Sunday, January 15, 2012
New semester, new course, new introduction. A little bit about myself: I recently came from Athens, GA, where I spent most of my waking hours in coffee shops writing my dissertation. I am still very nostalgic for the hot n' humid South, but now I am starting to become accustomed to the snow-capped mountains that have been a regular feature of life here in Logan.
What does the term 'content area literacy' mean to me? I was recently on a string of emails in which professors were arguing that the term 'literacy' should be limited to the reading and writing of printed letters. I get what they mean: the term 'literacy' does come from the same root word as the term 'letter'--therefore, you could call it 'letter-acy.'
But, to me, this position is not viable, and I will explain why. The term 'literacy' has such powerful connotations in our society--Brian Street has argued that the term 'literate' and 'illiterate' now carry the same connotations that the words 'civilized' and 'savage/primitive' used to mean. Therefore, I think that a facility with ALL sign system--gestures, music, speech, and so forth--should be considered literacy so that we do not deny the designation of 'literate' to the people who can produce effective texts using these mediums.
These days, the ability to produce and post a powerful YouTube video may reach more people, and have more communicative power, than the ability to write a blog or an essay. I therefore think that this act of producing a video should be considered an act of 'literacy.' This term shows that the ability to read and produce texts in a variety of formats is a legitimate and important act, worthy of the connotations that are associated with the word 'literate.'
I think that 'literacy' means more than simply being able to comprehend and produce texts, however. I think that literacy also entails critically evaluating texts and using the information that you learn to work toward personal enhancement or social change. What good is reading and writing if they aren't used for something--to make us more thoughtful and well-rounded human beings, to protest the unfair policies, and so forth? I also think that literacy instruction should be grounded in the hoped-for life trajectories, desires, languages, cultures, and identities of the students with whom we are working; as well as in the conventions of the disciplines that we are teaching.
That's my reader's digest version of content area literacy. I'm sure I left something out. Any thoughts?