latest from all4ed

a few different articles came out recently bemoaning (once again) the "low literacy rates" and "lower reading skills" of adolescents. there are references made to students' attitude toward education, downward spiral of interest in school given difficulty with decoding print, and the recognition that "it's not just the immigrants"... and platitudes about assessments, learning, and the achievement gap that maintain the focus of blame on students and teachers, who are unprepared to teach reading in middle and high school. if these are the discourses that are dominating the growing attention being paid to adolescent literacy, where (oh, where?) is the space for new literacies?

read more from an online chat with alliance for education's jeremy ayers


life is like a parfait glass full of ice cream

i loved to read as a child. it was my escape from what i understood to be a dull existence; a practice i could indulge without inviting the disciplinary actions that followed my excessive television watching; a solitary activity that filled up hours and hours and hours of time. for a class early in my master's program, i wrote a paper reflecting on my relationship with reading and detailed the distinguishable periods - e.g. american plays, teen angst, the russians, old south, new south, etc. - yet made one glaring omission: indian comic books. that's right, a collection of comics known simply as amarchitrakatha - three words slurred together to indicate the vast world of comics created for children (and presumably the occasional adult) to learn about indian history, mythology, culture and religion. i had stacks of them and to this day can recall specific frames from stories. my grandmother, who was my other primary source for all things indian mythology-related, and i would carefully go through the comics together - the only kind of book i would ever involve another person in the reading or experiencing of - and compare her version with the version in the text. often, the brief retelling found illustrated and captioned would prompt her to launch into more detailed and nuanced versions that would fill up the afternoon. her voice is often connected to story frames etched in my mind.

this evening, as i (once again) walked through the campus bookstore, i came across a text that i hadn't seen before. the title on the thin spine read "introducing cultural studies" and the image on the black, glossy cover is a cartoonesque old-time, parfait glass filled with an assortment of fruits, and colorful scoops of ice cream, and is topped of with sprinkles, a cherry, and lovely slice of pineapple. i couldn't resist, so i added it to the pile of books in my hand (including one on vegetarian grilling) and headed upstairs to the cafe. as i began to flip through the pages, that were light on text and heavy on the images, i felt a familiar sense comfort and pleasure. it wasn't that i hadn't read the work stuart hall or pierre bourdieu before, but experiencing the juxtaposition of a dialogue bubble coming out of a bourdieuian bust alongside no-frills commentary gave those earlier readings and discussions new life. it felt like the catalyst i've been wanting... and i am reveling in the form, perhaps more than the content at times - of this use of cartoon drawings, rules of comic engagement, and text that doesn't always stay within the lines. this is cultural studies that makes me laugh and think at the same time - not something i can (always) say for hall... and it's not that the issues being raised are always a laughing matter, but rather the irony that undergirds much of social life is sometimes better illustrated through the absurdity of image than pages of text. i'm only halfway through the book and will write more when i've gotten all the way through.


all's quiet...

there is something about the routinized expectations of the academic year that i sorely miss when summer hits. don't get me wrong - i love staying up until 4, sleeping in until 11 and leisurely moving between writing, editing, tv watching, old movie devouring, and recipe inventing... however, this summer is oozing with expectation and anticipated-moving-to-fully-realized frustration. this is the summer where so much was supposed to happen, and now, it's half over. i fully blame my lack of meetings, classes, and office hours, which i was itching to get a break from as may rolled around. this is about more than "grass is greener" syndrome - it's a harsh realization that perhaps...maybe...routine helps us be more productive.
ok, i don't mean this in quite the cheeky way it sounds. it's just that i spend so much of my waking time arguing for reduced structures, less rigidity, and more flexibility in the education of and for youth, yet i sit here secretly - although, not so secretly anymore - craving rigidity myself. it's not as if deadlines aren't looming - they are a'plenty! - and that todo lists don't exist - they do, in triplicate! - but rather, there is a camaraderie that exists during the academic year that i feel lost without during the summer. it is perhaps why i sought out not one, but two groups of fabulous women as writing groups to support the dissertation writing process; why i get a high after talking with colleagues and attending conference presentations (albeit, while not always paying attention) and get more focused writing down in the hours following these events than when i have hours, days, weeks, even months ahead of me where little time is structured. i am a poster child for the notion that learning is social...and perhaps that social, for me, needs to be put on my calendar and be in the midst of warm black tea - either blackberry sage or a chai blend will do nicely.
i have read other colleagues blogs and public declarations that there is never not enough to write, but just not enough time to write it all. i agree. and have notebooks and word documents filled with pages of thoughts, article starts, and commentaries to prove my allegiance to these declarations. yet, here i sit, in the bookstore of my alma mater, wishing i had less time so that i could get more done.