Thursday, May 6, 2010
Newkirk Chapter 4 & 5
The most compelling argument for a new valuation of popular culture in children's writing comes in the profoundly important line of research carried out by Ann Haas Dyson (1997, 2003) in urban, and often low-income, schools. The core ethical theme running through Dyson's work concerns access: If these cultural resources are dismissed for whatever reason (too exploitative, too commercial, too tied to television, to "low class"), if the middle/professional-class type of book culture is perceived as the only useful literacy experience, the result is profoundly alienating and inequitable. (p. 96)
There are consequences to this censorship.
The facts of literacy development are plain for all to see: boys fall dramatically behind girls in reading, and particularly writing, by the third grade. Those boys who have the experience of being behind, of not being good at literacy - and they number in the millions - soon turn a difficulty into an identity.
They begin to believe that they are just not good at words, at least printed ones. Such an identity provides security because there is no longer a need to really try, for any attempt just exposes a deficiency. And because we all have a stake in the identities we assume (even when they work against us), they are much more impervious to instruction.
These students are the ones who claim that "reading is stupid", the ones who perfect avoidance strategies, who are always breaking their pencils, who manage to write only a few primer-level sentences in writing period, and who later manage to pass English with the help of Sparknotes.
Thus we have a negative cycle: Boys experience difficulty and, early on, come to avoid reading and writing- and because they avoid it, they experience even greater difficulty, to the point where faking it is the only reasonable solution. I would suggest that the consequences of opting out of reading and writing - in an "information age" where work involves working with texts more than raw materials- are severe indeed. (p. 105-106)
Newkirk argues for a wider view of literacy and literate practices in school. In your own experience and/or opinion how can we find ways to bridge the literacies from boys (and girls who don't identify with "school literacy") lives with the literacies we would like them to practice, valuing both equally?