Multiliterate.

As I read these articles, all I can think about is the missed opportunities of enrichment the system has forced our culture to trade for conformity.

Firstly, I’d like to begin by stating that the United States of America does not have a national language. English wasn’t declared as a national language until February 2017…no coincidence there. 

These two articles had very similar takes on the issue of diversity in learning. While one article, “Teaching Writing in the Multilingual World” discusses the evolution of English as a second language courses and its development over the eras, the article “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies” takes a look at the overall impact and value of multiliteracies in the social environment. This article argues that multiliteracies equips students with the skills to understand the broader spectrum of concepts and to achieve the following goals in their own lives: to gain access to the evolving language of work, power, and community as well as harness the engagement necessary to design their own futures and achieve success through fulfilling employment. This can be related to the goal of English as a Second Language programs, which is the same goal of education for all students, is to integrate and equip those who do not have English as a primary language with the “benefit from learning in ways that allow them to participate fully in public, community, and economic life.”

Growing up, my parents raised my sister and I to know Haitian Creole first. When I went to school, “yon pom” became an apple and suddenly Hawitian Creole became secondary to me. Now, this is no way to say that I suffered as an English language learner; my parents taught me both languages. It’s just that I learned Haitian Creole first and then English, but English was the only language I utilized most and Haitian Creole wasn’t valued. As a result, I lost a good chunk of what I could understand and speak in Haitian Creole…This makes me think of about a line in the article “Teaching Writing in a Multilingual World” : “it can allow second language writers to tap into the knowledge base they have already developed in another language.”  

In schools, there is a lack of value for diversity. Sure, schools go the extra mile to include cultural books and diverse learning, but there is always an underlying tone that alludes to the idea of English being the superior language. In a sense, English has become a superior language but only in the respect that it’s a language taught and offered  in almost every 1st world country, but it is not the only language. This issue is especially highlighted in books written by people who have learned English as a secondary language. The stark difference between an English language learner and an only English speaking person is their world view and relations of current events. We miss a major opportunity in expanding literacy when it comes to this field. As young children, we have an easier time learning languages (which is probably  why my Aunt forced my baby cousin to watch Rosetta stone growing up…he can, however, speak Spanish and Chinese fluently); however, most language courses aren’t easily accessible to the public (meanwhile, learning English is free) which is faulty in the fact that by adulthood, it’s gets more difficult to learn new skills. It’s like trying to teach someone who has always written with their right hand how to write with their left hand. Though the experience is enriching either way, how much an individual can receive and interpret the concepts taught is still a matter of concern.

Just because you teach someone how to write with their left hand doesn’t mean they’ll know how to.

A Multicultural World

I can state that I have only experienced an ounce of what English Language Learner students encounter when learning a new language. My school district required students to take a second language until our sophomore year of high school. I enrolled in Spanish throughout grade school and high school, and I must admit that the course was always my least favorite. Learning a new language did not come easy to me. In Paul Matsuda’s reading, “Teaching Writing in the Multilingual World,” he explains English language learners’ history and properly addresses second language issues. Personally, I resonated with the Writing Center section. While student teaching, I had ELL students, and when assigning essays, my approach for each student differed. One of my student’s grammar was not up to par, but his content was there. Due to this, I began to focus on the student’s writing. The reading states, “…yet are struggling to express their ideas in the second language.” More often than not, ELL students understand the assignment that is given to them, but they may need assistance in communicating their ideas on paper. Matsuda touches on a great point in the First-Year Writing section. Although it may be great to have separate classes for the students that need additional assistance, pulling them out in separate courses may affect their identity and how they view themselves compared to other students. Ultimately, the education system will always have English Language Learners. We need to ensure that all students are included as we are an “increasingly globalized world that has always been, and will continue to be multilingual.”

Cope and Kalantzis’s  reading,“A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies Designing Social Features” follows, but I am too sure if I grasped the main points of the reading. While reading, statements did catch my attention in which I will discuss here:

The first line that struck me in this reading happened to be, “How do we ensure that differences of culture, language, and gender are not barriers to educational success.” While working in the educational system, this is a question that educators should always have in the back of their minds. Realistically, these topics should not play a part in student’s learning. Educators should be equipped to teach a diverse range of students. Educators are aware that we have diverse students in the classroom, but more often than not teachers disregard this and stay stuck in their ways. We must rethink how we are communicating with our students and students must begin to think about their role in our “globalized societies.”

Review of Exploring Composition Studies: Sites, Issues and Perspectives

The situation being described by the authors is a phenomenon in the world and transcends not only into the English language, but also other major languages in the world. It just shows that English is evolving, whether written or spoken, and secondary speakers and writers are constantly evolving. There are a lot of countries, especially those occupied by English-speaking natives either through conquest or subjugation, which were taught English by early influencers. Over time, the kind of English they are speaking evolved to cater to the particular aspects of their culture. They may use terminologies which are synonymous to its equivalent in the original English context that they are taught. Those terms may not be from the native country where such version of English came from, but such terminologies are used and they have other terms which they use for such particular object, thing or matter as its equivalent.

