In my 1101 course we are embarking upon a journey of inquiry blogging - among other things I started last summer with the UNCCWP SI group of 2012 with an inquiry around the rhetoric of help, where I got particularly caught up in Pickles the Cat - a character from a children's book.
I'm planning to keep that project moving and actually do an enthnography around the literacy and rhetoric of help along side my students.
But today' post, is a meandering one - inquiring a little more deeply into this idea of literacy and always it seems lately, connecting it back up to the rhetoric of help that has been pinging around in my head since class yesterday.
One of our readings for class last week was "Words Become Us," Convocation speech given by Ann Imbrie. It's a say story of sorts in that one of the characters commits suicide and Imbrie goes on to ponder how the love affair with words, particularly borrowed words as teen agers led them to such different outcomes, she as a successful college professor and he as a victim of suicide.
One of my students picked out the line "it's possible that Gordon simply fell in with a bad crowd of words, that he borrowed the wrong words, that Milton's words, say rather than Mick Jagger's might have redeemed him."
This idea of a bad crowd of words collided with the term "broken English" that can out of our dual conversation about Amy Tan's mother and another student in our class who has always made phone calls for her mother.
And it all made me think of the real, concrete power of words - and who gets to decide which words have power? Is my English "broken" when I say "chester drawers" for bureau" or when one of my students who speaks multiple languages finds it easier to write in his first language to get thoughts out and then translate to English so that I can read it? Right now, a big motivation for me is written on a white board in my home office "Dead discussion. You will not win cuz I will not loose." - It's a lyric from "Can't be Touched" - a song that I have to turn down when my children walk through the room and that I most likely wouldn't be blasting in my office in Cameron. But it fills me with power when I need it. Is allowing ourselves to "hang out" with these languages and words "falling in with a bad crowd of language?" Is the code switching we all do, the lyrics and the movie lines, and quotes from books not in the cannon - the deviation from "proper" (whatever that is) English, hanging with the "wrong" crowd.
And so is the rhetoric of help bound up in this idea of "raising children up" to hang out with the "right" crowd of words" marking their home languages as "wrong" and broken?