As I read one of our generative words/statements this week, my mind had a field day with one particular question: "The readings this week provide deeper theoretical ways to see the power of literacy; as Discourse, praxis, visual and performance art...But are we going too far? Is literacy all things to all people? What's the common thread to all of these ideas?" So in hopes that this makes sense to others, I would like to make an attempt to put my thoughts to pen (or keyboard)……
I reflected first on a conversation that I had over the weekend with a friend, still enthralled so with the Iddings, McCafferty and da Silva article on Conscientizacao Through Graffiti Literacies in the Streets of a Sao Paulo Neighborhood: An Ecosocial Semiotic Perspective. Thinking back to Susan’s quip regarding our enthusiasm and desire to discuss our readings with others; I too have become a load of fun at parties! (Too funnyJ) But even so, I couldn't resist bringing my thoughts up as I sat over a glass of wine with a friend that had majored in Art some years ago. I thought, I suppose, about the theory that at times certain text does require a Discourse to truly understand its meaning. So I was interested in what she knew about this particular form of literacy and the powerful meaning that it may mask from those unfamiliar. She too was intrigued (FINALLY!!) about the meaning found in the art of Sao Paulo’s graffiti artists, for she knew of a “graffiti movement” and was aware that it can convey more than just a pretty picture. Her artist’s lens had taught her to look for hidden meaning behind an image or picture, but she did not know the history of the area and so viewed it with her own experiences as she attempted to understand the artist’s intentions. Her meanings were often different from those intended.
I also pause as I consider the readings this week and an apparent theme of the Resource Guide for a Do-It-Yourself Education. The author appears to be a proponent of experiential learning, and makes a compelling case for why it may be found by some more relevant than classroom education. While I don’t agree that classroom education should be entirely ruled out, I do support her belief that experiential learning can be quite valuable. While experiential learning and embodied knowing do not necessarily carry the same meaning; the discovery of both has caused me to consider how powerful our experiences and emotions can be when it comes to how and what we take away from our learning. Often it is because we experience it that the learning holds as much meaning as it does.
So when asked whether or not we are looking too far into hidden meanings and where we find them, I counter with the question of should we as educators ever stop looking? Learning can be found in such a variety of places, I am myself learning this anew every day. And while the viewer (or reader) may take away a message that is not quite what the author/illustrator intended….I beg the consideration of the fact that learning took place at all. Consider that while the graffiti artists found in the Sao Paulo article hope to create emotion and awareness in the people of their society; I thank them for the emotion and awareness it has created for me in looking at graffiti in a whole new way.
Literacy, in all of its approaches, provides an opportunity to deliver powerful messages. It is the viewer’s Discourse(s) that aids in their experience of the message. Through praxis and theory, we are attempting to understand all that may aid in creating awareness within any one individual. “Any experience can become part of your education.” (pg. 156) And as educators, should we not attempt to understand the variety of ways in how one can experience and glean meaning from any text that surrounds them?