We cannot say that the terminologies used by second language speakers are inferior or should not be acceptable to those who are “natively-speaking” it. After all, language is made to adapt depending on the culture of a particular country and there are no rules in which prohibits any writer or speaker that English should only be in a particular form. Since language is constantly evolving, even “native” writers and speakers themselves formulate a set of sub-language that is unique to a particular sub-culture that secondary language speakers are not aware of since they are only taught the basic.

The same goes if “native” writers and speakers would learn Chinese, Arabic or Spanish. They may stick to their versions the interpretation of which would be more understandable in English. Because there may be terminologies that are present in such language but not present in the English language. While English may be one of the lingua franca in the world today, they do not have the exclusive claim to such status. That is precisely the reason why the United Nations adopted the use of at least six (6) official languages to represent the populace speaking and writing in these languages.

I do not agree with the author that secondary language writers may be highly literate in their native tongue. This is just an assumption that had to be clarified. Ability to speak and write in your native tongue does not prove your mastery over the language. Your competence and expertise over a language cannot be judged based on a common perception that you are born in a country where more than a majority of the people are speaking such language. It still depends on your propensity to use the right terms, complying with the rules of its use both written and spoken and your level of proficiency.

The appreciation of the proficiency for English as a secondary language as applied in writing would depend on the kind of audience it seeks to address. The author’s description of the history of writing of secondary language speakers is only common because these writers have no recourse but to relearn writing in English, in the perspective of the native writers for them to be accepted in that field. The stigma that these secondary language writers have to face is not fair, because after all, they learned from native speakers and writers themselves and they can prove their competence such as when they passed the program. Because if such was the case, the people whom they learned this would prove that they are not competent. The student mirrors the teacher.

There must be a program or platform in which these writers shall be promoted. However, since language is evolving writing should also follow. Learning a language should not be confined to its basic, intermediary or advanced levels but should continue to be learned at a professional and graduate school level to maintain proficiency. Most importantly, we should recognize that there are some terminologies better expressed in a particular language and try not to fit it in a language only because it is the dominant language of a particular field of study.

Overall, the ideas of the authors about the history and issues regarding composition writing by secondary language writers presented a good overview of its entire development. But this is only a common phenomenon faced by anyone writing in any other language. They face the same issues. Language is dynamic and only those who are interested to pursue a level of expertise for the same would be able to understand and gain mastery over it.

Multilingualism and Multiliteracies in an Outdated System of Education

Globalization is rapidly changing our society, but schools haven’t been able to keep up. Paul Kei Matsuda’s article “Teaching Composition in the Multilingual World” and “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures” by Courtney Cazden, Bill Cope, Norman Fairclough, Jim Gee, et al. discuss a few of the ways our current education system is failing to prepare students to succeed in a globalized world.

In “Teaching Composition,” Matsuda discusses the importance of making writing courses accessible to students whose first language isn’t English. The population of college students is rapidly growing more diverse, and many international students face writing challenges that native English speakers don’t. For example, Matsuda points out that writing is practically a second language for native speakers, so it’s even more of a challenge for second language writers to figure out complex systems of grammar that don’t exist in their native language (40). 

Not only would making writing courses more accessible benefit multilingual students, but it would also benefit the monolingual English speakers who must prepare to write for a global, multilingual audience (50).  I whole-heartedly agree that monolingual students are woefully unprepared for the demands of working and researching in a globalized community, especially in comparison to scholars from countries where multilingualism is the norm. I wish American schools would start preparing students for this reality as early as elementary school, when children are malleable enough to learn new languages and to be more open minded about communicating with diverse communities.

Although I agree in theory that “all sections of first-year writing courses [should be] ESL friendly” (45), I have reservations about implementing this strategy in the classroom. Of course, inclusion of diverse students and viewpoints is always a positive, but it’s unfair (to both teachers and students) to place additional expectations on teachers to cater to such a broad population of learners while not making any structural changes to the education system. Giving teachers a few extra hours of training to “work with a broader range of basic writers” (46) isn’t enough to account for the tremendous societal changes that globalization is causing. 

The idea that our education system needs to make major changes in order to adequately prepare students for a globalized world returned to me as I read “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies.” This article is dense, yet it also manages to discuss a wide breadth of issues that affect our education system in the modern world. (Well, at least it was modern when the article was written; though most of their ideas are still relevant, the authors do believe that “information superhighways” and a future filled with “virtual shoppers” are ludicrous, sci-fi fantasies [64]. Both the internet and Instacart would disagree.)

One relevant issue the article discusses is the transition of our society into “fast capitalism” or “postFordsim.” We are no longer in an Industrial Age of production lines and strict managerial hierarchies (66), but our education system still functions as though it’s preparing students to work in an early twentieth century factory. Again, I’m struck by the dire need for structural changes to our outdated education system. I watched a great video on this topic in my undergraduate Social Foundations of Education course. It covers a lot of topics similar to the ones in the article in a much more palatable, less jargon-filled way.

I can’t cover all of my thoughts on this stimulating, informative, thorough, and extremely academic article; there are so many thoughts and questions I could raise about metalanguages or subcultural differences or the broader impacts of fast capitalism and globalization, but I want to focus on a key idea that resurfaces throughout: Students must be designers of social futures. 

