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  1. Annotation Station: Literacy in American Lives - Deborah Brandt
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But its combination of sane argument and methodological rigor on a topic where commentators can succumb to excess calls out to readers beyond the academy. Graff, University of Texas at San Antonio "This book makes a significant contribution to literacy studies, and it deserves to be widely read. Brandt pushes us to reconsider many settled assumptions about how people learn to read and write, and she does it in lyrical prose that is a pleasure to read. I expect that we will be talking about and following the lead of her work for a long time.

Annotation Station: Literacy in American Lives - Deborah Brandt

The idea of literacy as an economic commodity used to perpetuate some big machine of economics and culture definitely disrupts my rosy concept of literacy as something that can help anyone overcome any circumstance. Are concepts of literacy organic rather than static? Is our definition of literacy and what counts as literacy truly subject to the economic forces at work in our country?

Is this true for all countries? How do teachers and parents anticipate what literacies may evolve and what will count so that our children will be prepared to face the rigors of lifelong literacy learning? Is literacy only about economic capital rather than something that can help one live a richer personal life?

How can literacy be the great equalizer in American society if where and when you are in a particular point in history determines your literacy learning, literacy development, and literacy opportunities? How do we reconcile these differences in philosophy of the purpose of public schools? In looking back at this chapter, what are the implications for the United States if the current system of literacy development, learning, and All work property of Buffy J. Is this because of the paradigm of our schools?

Or are we a mere reflection of larger cultural and societal issues in the United States where personal responsibility is no longer a source of pride but a thorn to be pressed into the side of anyone who might try to hold someone responsible for their actions? I have a hard time trying to reconcile the differences in the mindset I grew up with and the ideas that disrupt this mindset…. Concept of history of unionism, industrial relations, changing nature of work, as literacy sponsors, specifically history of unionism, attorneys, college-educated union coworkers case study of Dwayne Lowery p.

Penitentiary system, philosophies of prison management, law, judicial decisions, social pressures influencing prison management and rehabilitationthese created structures of opportunities and barriers for literacy pp. This chapter definitely ventures into a sociolinguistic perspective.

In some ways, I buy into this precept, but in other ways, I do not because for every example I can think of where this is true, I can think of exceptions to this as well. How do we prepare students to deal with this new reality?


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How will technology and our information age continue to shape these rapidly shifting literacies? The reading on the prison libraries and how the purpose and contents of the prison libraries were shaped out by outside forces was truly fascinating to me as a librarian. How do we as a society help accelerate the distance between illiteracy and literacy? Moral overtones of handwriting pp. Even to this day, my mom states that she still stings with shame at the thought of her third grade teacher reprimanding her poor handwriting and how stupid it made her feel. How is it that even today, geography and politics still reinforce the gaps in equity and access to literacy?

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Literacy in American Lives

How do children thrive or survive in spite of practices that are increasingly test-driven? Are these institutions still key today, or are these sponsors losing their power in the African American community? If they still wield power, how could they work with schools to help improve school achievement for more African American students? Why is it that reading and writing do not seem important on a personal or intrinsic level to so many students today? What about other ethnic groups in America? In particular, I wonder who and what are the sponsors of literacy for our growing Hispanic community?

If these ideological contexts for literacy were to be embraced more regularly by schools, workplaces, and other sponsors of literacy, racial equity in access, achievement, and reward for literacy might become more possible? Are there sponsors of literacy who do not want equity in access, achievement, and reward for literacy? I remember in one graduate class a discussion that centered around the notion that existing practices stay as they are to privilege the dominant class and to disenfranchise those outside that dominant class.

At first blush, this sounds like a far-out conspiracy theory, but when you look at what is happening in public schools, you really have to wonder if there are grains of truth to this idea. On the other hand, many early writing experiences, particularly those set outside of school, were remembered as occurring out of the eye of adult supervision, and often, involving feelings of loneliness, secrecy, and resistance pp.

notes on rhetoric, composition, dis/ability & accessibility

Public libraries used more by urban dwellers, especially if accessible by foot or public transportation p. Library as means of self- education; library as sponsor of literacy p. It is truly fascinating that reading bears such a revered status in our society. For me personally, I remember my parents encouraging the reading and writing that I started at an early age. I frequently received books as gifts, and as a child, spending time alone in my room with a book was one of my preferred activities.

