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Literacy in American Lives by Deborah Brandt. Wendy S. Angleman Becky A. Palomo. Demographics of Study. 80 participants interviewed Ranging in age from 10 to 98 years old

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Literacy in american lives by deborah brandt

Literacy in American Lives by Deborah Brandt

Wendy S. Angleman

Becky A. Palomo

Demographics of study
Demographics of Study

  • 80 participants interviewed

  • Ranging in age from 10 to 98 years old

  • All residing in south central Wisconsin

  • Interviewed early 1990’s

  • 54 European Americans, 16 African Americans, 4 Mexican Americans, 2 Native Americans, 2 Asian decent, 2 Middle Eastern decent

Chapter 1
Chapter 1

  • Comparing 2 females, Martha Day; born 1903, and Barbara Hunt; born 1971

  • Both raised on 80 acre low-income dairy farms.

  • Martha’s academic writing experience was with the high school yearbook, while Barbara’s academic writing experience was with the forensics association.

  • Both graduated from high school and shortly thereafter left home to seek employment.

  • ‘Sponsorship’ refers to “agents who support or discouraged literacy learning and development as ulterior motives in their own struggles for economic or political gain” (p. 26).

Martha s venture into writing
Martha’s Venture into Writing

  • Married to bookkeeper in 1925 and attended a young married couple’s Methodist Sunday school class.

  • Sunday school teacher asked her to put together a small monthly newsletter for the class.

  • Sunday school teacher soon bought a small regional farm magazine and asked her to become the rewrite person.

Martha con t
Martha con’t

  • 1940’s, farm journal bought out by larger conglomerate.

  • Offered more editorial responsibilities.

  • Switched over to writing on domestic topics (preceding Ladies Home Journal and Good Housekeeping).

  • Sponsorship was obtained through schooling, church, and popular press.

Barbara hunt
Barbara Hunt

  • Transitional time for dairy farmers being bought out by wealthier farmers.

  • Two major sponsorships were the High School Forensics Association and a Human resources program at a local 2 year college.

  • Worked in a daycare center.

  • Changing demographics and economic systems caused obstacles for optimum employment and the devaluation of previously acceptable literacy standards .

Understanding sponsorship and education
Understanding Sponsorship and Education

“Sponsorship is a tool that can clarify for teachers how students in their classrooms are differentially subsidized in their literacy learning outside of school by virtue of the economic histories of their families and regions.” (p. 44-45)

Chapter 2
Chapter 2

  • Compared 2 men; Dwayne Lowery born in 1938, auto worker/union representative, Johnny Ames, born in 1950, sharecropper, resident in prison system where he became literate.

  • Sponsorship influenced by ‘contractarian society’; business was conducted through written contractual agreements becoming more legal in nature requirement higher educational standards.

Dwayne lowery
Dwayne Lowery

  • First employment as autoworker and later as a water meter reader.

  • Influenced by father’s daily reading of newspaper and political stance.

  • Attended a 4 months training session to become a union representative and bargaining agent.

  • Governmental influenced a legalistic form of literacy to restore political dominance over public workers (p. 55)

  • Due to oppositional lawyers writing of ‘briefs’ union reps required to do the same at the same level of legalistic writing.

  • Forced to take an early retirement he was replaced by a younger college master’s degree graduate with industrial relations writing experience (p.54).

Johnny ames
Johnny Ames

  • Inmate for 16 years in maximum security prison.

  • Raised by grandmother with limited formal educational background and literacy skills, was strong in oral tradition

    and religious upbringing.

  • Influenced by Civil Rights movement.

  • Taught to read by ex-nun in the prison library system.

  • Brown vs. Smith gave prisoners access to legal documents

    and law libraries within prison facilities.

  • Sponsorship included his grandmother, ex-nun, prison law libraries, and change in political climate.

Chapter 3 accumulating literacy how four generations of one american family learned to write
Chapter 3 – Accumulating Literacy How Four Generations of One American Family Learned to Write

  • Genna May, Great Grandmother, born in 1898 South Central Wisconsin Dairy Farm

  • Sam May, Grandfather, born in 1925. Grew up on extended family farm due to his parents divorce.

  • Jack May, Father, born in 1958. Grew up in South Central Wisconsin suburbs.

  • Michael May, Son, born in 1981. Grew up 25 miles from where his great grandmother was born.

Genna may 1898
Genna May, 1898 One American Family Learned to Write

  • Graduated in 1917, class of 13 members

  • Enrolled in business college, 20 miles away from home

  • Sponsors: Protestant Church and the Common School

  • Divorced during the Depression years, moved back to family dairy farm

  • Female clerical worker, employed by Title Company

Sam may 1925
Sam May, 1925 One American Family Learned to Write

  • Victorian age of formalities, writing became a formal way of communicating, manners were stressed with the use of proper language.

  • Radio & Film stimulated collaborative children’s writing of scripts and other forms of communication.

  • Attended radio repair course prior to induction in the Army.

Sam may con t
Sam May, con’t One American Family Learned to Write

  • Served in the Army as a radio technician during WWII. Writing service manuals back to the factories.

  • Employed by the university as an electronics technician after leaving college short of a degree

  • Sponsors were the Victorian age of formalities and the Army

Jack may 1958
Jack May, 1958 One American Family Learned to Write

  • Mother was college trained X-Ray technician

  • Library of technical manuals provided by both parents present in the home

  • ‘Dick and Jane’ primers based on “scientific approaches similar to Army training and orientation” (p. 93)

  • Writing was interpreted as a civic responsibility influenced by involvement in Boy Scouts.

