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[Xmca-l] Re: Winn's Exploring the Literate Trajectories of Youth across Time and Space
Barriers do arise in schools. Many students live behind walls, both real
and imagined, dictated by the needs that survival necessitates.
Words and meaning have power, and this makes learning a political act.
School should never be *done* to students rather students should*do* their
learning on to the world.
I truly believe we have education backwards. We strive for college and
career readiness hoping to grow GDP with a flow of technical workers as
means for civic contribution. Instead we should worry first about community
and civic readiness. Then, and only then, will college and career follow
for those who have been robbed of their agency and culture.
When students leave schools wanting to make communities a better place they
engage in literacy practices steeped in academic discourse. When kids see
how they can “get theres” by being an agent in the world many realize life
requires learning beyond high school.
Community, as a thread, permeates Maisha Winn’s retrospective on her
research. In Exploring the Literate Trajectories of Youth Across Time and
Space <http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10749039.2014.990037> Winn described a
series of ethnographic studies that draw heavily on the socio-cultural work
of Heath and the literacy as action found in the work of Cole, Gutierrez,
Lunsford, Smagorinsky, Street, and many more. Winn first described out of
school spaces for learning and then either found similar spaces or applied
these lessons to more formal learning spaces.
African Diaspora Participatory Literacy Communities
Winn describes African Diaspora Participatory Literacy Communities to
encapsulate the poet cafes and bookstores she studies:
ADPLCs, as literacy or literary-centered events outside of school and work
communities that combined oral, aural, and written traditions through an
exchange of words, sounds, and movements that privileged a Black aesthetic
She then describe many of the tenants of learning found in socio-cultural
views of learning. Lately, and I think too often removed (or maybe all
inclusiveO from their theoretical base, this framework has been
learning <http://connectedlearning.tv/>. It is interesting to see Winn draw
on many of the same principles.
Winn’s description of learning matches Gee’s adaptation of Community
Like other open mics, POSA, is an invitation to both novice and seasoned
poets to share their writing in a space that promotes reading, writing,
thinking, and activism, as well as collabo- ration among elders and
children. V.S. Chochezi and Staajabu, the mother daughter poetry duo also
known as Straight Out Scribes (SOS), begin with saying “hello,” in several
languages punctuated with a decidedly urbanized “What’s up!”
She draws Gutierrez’s ( 2008 ):
concept of “sociocritical literacy”—that is a “historicizing literacy” that
privileges the lived experiences and legacies of participants—provided the
much needed space to analyze the activities of both classes against the
backdrop of a history of Black poets and writers.
This notion of learning as a sense of community around a shared purpose was
traced back to The Black Arts Movement which
unapologetically sought to incorporate a Black aesthetic into visual and
performing arts along side the Black Power Movement, which advocated
self-determination and self-definition among Black Americans
What is interesting is this Black aesthetic, as of all American History
greatly influences our cultures. You see this in the rise of hip hop
culture. I actually stumbled into a similar space for learning in
What made the ADPLC a space where learning thrived was community and a
Poppa Joe and Mamma C
Winn then described a few formal learning places that drew from the same
history and values of the out of school places. Once again community came
When describing one classroom Winn wrote:
These student poets used the Power Writing circle to build community while
reading original compositions aloud in an open mic format, much like the
venues I observed in Northern California, and engaging in giving and
receiving feedback. In the context of these literacy communities, Poppa Joe
and his guest teachers taught by modeling.
Culturally responsive classrooms were also central to the Winn’s thesis.
Yet she noted these were often hardest for classrooms. Winn and Latrise P.
Johnson explored culturally relevant pedagogy. They describe how it means
much more then reading a book with a black kid on the cover.In fact Winn
notes that the most successful spaces drew on student lives:
used the material of students’ lived experiences, such as disproportionate
contact with law enforcement and police brutality, as resources for rich
dialogue and their struggle to translate the dialogue into writing
As Peter Samgorinsky pointed out recently on the XMCA listserv this work
reflects recent scholarship by David Kirkland
<http://twitter.com/davidekirkland> who detailed the many powerful ways
black youth challenge dominant narratives.
Winn points out that it is the arts that are the dominant path to having
students write their own story on to the world. She noted:
I also learned how theater arts builds community and supports marginalized
youth as they build and sustain literate identities.
Learning from Winn
Literacy instruction is identity work. It is political. The question was
posed on the XMCA listserv about recreating these experiences in the
Anna Aguilar noted a memory of a teacher creating a Zine. Smagorinsky
stressed the role of coaches. I couldn’t agree more. We need to realign
schools so that students are empowered by designing the community. I was
intrigued by this idea in the listserv:
For Ilyenkov, language is not the ideal, but its ‘objectified being’, its
material form. The ideal does not exist in language for Ilyenkov, or in
other material phenomena, but in forms of human activity.
In many ways writing instruction must be attached to a human activity.
Technically it already is an activity but it is one students are forced
into and motivated by exploring new identities in memes or engaging in
coaching relationships such as in Soccer.
In fact Michael Cole posed these questions after reading Winn’s work:
[How do we] better understand how the special teachers, those who were
local community literacy practices/values/histories, managed to include
them in their public high school classrooms with all of the rules,
regulations, standardized testing, etc. that is involved.
Does such boundary shattering require exceptional people?
What are the boundaries to such boundary shattering??
These efforts do take exceptional people. They also require us to challenge
the boundaries, such as limited views of literacy.
Our fascination with accountability reform is at the heart of ripping away
what Winn values. Kirkland, as Peter points out, notes how limited
assessments of what counts help to dissuade youth as school is done to the
Winn wants learning done onto the world. As Michael Glassman (again on the
XMCA listerv) noted Papa Joe and Mamma C did more than teach language arts.
