Building a Culture of Literacy Month-By-Month

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Add to Wish List. Description Contents Subjects. Description Celebrate literacy every day!

Building a Literacy Community with a School-wide Book of the Month

Offline Computer — Download Bookshelf software to your desktop so you can view your eBooks with or without Internet access. View Cart. Discussions of cultural literacy have given rise to several controversial questions: [4]. The varying and often competing answers to these questions are being studied by sociologists, educators, philosophers, and professors of literature.

National Literacy Month: A few books to inspire us all to read more

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Research in the Teaching of English. Chapter II, "The Maniac". The Book that Made Your World. Thomas Nelson. A] Oct Sep Rhetoric Review.

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And in all cases, pattern recognition requires literacy in particulars. Lots and lots of particulars. After all, parents on both left and right have come to accept recent research that shows that the more spoken words an infant or toddler hears, the more rapidly she will learn and advance in school.

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Volume and variety matter. And what is true about the vocabulary of spoken or written English is also true, one fractal scale up, about the vocabulary of American culture. Hirsch was taken by some critics to be a political conservative because he argued that cultural literacy is inherently a culturally conservative enterprise. It looks backwards. It tries to preserve the past.


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Not surprisingly, Hirsch later became a fan of the Common Core standards, which, whatever their cross-partisan political toxicity today, were intended in earnest to lay down basic categories of knowledge that every American student should learn. But those who demonized Hirsch as a right-winger missed the point. Just because an endeavor requires fluency in the past does not make it worshipful of tradition or hostile to change.

Indeed, in a notable example of the application of cultural literacy, Hirsch quoted in his book from the platform of the Black Panther Party:. These samples demonstrated for Hirsch two important points: First, that the Black Panthers, however anti-establishment, were confidently in command of American history and idiom, comfortable quoting the Declaration of Independence verbatim to make their point, happy to juxtapose language from the Bible with the catch phrases of the Nixon campaign, wholly correct in grammatical and rhetorical usage.

Creating a Culture of Learning

And second, that radicalism is made more powerful when garbed in traditionalism. And it is made more urgently true by the changes in American demography since Hirsch gave us his list in The new America, where people of color make up a numerical majority, is not a think-tank projection. It may well be the condition of the people born in the United States this very year. But an America where nonwhites hold a majority of the power in civic life is much farther off.

If you are an immigrant to the United States—or, if you were born here but are the first in your family to go to college, and thus a socioeconomic new arrival; or, say, a black citizen in Ferguson, Missouri deciding for the first time to participate in a municipal election, and thus a civic neophyte—you have a single overriding objective shared by all immigrants at the moment of arrival: figure out how stuff really gets done here.

Literacy in the culture confers power, or at least access to power. Illiteracy, whether willful or unwitting, creates isolation from power. And so any endeavor that makes it easier for those who do not know the memes and themes of American civic life to attain them closes the opportunity gap. It is inherently progressive.


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  • Americans need to be able to have a broad base of common knowledge so that diversity can be most fully activated. But why a list, one might ask? Well, yes and no. It is true that lists alone, with no teaching to bring them to life and no expectation that they be connected to a broader education, are somewhere between useless and harmful. Lists that catalyze discussion and even debate, however, are plenty useful. In fact, since I started writing this essay, dipping into the list has become a game my high-school-age daughter and I play together.

    Consider, from pages and This of course is not a good way for her teachers to teach the main content of American history or English. But it is definitely a good way for us both to supplement what school should be giving her. And however long we end up playing this game, it is already teaching her a meta-lesson about the importance of cultural literacy. Sometimes she does so proudly, sometimes with a knowing look. My bet is that the satisfaction of that ownership, and the value of it, will compound as the years and her education progress.

    They were displaced, as time passed, by sayings and songs of people from other places. Which brings us back to why diversity matters. The same diversity that makes it necessary to have and to sustain a unifying cultural core demands that Americans make the core less monochromatic, more inclusive, and continuously relevant for contemporary life. It is an evolving document, amendable and ever subject to reinterpretation.

    Americans need a list made new with new blood. Americans are such a list. The assumption was that multiculturalism sits in polar opposition to a traditional common culture, that the fight between multiculturalism and the common culture was zero-sum. Dead White Men against Afrocentrists. But that was a profoundly artificial dichotomy.

    Building a Culture of Literacy Month-By-Month

    As scholars like Ronald Takaki made clear in books like A Different Mirror , the dichotomy made sense only to the extent that one imagined that nonwhite people had had no part in shaping America until they started speaking up in the second half of the twentieth century. The truth, of course, is that since well before the formation of the United States, the United States has been shaped by nonwhites in its mores, political structures, aesthetics, slang, economic practices, cuisine, dress, song, and sensibility.

    Yes, America is foundationally English in its language, traditions of law, social organization, market mindedness, and frames of intellectual reference. But then it is foundationally African as well—in the way African slaves changed American speech and song and civic ideals; in the way slavery itself formed and deformed every aspect of life here, from the wording of the Constitution to the forms of faith to the anxious hypocrisy of the codes of the enslavers and their descendants.

    As the cultural critic Albert Murray wrote in his classic The Omni-Americans , the essence of American life is that it relentlessly generates hybrids.