In Donna Alverman’s chapter on ‘Multicultural Youth in the Time of Scientific Reading Instruction,’ she states early on the importance of breaking with tradition as the definition of reading instruction continually narrows. This is due mainly to her frustration over why the powers that be feel it is necessary to keep reading instruction cut and dry as we continue on into the 21st century, a time that has already seen many mass media, cultural explosions.
She continues by describing the youth culture of America as Digital Natives who have mastered various modes of communication through the use of symbols and signs (ie. internet chat, blogging, text messaging, etc.) and have become dynamic members of society, seemingly on their own. Alverman then introduces the “movement, largely driven by policy makers at the state and national levels,” whose “agenda is to make high-stakes testing the impetus driving our students to become better prepared, ready to take their place in an increasingly competitive global market” (p.21). As she looks at Gee’s notion of New Literacy Studies and his idea that “literacy is singular in neither form nor function” (p. 23) she eventually comes to the conclusion that “how [students] choose to solve a problem, and how they learn from nonverbal cues, have a lot in common with scientific reading instruction” (p.25) hence what “they” would call literacy.
Note: Her citation of McLuhan and his views on video games and literacy on p. 24 is quite interesting if you get a chance to read it.
Ultimately, Alverman asks whether or not we should support a one-sided pedagogy (ie. turning our youth into vacuous automatons who will perpetuate the status quo) or if we, as teachers, should break from what is expected in the classroom and help the youth become well rounded individuals who have the proper tools to propose their own ideas and choose between what they think is right and wrong based on their, own personal, well-educated opinions.
The chapter goes hand-in-hand with Deborah Appleman’s “Notes on Reading with Adolescents,” in which the author poses the question, what is and isn’t too sophisticated? I don’t think anything is too sophisticated, especially when thinking of Gee’s statement about literacy being non-static and Appleman’s statements where she describes adolescents as constantly reading the world around them. Considering what Alverman proposed with the idea of mass media opening up new doorways in education, this article suggests that our job as teachers is to make the work they do in school matter. What better way to make it matter than to choose course material that is relevant to their culture?
This has been Raph with a facilitation of a prospective discussion on the works of Alverman and Appleman. See you all in class tomorrow.