Baron, Wysocki and Eilola

These readings were by far my favorite so far, though, I must admit, Wysocki and Eilola’s piece far more than Baron helped me to understand and unpack (as “Blinded by the Letter” would say) my understanding of literacy, though I did greatly enjoy reading about the history of pencils.

The big takeaway from these articles for me is that literacy is not simply knowing how to read, which is how I understood it before reading these articles. Literacy is intrinsically tied up with accessibility to education, to money and to the dominant culture. It is less being able to read whatever is set down in front of you, and more being able to access the things dominant culture finds value in, and then understand those things in the way that dominant culture wants you to understand them.

Wysocki and Eilola put it best what it means to understand and function in the dominant culture’s mode and content of information giving and receiving when they say, on page 353, “In the non-film reality of our present time, becoming literate in English does not help a young Navajo woman feel that she has a real place in Anglo culture.” The way I understood this part was as so: This woman, though able to functionally speak, read and understand English, has less access to literacy because her position as Navajo means that one, the value of Anglo culture means differently to her than to white people’s relationship to Anglo literacy, because she, coming from a different background than white Americans, must simultaneously value Anglo literacy while devaluing Navajo literacy, and two, that her Anglo literacy is not simply a matter of reading, but of fitting in and belonging in a place she has to work to belong in, more so than her white counterparts. Perhaps I’m reading too much into it, but it seems that literacy is an ascription to dominant cultural values and a contract of believing that Anglo culture’s dominant views are more important than non-Anglo when existing in Anglo spaces.

Literacy, then, is functioning as a colonizing mechanism to forcefully assimilate those “illiterate” peoples into hegemony’s systems, and not simply teaching them how to read, write and understand in a certain language.

Along with this is the matter of accessibility in regards to class. When I first started reading Baron’s article, I wrote this question down: “Did computers in classrooms help with literacy? Did it affect underprivileged areas by making them even less matched with their peers?” Baron sort of answers this in the end through quoting another scholar, Andrew Sledd, who says essentially that at the low end of the workplace, the computer is actually reducing the amount of literacy needed (32). I interpreted this to work similarly in schools too, in that with the addition of computers, it might be much easier for low socio-economic status classes to relegate much more learning to screen time reading and less to understanding, which seems to be, at least through these articles, more the function of literacy. Not sheerly reading, but comprehending what reading one has done.

Additionally, in places where less money means more students per classroom, less time for individualizing of education and less time at home for overworked, tired parents to teach their children extra skills, the addition of a computer might not even happen. If the funds for a computer, even just one or two per classroom, are not there, then disadvantaged students might be set even further apart from their higher SES peers.

Finally, I found this video that concerns disability in regards to literacy. A Brazilian company, Braille Bricks, is helping blind children by creating these blocks that they can use in place of a braille typewriter, which is clunky and mostly impossible to erase mistakes on. This has the added effect of normalizing braille and making it so that other children in the class see this not as weird or different, but as fun and necessary, and might aid in children who aren’t blind in learning braille as well.

One comment

  1. jessicahackett · September 26, 2018

    Kylie– I think there is a lot of depth to your post. Wysocki and Eilola definitely changed the way I think about the word literacy too, I didn’t realize it was such a loaded term that didn’t just refer to the ability to read. I also think you were spot on in your reading of the part about the young Navajo woman, from my understanding at least. I think so often when the importance of literacy is being talked about, we mean something different from the actual meaning of the word, if that makes sense. I think that’s what you were getting at in the section on page 353. Also, that video you found is so interesting! It was really cool to watch.


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