We must recognize community where ever it exists.
Another barrier arose around accountability based reform and that is the
removal of the arts from schools. Content rich instruction and arts that
allow students to do the identity work necessary to be civic and community
Can these exceptional teachers exist. Yes. Are they rare. Yes, that is the
definition of exceptional. Are they only found in school? No.
On Mon, Mar 30, 2015 at 5:51 PM Peter Smagorinsky <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> Well, ed schools are pretty disputatious places, so I'd never say that
> there's an orthodoxy to follow. I'd agree with your situated perspective,
> even as the world of ed psych still appears to operate between the ears.
> There are teachers who import all sorts of interesting possibilities into
> their classrooms, even with all the oppressive testing and centralized
> curricula that assume that all kids' minds have the same architecture (that
> might be the wrong word, since it might come across as static--other terms
> Hoping for others to weigh in. p
> -----Original Message-----
> From: email@example.com [mailto:xmca-l-bounces@
> mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of mike cole
> Sent: Monday, March 30, 2015 5:28 PM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Winn's Exploring the Literate Trajectories of Youth
> across Time and Space
> At first I didn't get at all what the connection between the discussion of
> Ilyenkov and Maisha's work, but I think its a great idea to discuss the
> question you pose. Is "literacy" idealized differently in the two
> communities of practice (school and outside-school)? I have difficulty
> keeping straight with ideas such as "subjective image of reality" but there
> seems to be little doubt that there are different values being embodied in
> standard school literacy practices and the multi-modal, multi-generational
> practices in the sites that Maisha describes. Seems like this could be a
> useful lens for addressing my question about how.when.under-what-conditions
> the practices and associated values of an evening get together at a
> community center can be at least part of a high school educational
> Only sometimes under special conditions seems to be the answer. Is that
> answer accepted in Ed schools these days?
> On Mon, Mar 30, 2015 at 1:08 PM, Peter Smagorinsky <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> > OK, I hit send accidentally. To continue:
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Peter Smagorinsky
> > Sent: Monday, March 30, 2015 4:02 PM
> > To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> > Subject: RE: [Xmca-l] Re: Winn's Exploring the Literate Trajectories
> > of Youth across Time and Space
> > I'm going to do some exploratory thinking here, so please pardon the
> > half-baked nature of what follows (half-baked is a long-time value on
> > xmca in its embrace of thoughts in emergent process).
> > Winn's article has gotten little traction as a discussion topic, so
> > I'll combine it with something that's gotten even less attention, an
> > article that someone (Annalisa, I think) sent awhile back and that I'm
> > re-attaching here.
> > I'm focusing on the early section about Ilyenkov's notion of the
> > ideal, which I can't say I completely grasp. So please bear with me as
> > I grope my way through this effort to link the two articles. I'll
> > paste in the section of the attachment that I see as potentially, if
> > I'm getting this right, helpful in understanding Winn's essay:
> > Although there is a considerable literature in the West that focuses
> > on the rôle of language in the social production of consciousness,
> > what sets Ilyenkov apart is his distinction between language and the
> > ideal. For Ilyenkov, language is not the ideal, but its ‘objectified
> > being’,27 its material form. he ideal does not exist in language for
> > Ilyenkov, or in other material phenomena, but in forms of human
> > activity. His entry on the ideal in the 1962 encyclopædia-article
> > defines it as ‘the subjective image of objective reality, i.e. a
> > reflection of the external world in forms of human activity, in forms
> > of its consciousness and will’.28 One can think of the ideal as the
> > significance that matter assumes in the process of its transformation
> > by human activity. In other words, it is only in-and-through human
> > activity that matter takes on the character of an object with
> > To be clear, Ilyenkov was not referring only to parts of the material
> > world that individuals directly transform, but to all matter that
> > society comes ‘in contact’
> > with. Idealisation is, for
> > him, a social phenomenon. In the same encyclopædia-entry, he wrote:
> > An ideal image, say of bread, may arise in the imagination of a hungry
> > man or of a baker. In the head of a satiated man occupied with
> > building a house, ideal bread does not arise. But if we take society
> > as a whole, ideal bread and ideal houses are always in existence, as
> > well as any ideal object with which humanity is concerned in the
> > process of production and reproduction of its real, material life.
> > his
> > includes the ideal sky, as an object of astronomy, as a ‘natural
> > calendar’, a clock, and compass. In consequence of that, all of nature
> > is idealised in humanity and not just that part which it immediately
> > produces or reproduces or consumes in a practical way.29
> > >From this perspective, all matter appears in individual consciousness
> > already transformed
> > and idealised by the activity of previous generations, and this ideal
> > informs the individual’s activity in the present.
> > OK, back to me. What I'm wondering is this: Is "literacy" idealized
> > differently in the two communities of practice (school and
> > In school, at least formally, literacy is idealized as the "proper"
> > use of language in textual production and composition, with only the
> > most formal versions acceptable as evidence of literate performance.
> > Adherence to formal rules is the only way to meet the scholastic
> > ideal. At the same time, as soon as kids leave class and go into the
> > hall, other ideals become available, at least for 5 minutes of passing
> > Outside school, the whole world of literacy possibilities become
> > available, with many ideals to guide production. The discourse genres
> > that govern spoken word performances for the communities of practice
> > that Winn focuses on are one possibility, but there are countless
> > possibilities that suit different trajectories.
> > Well, hope that makes some sense. I'm entirely open to the possibility
> > that I've misunderstood Ilyenkov in seeking a way to understand him
> > via Winn. As we say in the South: What do y'all think? p
> "Each new level of development is a new relevant context." C.H. Waddington