school begins (with literacy)

This week has been the typical hectic beginning of the semester. We’re still waiting for the iTunes U thing to get set up. I’m hoping that will happen soon and that I’ll be writing about my great success (emphasis on the hoping part). I’ve set up blogs for two of my courses, the learning community and my graduate course, ENG506. The latter is already hot with action.

There’s something about that course that makes me feel like a kid with a stick standing in front of a tempting hornets’ nest. I know I’m gonna get stung, but I just can’t help myself.

The fact of the matter is that I am deeply skeptical and often critical of the general pedagogical project of English Studies. The students, current and soon-to-be middle and high school English teachers, feel differently. They can certainly recognize America’s "educational crisis," but generally they adhere to the literacy project of English education and its practical primary results, instruction in literature and grammar.

And that’s fine. And when I say that I mean, I don’t have any expectation of changing their minds. I certainly would never penalize them (grade wise) for holding a position other than mine. And their adherence to such a position will not hurt them when they try to get a job.

They just have to deal with me writing that I think they are mistaken and that continuing down this path will lead English to less relevancy in our culture.

Sometimes I think it would be easier to just teach them how to make an iMovie and a website and leave it at that. Everyone would likely be much happier, but that’s the thing about the kid and the stick and the hornets’ nest.

I suppose though that is more than just a perverse impulse. My perception is that emergent literacies cannot be built upon extant literacy instruction with the assumption that current literacy is somehow foundational to future literacies. I.e., reading a novel is not a foundation for manipulating a multimedia site and database. As such, education in the future needs to be built on a different understanding of literacy, not one that excludes print literacy by any stretch of the imagination, but one that see print as a part and not a foundation.

Anyway, so it goes.

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One thought on “school begins (with literacy)

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  1. Working with a similar group of students in most of my classes, I totally know what you mean — this post speaks to me. The kind of challenging and questioning you describe is, I think, just what will challenge a good future teacher to develop a sound rationale. (Or, at least that’s what I think on my good days.)

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