Jack may con t
Jack May, con’t One American Family Learned to Write

‘Distributive Education’ – Distributive Education Clubs of America. A precursor to present day ‘work-study’ program where high school students attended school half a day and worked in local employment half a day.

Michael may 1981
Michael May, 1981 One American Family Learned to Write

  • Middle class environment, most parents were white collar workers vs. agrarian society.

  • Technological influences became apparent with indoor vs. outdoor play activities.

  • “Schools promote critical thinking and creativity to accommodate a complex and changing world” (p.99).

Michael may con t
Michael May, con’t. One American Family Learned to Write

  • First one to actually be known as a “writer”

  • Kept a personal journal, stated, “I like to look back on what happens in my life.” (p.100).

  • Became a member of Future Problem Solving Program (FPSP) providing an enrichment curriculum for gifted and talented students.

Michael may con t1
Michael May, con’t. One American Family Learned to Write

  • FPSP “stresses brain storming, critical reflection, and verbal presentation, all done within small-group settings”. (p.100)

  • “Each of the Mays developed literacy within key moments of economic transition in their region” (p.101).

  • Their literacy attainment was indicative of their schooling and environmental influences.

Chapter 4 the power of it
Chapter 4 - The Power of It One American Family Learned to Write

  • The African-American community had slightly different

    sponsors of literacy than their white European decent


  • They lacked the economic sponsors which denied them opportunities that were afforded other groups.

  • African-Americans who attained the same educational

    levels and professional status as their white counterparts were not viewed the same in regards to their ‘tradable

    value’. (p. 106)

Literacy rates of african americans
Literacy Rates of African Americans One American Family Learned to Write

  • 1910 – 30%

  • 1930 – more than 80%

  • 1970 – more than 95%

  • The sponsors that were responsible for this

    increase were the African-American churches, the African-American press, national attention due to periods of temporary crisis (WWII), and the

    modern civil rights movement.

Cultural agents of racial survival
Cultural Agents of Racial Survival One American Family Learned to Write

  • Self-Determination

  • Emancipation from slavery and stereotypes

  • Education

  • Self & Family Advancement

  • Unity between religious and secular existence.

The african american church
The African American Church One American Family Learned to Write

  • The church remains one of the important channels within African American society to provide what larger political systems withhold and to offer conscious alternatives to the hostility and negativity that those larger systems often deliver. (p.123)

Chapter 5 the sacred and the profane reading writing in popular memory
Chapter 5 – The Sacred and the Profane, Reading & Writing in Popular Memory

  • Through the 18th & 19th centuries:

  • Reading was associated with conventional morality and religious duty (147).

  • Writing was associated with trade, earning a living, and everyday functions.

  • During this timeframe, some religious leaders believed

    that students’ devotion to writing ruined their devotion to reading.

Shift in literacy dominance
Shift in Literacy Dominance in Popular Memory

  • With the onset of the technology age writing is rising to the forefront of literacy.

  • Writing is the productive member of the reading/writing pair.

  • Literacy is a key productive force in the workplace.

  • “Writing not only documents ‘work’ but comprises the work that many people do”

    (p. 148).

Differences in reading writing memories
Differences in Reading/Writing Memories in Popular Memory

  • Positive Reading experiences – associated with bedtime stories, parents/grandparents reading, pleasurable experiences organized by adults

  • Negative Writing experiences- associated with loneliness, secrecy, and rebellious feelings.

Handwriting in Popular Memory

  • Emphasis on handwriting skills influenced one’s attitude toward writing

  • Pretty handwriting was honored and praised while sloppy handwriting was severely criticized and shamed.

  • Left-handness was discouraged and left the child with a negative school experience overall

Authors? in Popular Memory

  • Many people who wrote during this timeframe did not view themselves as actual authors.

  • The characteristics of a ‘reader’ were well established and well known in contrast to the identity of a writer was illusive in nature and not well received. (160)

Chapter 6 the means of production literacy and stratification at the twenty first century
Chapter 6 – The Means of Production, in Popular Memory Literacy and Stratification at the Twenty-First Century

  • At the turn of the century, with the onset of the ‘Information Age’ or the ‘Knowledge Economy’, literacy’s gap due to the ‘rich get richer, while the poor get poorer, can be applied to the

    abundance of technology or the absence of it.

  • Comparison of two individuals who were entering adulthood at

    the same time, Raymond Branch and Dora Lopez from the same mid-western community.

  • Raymond born to ‘privileged parents’ had the economic

    advantage that afforded him the opportunity to participate in computer technology at the ground level.

Comparison of two individuals
Comparison of Two Individuals in Popular Memory

  • Dora Lopez, born into a blue-collar Mexican-American family.

  • She did not have economic sponsors to encourage her nor the economic means for her to compete with other students who had the technical background.

  • Her only means of support, both financial and moral support were her parents of modest background.

  • She sought a second language of Spanish, which was valued in regards to her family but not her broader community.

  • Raymond’s second language was that of ‘computer language’ which opened doors for him both experientially and financially.

Rapidly changing pace of literacy
Rapidly Changing Pace of Literacy in Popular Memory

“We can see how both a legacy of dispossession and the rapid pace of economic transformation translate into new round of disadvantage.” (p.185)

Conclusion in Popular Memory

The democratic ideals that this nation was founded on must apply to all citizens giving each individual both the educational status and the opportunity to advance through technological means so as to create a balance of both power and status.

References in Popular Memory

Brandt, D. (2001). Literacy in American Lives. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.