Friday, April 20, 2007

Jerrie Cobb Scott

In "Literacies and Deficits Revisited," Jerrie Cobb Scott talks about a way to define literacy. One part in the article that I could not get out of my head is when the author explains that defining literacy as the ability to read and write would break the cultures of the world into two groups: literate and oral societies. Cobb explains that defining literacy as the ability to read and write "is inherently biased against oral culture." (206)
It's hard to disagree with this assertion, but is it possible to be biased against something as obviously inferior? That's right, I see illiterate societies as inferior to non-literate societies based upon the number of societies with literate cultures thriving as industrialized nations versus the number of orally literate cultures thriving as industrialized nations. Show me a successfully thriving culture based on Oral literacy and I'll show you 80 thriving cultures based on being literate.
It's a small point, easily skimmed over, but it stuck out to me and I had to get that off my chest.
That being said, I agree with a lot that Cobb says in the rest of the article. Cobb explains that we are presenting a sort of Utopia to our students. If the students work hard, they will be rewarded for their efforts (209). Cobb calls for us to be realistic about this sort of ideal, and I have to agree. Just look at the number of people who are laid-off when an automobile manufacturer moves to Mexico. We can't justify that all of the workers just weren't trying hard enough at their jobs, so we look the other way and tell the students that life is fair in its rewards.
But, then, how can we sell our product (a good education) if the product doesn't garner the promised results? Man, in reflection, this was a far more depressing article than any of the others we've read in class.


BeardedFury said...

Damn! It's always "the cup is half empty" with you, isn't it? (I'm only exasperated because the same usually goes for me.)

Viking Girl said...

I'm not sure I agree with you about literate and oral societies being so different. We would like to think that our society is a literate society, but we are actually largely oral. In fact, most of or literature comes from oral societies that existed before us. In a society that is largely oral, it could be said that orality IS literacy. One must be literate in the society in order to function, and within those parameters orality would be considered their literacy. I think, they are in fact, very similar. Different does not always mean less valuable.