[AAACE-NLA] Reading problems and science
eileeneckert at hotmail.com
Sat Feb 7 12:18:40 EST 2004
I was interested to read your response to Andrea's question. What I don't
understand is how you reconcile recognizing the many discourses and the
belief systems they represent (what I would call mental models of reading or
learning to read) and still calling for consensus about a "balanced"
approach to reading instruction, which happens to be the approach you've
arrived at through your own learning. It seems to me that those proponents
of one approach over another are acting on their belief system, and that any
"consensus" would be a false one of submission rather than real agreement.
I hope that they, you, and I for that matter, continue to re-examine our
beliefs in light of new evidence, and not simply dismiss or explain away
that evidence. And I hope that proponents of any approach seek to educate
rather than dominate or impose their approach on others. I also believe
strongly that "consensus" is the end of any particular discussion--once
you've agreed, why keep talking about it?--and is very hard to come by in
any real sense. If it's not real then it's just stifling true dialogue and
learning. When we reach consensus we slap a "closed" sign on that issue and
tend not to reflect or make any more progress on it. I say let's keep the
From: "George E. Demetrion" <sophocles5 at juno.com>
Reply-To: National Literacy Advocacy List sponsored by
AAACE<aaace-nla at lists.literacytent.org>
To: aaace-nla at lists.literacytent.org
Subject: Re: [AAACE-NLA] Reading problems and science
Date: Sat, 7 Feb 2004 09:22:02 -0800
On Fri, 06 Feb 2004 14:32:32 -0500 AWilder106 at aol.com writes:
>George, could you rexplain your last paragraph? I don't quite get it.
First, the passage:
Where I've shifted in my thinking as well, is attunement to a greater
appreciation of the symbolic nature of the classroom dynamic in which I
the quest for meaning making as the driver all the way down.
I see the various tools, techniques, approaches, and materials utilized,
representation of various cultural systems that are embedded in our
practice. This is not to treat lightly the various methodologies and
content that comprise our practice, but simply to contextualize them
the frame of their cultural signification that is far from uni-vocal in
definition. This is to say nothing else than that literacy is a cultural
practice, which needs to be grasped accordingly.
I'm assuming here that there is more to learning than what may meet the
eye in terms of the materials and methodologies in use and even the
specific goals and intents of both students and instructors. This is not
an either/or distinction in that I do not want to downplay these factors
as they are obviously very critical and germane.
However, there is a "more" that I want to suggest, which I base on the
assumption that, in addition to its literal referents, language is also a
form of symbolic communication and a cultural product. One sometimes
refers to "discourses," as manifestations of embodied world views or
ideologies--ways of seeing and interpreting reality.
Within our literacy programs, I suggest, there are various cultural
discourses at play in terms of program focus, the construction of the
text, the perceptions of the students and instructors, and in the
importance of the various methodologies drawn upon, or for that matter,
rejected or marginalized. These discourses, in their varying
manifestations are personally, culturally, socially, and politically
derived (politics being defined broadly as political culture). Within
the classroom, transactional dynamics are at work between these
internalized discourses and their manifestations within the
macrostructure through which internalized identity is processed.
These discourses take on various degrees of significance as individuals
invest or de-invest meaning to and through them. Thus, the issue is not
simply whether one draws primarily on a phonemic-based or whole language
reading methodology or derived content, though that remains important in
its shaping of the learning process. What is also important is the
degree of investment that students and instructors place on one approach
or the other based not simply on an "objective" analysis of the strengths
or weaknesses of either approach, but on its internalization and its
stimulative role in the learning process.
That is, what is important is not only the selective methodologies and
materials, but the belief systems that students and instructors attribute
to them. Those belief systems have a powerful referent in cultural
signification that carries a certain weight beyond the methodologies and
materials themselves, which is linked both to motivation and to one's
innate sense as to what is logically or reasonably sound.
Education, broadly defined, is cultural assimilation. This assertion is
not meant to downplay the importance of the tools the culture draws upon
to achieve its goods, but simply to realize that there is a symbolic
dimension to them, which is grounded itself, in the very nature of
language and culture. We invariably bring these symbol systems into our
work in which there is more there than what may first meet the eye.
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