Last weekend (opening weekend) I went to see The Hunger Games in the theater. I had read the books while I was in India and my friends and I had long been awaiting the release of the film. However, this isn't really a post about the Hunger Games... I'm more interested in the dialogue on the internet about race in the Hunger Games and thinking about how well it connects with some of the themes we've talked about in class.
For those who haven't read the Hunger Games, or have no idea what I'm talking about when I say "race in the Hunger Games," I'll try to briefly summarize the issue. The Hunger Games is the first book in a trilogy and tells the story of a dystopian future where the government forces each of twelve districts to give up two of its children (a boy and girl) to fight to the death. Not a great description, but that's the basic plot. So in the movie, three of the characters were cast by black actors and apparently this is an issue for some people which they have chosen to express freely on the internet. In the book, two of those three characters was described as having "dark skin" and the third was not described racially at all.
Like many others who were on the field trip on Friday, I really enjoyed the interactive Imagine Africa exhibit. There were a couple of parts which really engaged me and I really appreciated sitting in on the focus group afterwards and hearing thoughts from both Bryn Mawr and PW students.
I was having a conversation with one of my friends who is currently taking an ASL (American Sign Language) class at UPenn. She was telling me about a talk she has to go to and our discussion really got me thinking about some of the themes in this class.
First, she introduced me to the word "co-equality" which according to Webster's online dictionary means "the state of being equal." However when she was referring to it in relation to her ASL class it was a bit more specific to context. This is something we've been talking about a lot in expanding our definitions of literacy; the idea that one can be literate (or equal) in one context does not mean they are literate (or equal) in all contexts and situations. My friend pointed out to me that the deaf community is one of the few disability communities which is expected to almost completely assimlate into "normal" society. I say community because the deaf community has their own language and in many ways culture (whereas most other disabilities do not) but it is widely ignored by the hearing community as a whole. I'm not trying to make a statment about whether this is good or bad, it is simply reality. It is relevant to this class because as we're thinking about different kinds of literacies and different contexts, I think it is a really good example of how language goes beyond the ability to read and write.
If anyone is interested in going to the talk at UPenn, here is a link to the description and such:http://bit.ly/wdFcoi
At the end of class last week, I found myself feeling uncomfortable with the way the class was using the term "illiterate." As we are all working to expand our definitions of literacy, I think it is important to keep in mind how we're using related terms. I really like the idea that literacy goes beyond the ability to read and write to encompase having knowledge or competency in an area but does that mean that being illiterate is the opposite of that? While I'm comfortable with the fact that I am not literate in all areas, I'm not comfortable with the idea that not being literate in an area means that you are illiterate. I'm also interested with the connection between illiteracy and ignorance. Are they connected? If only in the sense that both words seem to have very negative connotations with me despite the fact that they shouldn't be neccessarily negative. For me, ignorance is not knowing and I think given my previous definition of literacy one could say that being illiterate is not knowing. However, I think illiterate is used in a much broader sense than ignorance. For example, I think the way I have been thinking about the terms, one can easily be ignorant about part of a culture or lifestyle or any number of things. However, if you are illiterate, it isn't just one part of a culture or lifestyle but its the whole culture. I think it is easiest to understand in terms of language.
I am so excited to be taking this class this semester. One of the things which really interested me about the class was the international perspective on literacy. As we touched on in our last class, it often feels as if we focus on issues primary to the United States. I find this in my sociology classes as well, that the major issues and topics are U.S. centric without an international perspective. In many ways it reminds me of Chimamanda Achide’s concept of a “single story.” I’m definitely not trying to say that we shouldn’t learn about issues in education or educational practices prevalent in the U.S. but especially as we become more dependent on digital literacy it’s important to know another story, a global story. To unpack that statement a little bit, allow me to explain. This class is relying heavily on what I would consider digital literacy. We are using resources such as Twitter and these blogs, Google docs, e-mail – all of these things are part of our digital literacy. Now, more and more people internationally are using these tools as well. I have been fortunate enough to travel quite a bit and have noticed that it is increasingly easy to stay in touch with people I meet abroad through the means of Facebook, etc. As difficult as it is for me to use Twitter and write a consistent blog, I do think that these are valuable tools which can really give us new perspectives on how education is changing and what education looks like outside of the U.S.