This post is in response to my groups presentation on language diversity in Ghana.
I really enjoyed presenting on the languages pidgin English and twi in Ghana but I was more interested in pidgin. I found it fascinating that in using English as a medium where all ethnic backgrounds could interact, Ghanaians, particularly young people, made English their own in the form of pidgin/slang English. The concept and use of pidgin English reminded me of Decolonizing the Mind where the author writes about ways in which Africans should and could share their history and culture. However, in contrast to Decolonizing the Mind, I found it interesting that youth were, to some extent, using a combo of English and their native tongue to spread their culture when at first English was used to eliminate it.
For that reason, it is frustrating to know that pidgin is considered as an inferior language. Personally, I find pidgin to be a powerful language because it defies the dominant discourse (Western culture) forced upon Ghana by using English "improperly."
I was in the group that presented on language diversity in Ghana. I was talking specifically about language within the school system, and how English is currently the accepted language of Ghanaian education. It isn't until Senior Secondary School that Ghanaian students are explicitly taught Ghanaian language. This policy makes me feel sad and a little angry, the same way that it does in American schools. Last semester in Empowering Learners, I defined agency as "the learner’s decision to take ownership of the world in which he/she lives and to apply his/her skills to shape that world." This definition was very much attached to language. I see literacy as a crucial skill for shaping the world. When a school system denies a student access to literacy in their native language, the system is taking away some of that student's agency. Waiting to provide this fundamental access to students who make it into schools that have stringent academic requirements is completely in opposition to what I think needs to happen. Language skils should be built upon, not limited. It's sad that this can be influenced by politics or ideology.
For this week I decided to revisit Paulo Freire's "Cultural Action for Freedom." I am drawn to his idea of education as cultural action for freedom. Nonetheless, it also leads me to wonder if the education that Freire describes ever truly exists. On a basic level, Freire talks about how this type of education is dialectic and involves an act of truly knowing (not just rote memorization), where one knows about his/her "concrete historical and cultural reality." However isn't history always written by the victors? And does an essential cultural reality exist? In Wozniak's psychology class we talk about the origins and development of culture. We also discuss the lack of an essential self, and so I wonder if such an essential cultural reality exists. Won't this cultural "reality" in the end be influenced by the mindset of whichever side one percieves reality to be?
Going back to my notes on that reading - there was a heavy focus on alienation. Adults may be alienated by being illiterate, but then, forcing them to learn could also be alienating.
I’ve been thinking about all these things because I’ve been reflecting on my internship from last summer, trying to find a connection between that experience and the 360/Educ 250. I worked in the Education department at Nationalities Service Center, especially in classrooms in which immigrants and refugees are learning to speak English. This experience had a huge impact on my academics last semester - I applied that passion to classes on bilingual education, cultural tensions/fusions, and immigration. After that internship, I found connections between the experience and courses about Language, Culture, and Policy. However (and thank you to Alice again, for helping me flesh this out), I wasn’t thinking about the fundamentals. - Fundamentals being, I think, Literacy. So of course there is a connection between my tutoring adults and the class I am taking now.
I’ve been thinking about how useful it is to have so many different majors present in this literacy class and 360 - In a discussion on Tuesday in Psych, many of us were really confused about how to proceed with the unfamiliar psychology terms. But Manya was able to give us a really good explanation - we kind of drilled her for information! Also, Lucy and I were talking about her background in Anthropology this morning - this will be useful in our explorations of culture.
We are a community of many different skill sets - and we can benefit from all of those disciplines when we are open to learning about and from each other. It’s really difficult to ask for help - especially when (often) our previous education calls for independence and individuality. However, knowing your resources and using them effectively - that does not imply dependence, but a kind of fusion or interdependence.
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.
In Access, Identity, and Education – a course taught by Jody Cohen – we read an article by Martha Minow. This reading discussed the “Dilemma of Difference” (I couldn’t find the entire reading online, but here’s a quote: “The dilemma of difference may be posed as a choice between integration and separation, as a choice between similar treatment and special treatment, or as a choice between neutrality and accommodation”). From what I remember, Minow pointed out two problems with “difference” in the classroom: if teachers recognize that students are different, and meet their different needs differently, they run the risk of isolating some students. They might create a “different from” mentality – a separation between normal and different studdents. However, if teachers DON’T accommodate needs, some students may not get the treatment they require for learning.
Titagya Web site http://titagyaschools.org/wordpress/
Leslie Dodson, Don't misrepresent Africa.
Chimamanda Adiche, The danger of a single story. http://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story.html
A resource: the blog for the partnership between Titagya Schools and the Bryn Mawr/Haverford Education Program.
From the Titagya blog,
This web page is designed as a place to collect and generate ideas, experiences, and connections useful to developing a partnership between the Titagya program to build preschools and kindergartens in Northern Ghana and the Bryn Mawr/Haverford Education Program, at Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges, outside of Philadelphia Pennsylvania. To begin, the partnership is focusing on exploring cross-cultural curriculum development, with a focus on the themes of conflict resolution and the role of creativity, interaction, and play in learning.
We will not be actively contributing to this blog in ED250, but it is still a repository of learning from Bi-Co students in past Education classes.