goodbye 2007; hello ongoing misunderstanding of literacy...

according to jack miller, president of central connecticut state university, the level literateness across the nation's cities can be measured by focusing on "six key indicators of literacy: newspaper circulation, number of bookstores, library resources, periodical publishing resources, educational attainment, and Internet resources." he has made the results of this annual study, begun in 2003, available for public consumption; a story that is no doubt the focus of public curiosity and, in the case of minneapolis, chest thumping.

as someone who believes in and engages a broader view of literacy than is found within the bounded terms listed above, i find myself at once amused and exhausted. can all of the work being conducted under the auspices of new literacies be for naught? can the virtual "miles" of literate engagement being enacted and performed across online and offline spaces be reduced miller's "internet" variable that he describes thusly:
1. Number of library Internet connection per 10,000 library service population
2. Number of Internet book orders per capita
3. Number of unique visitors per capita to a city’s internet version newspaper
4. Number of webpage views per capita to a city’s internet version newspaper
further distressing is the characterization of miller's results in an article in USA Today:
Miller's findings echo those in a National Endowment for the Arts report last month. The NEA focused on reading for pleasure, but both the NEA and Miller conclude that even as more Americans are earning high school and college degrees, reading is declining.
so, despite the plethora of evidence - empirical and otherwise - that we, as a national and international population, are engaging in immeasurably more multimodal and multiliterate communicative practices, the public perception is actually moving in the opposite direction. im reminded of one emphasis that was resonant at the anthro meetings in d.c. regarding the urgent call for educational researchers to enter the public policy debates and discourses. im starting to feel the urgency, and recall a similar plea made to senior scholars at nctear 2007 to take time to write editorials, sit on curriculum committees, and (eek!) participate in developing better and more accurate forms of assessment when it comes to making sense of the varied and complicated ways that youth are making sense of the worlds they navigate and negotiate daily.

of course, this could all just be rantings of someone whose two 'home' cities are not represented in miller's top 10...

happy new year :)


initial success and drug sentencing - the forecast is still grey for teens...

a couple of news stories caught my eye today. the first has to do with the mandatory sentencing of drug offenses. namely, the supreme court ruled that judges may employ judicial discretion "to reduce the disparity between sentences for crack and cocaine powder." this alleviates the inequitable treatment between crack and cocaine arrests 'on paper,' however, as noted by ny times writer adam liptak, "if history is any guide, judges will continue to use their sentencing power relatively sparingly," quoting "law specialists." his commentary continues:
"Now that the Supreme Court has again emphasized that federal trial judges have the discretion to move outside the guidelines, further departures are rather likely. But the size of that may not be huge, said Douglas A. Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University. “The really interesting question,” Professor Berman said, “is whether we get a more significant gravitation away from the guidelines."
what does this mean for how youth get sentenced? and what discretion judges use in swinging their gavels in the direction of educational and treatment programs over detention and jail placements?

i can only hope these same judges, who are sure to hear about this ruling, don't also read another news story from today:
Your initials may spell success
yes, that's right: this article details the results of a series of psych studies that report how "'name-letter effect' influences performance in different situations."
a few tasty tidbits from this article:
"Basically what [they] found was that people tend to favor the letters in their own name, and in particular, they have a fondness for their initials," said Joseph Simmons of Yale University, co-author of the new studies.
"People tend to gravitate toward life outcomes that resemble their names," Simmons explained. "So for example, we know now that people named Jack are more likely to move to Jacksonville as compared to people named Phil, who are more likely to move to Philadelphia."
In a separate study, Simmons and Nelson compared students' initials with their GPAs and found that students who had "C" or "D" as an initial had lower GPAs than students who had "A" or "B" as an initial. People with "C" or "D" initials don't want to do badly, Simmons explained, but on some unconscious level doing poorly is "just ever so slightly not as bad, and so they're ever so slightly less motivated to avoid it."
with all of this information in the ether, we can only hope that it gets filtered thoughtfully, and motivates responsible action. what responsible means is a topic for new post...