I even loved encyclopedias!

My favorites were an old set of Childcraft books someone gave to me and a partial set of Encyclopedia Britannica for ChildrenI thought those were very cool as well as all the volumes of the Charlie Brown Book of Questions and Answers. Thus, Day was able to transition more smoothly into a different lifestyle and occupation because her upbringing was more common in society at that time than in Hunt's. Finally, the accounts of the two women demonstrate the dynamic state of literacy sponsorship in America.

In the early twentieth century, when Day was searching for an occupation after high school, the popular press was emerging as a major sponsor of literacy so she was able to acquire a position as a journalist, which further facilitated the growth of her literacy skills.

However, by the second half of the twentieth century, the influence of the popular press in literacy sponsorship was diminishing so the same opportunities were not available to Barbara Hunt when she was searching for an occupation after graduating high school. Thus, in using these two literacy history narratives, Brandt illustrates how the value of basic literacy skills, the identities and influences of economic sponsors, and job opportunities available to those with a high school education changed drastically during the s.

The second chapter of Deborah Brandt's Literacy in American Lives discusses the ways in which economic and political viability in American society became dependent on individuals being literate. Those incapable of understanding and participating in these literacy-requiring aspects of social, economic, and political life were placed at a distinct disadvantage to those that could read and understand them. Once again, the value of an individual's literacy skills began to change in relation to the changing American society. Brandt provides and analyzes two extended case studies from individuals living in the s and s to illustrate the impact of literacy sponsorship during this period.

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One individual is Dwayne Lowery, an auto worker turned union representative , and the other is Johnny Ames, a sharecropper who first learned to read and write during the 16 years he spent in a maximum security prison. For example, the power of his literacy skills waned as intuitions began hiring highly educated attorneys to negotiate against him and as the agreements between the two parties began transforming from verbal to written forms. To keep pace with the demands on his literacy skills, Lowery attended numerous workshops to better learn how to read and write contracts.

In Ames's case, he was able to overcome the enormous disadvantage of failing to learn to read and write in childhood due to an uncommon institutional sponsor of literacy, the penitentiary system. Although Ames's case is not typical, Brandt presents it to demonstrate the impact of historical and political events on literacy learning. Many of the materials Ames used to teach himself to read and write concerned competing philosophies on prison management, prisoner rehabilitation , and the law.

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These were only acquired by the prison system because of the change that the institution had been experiencing in recent years. Similarly, Ames was able to scaffold his literacy learning on several important judicial decisions made during his time in prison because they involved the rights that he and other prisoners were allowed. The examples of Lowery and Ames further serve to illustrate how literacy learning is often a by-product of one's struggle for economic and political ascendancy.

Lowery's example demonstrated the demand placed upon his literacy skills, by a society becoming contract-oriented, as he strove for economic success.

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Ame's example showed how his staying informed of his political rights as a prisoner facilitated his literacy learning in prison. Furthermore, these cases illustrate how standards for literacy in America were rapidly increasing because each man would have found himself at a disadvantage without continuing to acquire literacy skills.

The third chapter of Deborah Brandt's Literacy in American Lives considers the impact of rapid changes in the meaning and methods of literacy using the literacy histories of members from four different generations of a Midwestern European American family. Genna May was born in on a dairy farm in central Wisconsin and she began attending school in a period when schooling was required only 12 weeks a year.

Outside of school, literacy played a small role in her life and after graduating high school, she enrolled in college just long enough to learn to type and obtain a job with a company manufacturing disinfectants for dairy barns. During the Great Depression, the agricultural conditions in the Midwest changed dramatically as small family farms sold out to larger agricultural distributors.