a we take a concept and break it down into pieces so that the student can “get it,” somehow internalize these ideas. This is what school is based on. This is what our ridiculous tests test. Acquisition is where you gain skills through using them, not through the intellectual process of analysis. We've all learned this way. (Think about how easily kids learn a second language when they are thrown into a situation where they need to use it versus how difficult it is for an adult to learn Italian – at least how to speak it fluently – by taking night classes at the local college...) School teach generally through 'learning'; but they don't seem to be good at teaching through acquisition, at least when it comes to literacy. Gee points out that both A and L are effective for certain things, and this is where it gets really interesting: if you want to master the use of a skill, which is what I think we all want when we want students to gain literacy skills*, then you need to help them acquire the skills; learning is only useful for helping student develop meta-cognitive abilities to reflect and think critically ABOUT the topic, not for actually putting it to use. Think about how grammar is taught, especially in todays testing age. Think, even, about how it is tested. Gee's description helps me understand how I can teach grammar and even help students pass very hard grammar exams, but see first hand that this process has done nothing to help students become better at the use of proper grammar in their actual writing. Damn.

*when I get to Freire and critical pedagogy—which, believe me, is where I'm going—I'm going to completely challenge the idea that this is indeed what the school systems, the administration does want; Freire might argue it's the LAST thing they want...

Where was I... Out-of-school literacies. I want to investigate the power of the ways in which children do NOT learn literacy in schools, and the ways in which they do indeed learn them EVERYWHERE else. But in order to see that, we need to expand our idea of literacy, indeed—again similar to what Gee points out about the word 'discourse'--we need to see 'literacy' as a countable word: literacies, because the idea that English is monolithic (Carpenter, Godley, Werner 2007) is just wrong; it was never right. If we want our children, our citizenry to develop true literacy skills, we need to gain a better understanding of what that actually means of course, but we need to use the world around us, the things they are actually interested in, the places where they are already learning these skills—we need to see these things as our allies, not our enemies. We need to shake off this idea that literacy is the extent to which someone can read Chaucer. This is where critical pedagogy comes in. Freire is constantly talking about education as liberation and liberation as praxis, as “consciousness intent upon the world” (1993). For him, the idea that students can learn in a vacuum, that they can gain understanding that is disconnected from the actual world in which they live—this is a fallacy. He takes it farther though. He looks at the underlying power structures of society and realizes that this is not what they want; they do not want to wake up the consciousness of the citizenry and have it intent upon action in the world, because that is the end of the gravy train. So not only are we dealing with a system of education that gets it completely wrong, but for Freire, we're dealing with a system that at some level WANTs it wrong and will fight to keep it wrong in just that way because it serves their greed and lack of humanity.

These ideas may feel disconnected but I think a point is emerging. I'm not sure I can address Freire's notion of this evil power structure that benefits from the ways in which schools rob our children of real literacy. I think I'll need to focus for now on the idea that if the schools really understood the damage they were doing, they would change and do good. I need to believe that, at least for now.

Here's where I'm going, and how I'm going to get from Gee and Freire to Chuck D. Because that is indeed what I plan to do. I want to look at the phenomena of out-of-school literacies in non-mainstream cultures (defined the way Gee defines them), and I want to look at some of the ways in which these students are indeed literate, and I'm talking about certain elements of pop culture. (This brings up the age-old complaint of parents about how their kids can recite every lyric from Elvis, the Beatles, Zeppelin, Billy Idol, Bruce, Prince, Public Enemy, Eminem, 50 Cent-- you get the picture, but that they can't remember their school lessons.) I want to uncover some of the critical pedagogy that underlies some of these discourses. I recently wrote a paper where I used the lyrics two hip hop artists (Kanye West and Dead Prez) as counter arguments against A Nation at Risk, a report from the Reagan era about the ways to whip our schools into shape. What I found was that these artists were making incredibly astute claims about the education system. They were saying exactly what Freire was saying, only in language and through a media that was actually accessible to the very people Freire was talking to** That is a major point here. I don't think I realized how major it was until just now.

My plan is to identify some of critical pedagogies major tenets and show, one by one, how these ideas are capitulated in certain discourses of black American culture, particularly in comedy and in rap lyrics. I plan to use West and Dead Prez, but also include Public Enemy, KRS One, and try to find others representing these ideas. As for comedy, I plan to start with Dave Chappelle, who I consider to be a brilliant social critic, and also to use Richard Pryor and maybe Chris Rock, although I'm not sure. I have taught and wrote about several of these artists and the ideas and themes that they present; others I only have budding ideas. But I think it's a worthwhile undertaking, one that can tie in all of the issues I've been presenting here. And I think there are practical applications of a study like this too; I don't think it's purely theoretical or academic. If I'm right, if these artists are expressing to a popular audience the very tenets of critical pedagogy, and if the people are listening and hearing these ideas, and if the school are at the same time rejecting these ideas and telling the people to shut them off so they can read “real” stuff—I think this has great implications for where we are going wrong and even how we can right the ship, assuming perhaps idealistically that righting the ship is indeed what we want to do. That's it, I'm done.


Carpenter, B.D., Godley, A.J., Werner, C.A., (2007). I'll Speak Proper Slang: Language ideologies is daily editing activity. Reading Research Quarterly, 42, 100-131.

Gee, J. P. (1991). What is Literacy? In C. Mitchell & K. Weiler (Eds.), Reviewing Literacy: Culture and the Discourse of the Other (pp. 3-11). New York: Begin & Garvey.

Freire, P. (1993). The Pedagogy of the Oppressed (pp. 73-86). New York: Continuum.

Friday, June 13, 2008


I'm not sure how to do this. I want to keep a kind of diary about the readings I'm doing, but I don't want a new post for every article I read; that would be silly. I think I'll just make one post-- maybe two: one for class readings, the other for outside readings-- with the intention of updating it every time I read a new article. Part of my thinking is that if I can capture my initial thoughts about everything I read, I will have a sort of evolution of my thinking and developing interests in the areas that I will end up pursuing. Also, I find that when you read a ton of articles in a semester, they all tend to blur together-- I will end up forgetting most of them. I'd like to keep better track of the content and my reactions. Why not. I'm in the middle of an article now-- no, I cannot read a whole article without going online a thousand times and doing ten billion other things, even if I say I want to finish it by 11! This one's on becoming literate in the information age-- wait, that might be the title, I might want to capitalize it. Ah, I'll do it later. Back to work. It's ai'ight so far.