Jim Gee - What Is Literacy?

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Helping students to learn what society finds to be the most acceptable form of English – Standard English – is a challenge for every teacher. Particularly when the teacher in question doesn’t want to wipe out the student’s home language or make the student resent the teacher for attempting to wipe out their home language. As Gee said, our language or discourse is a part of our identity kit; it is thread in the fabric that composes us as individuals. What Baker referred to as ‘home language’ is the same as our primary discourse – the language we learn through acquisition that is a direct result of who we are and shapes who we become. Needless to say, I agree with Baker in her desire to educate her students without telling them that their home language is wrong. And ultimately, who’s to say it is? Different is not mutually attached to incorrectness; it just is not the same, but as Christianson says “the ‘melting pot’ was an illusion. The real version of the melting pot is that people of diverse backgrounds are mixed together and when they come out they’re supposed to look like Vanna White and sound like Dan Rather. The only diversity we celebrate is tacos and chop suey at the mall.”

By far I have found Baker’s piece the easiest to read and the easiest to agree with (so far). Baker’s theory that there are three forms of a language that student’s learn seems to hold true to myself and the people that I have come in contact with throughout my life. I also believe that our language repertoire goes beyond the three languages stated to be necessary by Baker – there are the discourses we learn to fit into different social groups and different hobbies, such as the ones discussed in class – discourse for different sports, different groups of friends, different activities that we pick up throughout life. And perhaps these are just as necessary as the three Baker lists – people are not much and do not fare well if they don’t have a group that they fit into. A...
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