I really enjoyed doing the activity with everyone during our storytelling presentation. When we created the activity we knew it would be interesting but I was excited to see what everyone came up with (in such little time). All the presentations were so different in medium, style, content and presentation. They all showed something different about the individuals in the group and what was important to each of them. It got me thinking back to Gee and his ideas of discourse. While all the presentations were different they all seemed to fit the standard discourse we have in academia, rather than a discourse that would have been found in a place like Ghana. What I mean is we have all been told stories throughout our lives, we have acquired (to use Gee’s word) a certain way to tell stories. They are through pictures or narrative and they all come from the narrator. We saw that in Ghana many stories involve movement from everyone or call and response, and those stories were not presented in our classroom. If they were it would have been a learned practice and the class would have been more aware of the choices they were making to tell their story in that way. I am now realizing even more how much our own discourses determine not only how we interact but also how we tell stories about ourselves (to bring in Rob’s class and Narrativity to tell about who we are). Our discourse determines how those stories look and the way they are told. Is it so crazy to ask us to step outside of our own discourse to tell our story? Perhaps it is.
In the Literacy and Development reading Pat Herbert and Clinton Robinson describe a scene from a Muslim religious tradition in which people are holding cards with prayers written on them but none of them can actually read the cards; they have memorized the prayers instead. Further investigation found that the people believed the actual words themselves to be sacred and therefore having them in their hands was important even if they could not read the words. This reminds me of my field placement in a first grade classroom. I was working with a boy struggling to learn to read. The teacher had given me a stack of books the boy had been working on all year. I let him pick which book he wanted to read. He picked it and read it better than I have ever heard him read before. He picked another and again I was impressed at how much he had improved since my last visit a month ago. I even told the teacher about how much he had grown in that time. The next week I picked the book for him. It was one I had not seen before which meant it was the most recent book he had been reading. He struggled. He did not know most of the words, making most of them up as he went along. He even said, “I don’t know this one.” It was clear to me that he had read the other books so many times he had memorized them. I thought he had really improved his reading but in fact he had just memorized the words and so could “read” them quickly. But it made me wonder, is reading the words actually any better than simply memorizing the stories?
Lemke said that spoken language falls before we have a chance to analyze it, but written language is forever. I find it interesting the distinct difference made between spoken and written language. With spoken language more “mistakes” can be made because they are likely to be missed and forgotten about, only the main ideas will remain. On the other hand, written language has the ability to be analyzed again and again word for word. This seems to connect to the idea of how stories in Africa were once told compared to how they are told now. Before stories were all oral, they involved motions and emotions and were passed down through memory, but once the European colonizers arrived stories began to be written down. While now there is a “formal” way to write down the stories, what is lost from the oral traditions of the past? Telling a story from memory is a certain kind of literacy, it just seems to be less respected by the European world because it can not be analyzed or monitored in the same way as written stories can be. While written language is incredibly important what is really gained if the written and the spoken are completely different?