This idea that students must be “active participants of social change” (64) is the core of what I believe education should do; a good education must prepare students to enter society with the skills, knowledge, and empathy necessary to become leaders and to make positive changes in their communities and the (now globalized) world. 

In order to revitalize the education system to teach students to function in this globalized world where multiliteracies are a necessity, the authors believe that educators, through the process of “Designing,” must use the “Available Designs” (or the current educational resources and discourses) to create the “Redesigned” (which is a new, “transformed” resource more relevant to modern society) (74-77). This section of the article is very theoretical and academic, and I wish the authors could give more concrete ideas about what a “Redesigned” education system that accounts for mulitliteracies and our rapidly changing society would look like.

Ultimately, after reading both articles this week, I’m even more convinced that our education system needs to undergo radical, structural changes in order to meet the needs of students in an ever-changing and interconnected world.

Blog #7: When Theories connect…

A Pedagogy of Multi-literacies: Designing Social Futures is a very complex and compelling article on truly inclusive pedagogy that paves the way for a truly inclusive society through cultural pluralism and linguistic diversity.  Inclusive in the way that is more meaningful and impactful than, “ creating ethnic or other culturally differentiated commodities in order to exploit specialized niche markets or by adding festive, ethnic color in the classroom”.  The authors suggest re-evaluating the system of learning that has restricted the access to power and resources of many due to its “monocultural and nationalistic sense of civic”(69). A unique approach to both literacy pedagogy and civic engagement are entailed as key elements in creating a “ cohesive sociality, a new civility in which differences are used as a productive resource and in which differences are the norm” (69). An infusion of cultures and literacies so embedded in pedagogy that it becomes a basic function in everyday society. 

In an ever growing global world, cultural and lingutistic diversity are present in the majority of our classrooms.  We, as educators, can choose to ignore this reality or create a curriculum that harnesses the positive impacts it has on children’s overall learning experiences. It provides new avenues of meaningful learning for each child. It broadens their knowledge of the world around them and allows them to be active participants in society. Every child is the product of a cultural identity, which molds the way they learn and understand the world. Simply ignoring that fact, hinders their ability to expand on that “meaning making” avenue. Throughout this reading, I was constantly reminded of Mikhail Bakhtin’s work The Formal Method in Literacy Scholarship: A Critical Introduction to Sociological Poetics.

Bakhtin makes the assertion that the poetics of language is socially embedded and socially constructed. Language is communally shared and specific to social classes. The function of language is then disseminated into a range of languages that are shared, disputed, absorbed, appropriated and transformed by a respective class according to situations within the interaction of classes. Bakhtin insists the speech, particularly utterances cannot be separated from the speaker’s social context. The speaker relies on the limitations of class and the belief that society consist of interdependent spheres. Bakhtin states “The work cannot be understood, nor can even one of its functions be studied outside of the organized interrelationships of the people between whom the work is situated as the ideological body of their intercourse.”(Bakhtin 154) Language then becomes reliant on history and diversity of social speakers that are an essential part of the functionality of words under different contexts. The functionality of words also relies on the reader/audience of a text as a conversational partner.

Bakhtin argues that language is comprised of more than linguistics, grammatical units and syntax. Bakhtin believes analyzing language in that way is a reductionist approach and is missing important elements of semantics and understanding signs as “social semiosis”. Therefore, the language by particular speakers to specific audiences is charged with cultural usages and is in and of itself socialized. This implies that literary work always has social and cultural content; making content and context inseparable. This creates an entire network of relations between speakers and situations, allowing discourse to be invented and reinvented between those relations and applied to the organization of society as a whole.  This entire network connects language, literature and social relations. If any of this theory holds truth, what meaning has been translated to ethnically diverse children?  We force them to learn a new language, no matter how articulate they may be in their native tongues and force them to forget crucial parts of their identity. What meaning , if any, can these children derive from this type of pedagogy? 

Bakhtin states “Linguistics, while building the concepts of language and its syntactic, morphological, lexical, etc. elements, digresses from the organizational forms of concrete utterances and their socio-ideological functions. Therefore, the language of linguistics and linguistic elements are indifferent to cognitive truth, poetic beauty, political correctness, and so on” (Bakhtin 157). According to Bakhtin, rhythm, tropes, metaphors, meter, and genre are socially produced. Thus, integrating form with content, culture, and society becomes a method to emphasize moral and ethical points in a given work. What happens when the integrated content and social meaning dictate that ethnical differences are deficits? The ideology being taught to children is simple: Your culture is insignificant.  Why else is society so reluctant to let go of singular nationalistic supremecies? 

 As Bakhtin explains, “At the bottom of all these theories lies the actual fact of a contradiction between the given art and the given social conditions. But the intrinsically social nature of art is no less sharply evident in these formulations than it is in cases of direct agreement between art and the social demands of the epoch” (Bakhtin 157). This is the heart of the argument in A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures, the art must change so that the social conditions change, leading to a transformation of “the social demands of the epoch”. 

I apologize for going on a long winded theoretical rant, but I couldn’t help but connect the two theories.