"The whole movement of life is learning" (Krishnamurti). "To be an act of knowing, then, the adult literacy process must engage the learners in the constant problematizing of their existential situations" (Freire). "Once you learn to read, you will be forever free" (Douglass). "I can learn anything I have the desire to learn" (White, S.G.).

Monday, April 1, 2013

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

I will caution you as you begin reading this blog; I have put more emotion in this one than usual.  While I fear that my entry this week may err on the side of rambling and may/may not be directly associated with this week’s generative word lists, I cannot help but share these thoughts with whoever is willing to visit them-and for those that do, I thank you.....
Beauty truly can be in the eye of the beholder.  Often we think of this statement as we view someone or something, but I honestly have never considered it when it came to the topic of literacy.  I think about this statement first as I reflect on recent class discussions regarding the ‘hidden’ meaning that graffiti can sometimes hold.   To some, myself included prior to being exposed to such Discourse, this ‘art’ is defacing and perhaps confirming of one’s perception of the area (i.e. poor, city, heavily populated, diverse, etc.).  But to others it is a way of expressing an opinion, a stance and/or a message to an audience; perhaps even an audience that may have not received it otherwise.  Graffiti can attempt to lighten the mood in a sometimes dark and depressing area; it can even add a bit of beauty to an otherwise unappealing view….

Take for instance Precious in the book Push and her observation noted on pages 109-110 of “paintings” that Franco has created over each of the store windows.  She describes how she not only enjoys them, but even more so than paintings found in a museum.  I can’t help but also notice that she has mentioned the beauty of this art before going into the otherwise dirty despair of the streets themselves.  I also consider a television show that I watched last night called Red Widow.   In an early scene of this particular show, the mother discovers that her daughter did not attend school that day as she had thought.  The daughter is then shown painting the side of an old building….
I wonder how many thought simply that she had begun to turn into a delinquent.   I wonder too how many remember that her father was gunned down by a man on a motorcycle that is known only by his yellow soled shoe (hidden by the guy in the picture above.)  I personally found myself appreciating instead her attempt to publicize this fact in an effort to find the person responsible for her father’s death.  But would I have noticed this, or thought this much about it before?
I also attempt, perhaps, a juxtaposition of the book Push and this week’s readings by Kathy Boudin….Precious’ childhood was one that is filled with events that are traumatic and heart wrenching.  It provoked such emotion as I read it, I can still feel them as I struggle to find only one or two adjectives to describe my opinion of her experiences.  But what I also wonder is what others assumed early on in her life as she struggled through school.  Not knowing of her life at home, what did they think of a young girl with a child that never really participated in school and was always rude when approached?  Only when she encounters Ms. Rain does she seem to embrace her own significance; a feeling that is perhaps provoked and built upon by Ms. Rain’s encouragement to not only share her stories but to use them as a learning tool.   A similar approach is seen in Boudin’s Participatory Literacy Education behind Bars: AIDS Opens the Door.    On page 217, we find her early on in her role as facilitator/teacher and reflecting on her student’s desire to learn after watching a television show.    The topic depicted in the show was not just one that resonated with them; it brought out the fear they felt and "created both a collective silence and a desperate need to talk.” (pg 217) The women began to desire to learn about words that were beyond the normal textbook reading list; words that instead held meaning and value that made them want to learn.  Her theory of such student driven learning was one that had not yet been tried before, and I wonder now if it was perhaps due to the audience.  A tough group perhaps, like Precious, that did not readily open up or embrace learning like a ‘traditional’ student.  Some even (I wonder with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach) that may have had experiences like Precious and her classmates; experiences that caused them to shut down and in turn fall further and further behind academically. 

I cannot help but also feel inspired as I reflect back on two additional quotes from the Boudin readings.  Her note regarding one student where "the drive to express her intense feelings had led her to take real risks in her writing and use of English.” (pg 219) As well as her observation that the students began to feel as though "their own life experiences were significant.” (pg. 220). As an educator she inspired, empowered and helped them to see how powerful learning can really be.  And while all may not embrace her methods, including a few of her own students, one would be remiss to not consider the beauty in what she was able to accomplish. 
Before this class I had not truly stopped to realize the possibilities that text can hold and the variety of ways that it can be shared with our world.   This is one Discourse that I am excited to now perhaps be a part of; for it has opened my mind to the beauty of perceptions as well as the power and many faces that can be found within the written word. 

1 comment:

  1. Lovely Holly! I cant wait to hear more about your responses to these powerful readings in class! Your luminous understanding of street art--as grace within squalor--is so critical and hopeful!! Also, whenever I think that we are yapping too much about the sociocultural approach, this weeks readings remind me that when life is most daunting, demeaning, terrifying, discounting--that's when emancipatory learning reveals it self as a truth to be reckoned with.


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