Tool kit cultural tool kit
Media can be our windows and our barriers
Filtering out undesirable images.
Keeps things in and Keeps things out
Sanitized and pristine
Cultural toolkit used to unpack
Dominant discourse and
Screen Racial profiles.
OH GOSH, 200 PAGES OF READING TO DO!
Turn the PAGE.
Start with a blank page
So we can get on the same page.
-Brittney and Amanda
My group did a presentation on children's and young adult literature in Ghana, in which I specifically focused on what was being read. It is interesting to be reflecting on my presentation on children's and young adult literature in Ghana now that I have actually visited Ghana. Before I left for Ghana, I had the opportunity to Skype with Kathy Knowles, a Canadian writer who has started libraries throughout Ghana. She spoke of how most Ghanaians don't read for pleasure because it's seen as a mostly academic endeavor and how almost all literature is written in English, usually a third language particularly for those who live in rural areas.
As our trip to Ghana draws closer and closer, I find it more and more necessary to revisit Lugones's piece on code-switching and world-traveling. I find myself torn between excitement and anxiety in regards to travelling to Ghana.
On one hand, I worry about the implications my mere presence will have in Ghana. I have blonde hair, blue eyes, and pale skin: the epitome of what the stereotypical American is. I have the appearance of a colonizer, my ancestors were most likely colonizers; no matter how good my intentions are, I feel as if it is impossible to detach myself from the power and privilege of being an elite liberal arts college student who has no business pretending like I can fully understand and grasp Ghanian culture. I also feel very limited in knowing only a few phrases of Dagbani, which I'm certain I will butcher with my. Without the ability to code-switch, I feel like my ability to world-travel is much more difficult since I will be conversing in the language of the colonizer, which is used primarily in professional and academic settings.
This past week, we had two speakers come to class to speak about two vastly different topics: teaching reading and writing to students and women's agency through microfinance in Zimbabwe. These lectures marked a shift from the conceptual framework we were exploring during the first section of the class to more contextualized information in the second half. The connections between the two speakers were not necessary explicit which encouraged me to really expand my thinking and see how the many different concepts and material we have explored have been related.
A big connection I saw between the two lectures was the theme of empowerment and what it means to be educated. Reading gave power and agency to the children in Anna’s class while the women selling their products in Zimbabwe gave them power and agency. I appreciated that Mary’s presentation portrayed literacy and empowerment outside of an educational context since most of what we have been focusing on is literacy in an academic setting.
I am wondering how the rest of the semester is going to look for our class since we have presentations up until spring break. I am curious to see how we will be connecting our trip to Ghana to the different placements to new materials and speakers in class.
This week was quite the exciting week in terms of our class! On Tuesday, we had the chance to reflect on our progress throughout the semester and discussed what it meant to be writer. On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to hear Canadian author Kathy Knowles speak about the literature that she writes for Ghanian youth. On Thursday, we learned about the education system in Ghana and heard Theresa Cann talk about her experience in Ghana, specifically talking about language. On Friday, we were up bright and early for our field trip with Parkway West to the Imagine Africa exhbit at UPenn. Throughout all of these discussions and experiences, a theme that has really stuck me has been the disconnection between academia and "real-life" and the values we place on different literacies. Something that I found really striking was when Kathy talked about how most Ghanaians do not find reading to be a pleasurable experience. Our initial reaction was one of horror since so many of us grew up homes where reading was encouraged and an activity associated with love and family since our families would tuck us into bed with a story. Many of those who grow up in low-income homes may also experience this disconnection from reading and pleasure. Due to lack of access to literature as well as the fact that most literature that Ghanaians read is in English, often their third language, many of them see in strictly in an academic sense. Only 4% of Ghanaians go onto tertiary education and only those who can afford it make it there.
In Gee's article, he broke down literacy in terms of being able to control our discourses. He discussed the social construction of literacy and how it is not simply a matter of the ability to read and write. I found that it was extremely important to make this distinction and to recognize there are many different types of literacies. However, I feel it is also essential to acknowledge the power that reading and writing hold. As liberal arts college students taking an education course, we recognize the value in all types of literacies but the average person automatically associates literacy with reading and writing. Schools are determined to be good or bad based on their test scores in reading and writing. In my sociology course, Problems in the Natural and Built Enviornment, we discussed how many things are social constructions but that doesn't make the consequences of them any less real. A student may be literate in terms of music or social skills, but if they lack the ability to read or write, they will be significantly disadvantaged compared to students who can. Our society places different values on different types of literacies, giving agency and power to those who posess valued literacies. It makes me wonder how we can change the system; how can we make major structural changes to ensure equality.
It's interesting being able to observe our classroom's dialogues from so many different perspectives. What we say in the classroom, what we post on Twitter, what people post in their Serendip blogs, and for those of us in the 360, what we discuss in our other classes and drawing connections between the three. Each medium brings out a different side to us. Those who may have difficulty speaking up in class may flourish through digital dialogue while others struggle with the barriers that technology presents. Through each form, we learn to process our thoughts and opinions in a new way, much like Lemke discusses when he talks about diverse literacies. Just how Riley's word came was French and didn't have quite the same meaning in English, using diverse mediums can create new understandings of concepts. Twitter forces us to make our thoughts concise and requires a very different type of language than the one we may use in class or even on Serendip. I was initially upset when I saw that Overbrook Elementary featured the Twitter as a means of encouraging the students to read but now I am beginning to realize that this generation has grown up with technology and that sites such as Twitter can serve as a gateway for students to encourage them to read and write, even if it only is in a 160 characters. The idea of using multiple mediums to gain new perspectives goes back to Adiche's The Danger of a Single Story, where she urges us to never make conclusions based on a single story.