Literacy and Social Goods
Many people say that literacy brings social goods and success to both the apprentice and the sponsor. I believe this to be true and both Brandt and Gee can support this. However this can be argued depending on some people’s definition of success and social goods. Social goods according to Gee is acquisition of money, power, and social status. He says that you receive social goods once you become literate in a Discourse. Brandt says that sponsors already have social goods and that they don’t just invest in an “apprentice” if they do not see promise. Even though sponsors already have social goods, they still have things to acquire like marketing and advertising. Although the outcome may not be the same for all sponsors, they still are very likely to get something out of it.
Success can be a broad term but I think that success is determined by the person themselves. Everybody has their own connotation of success whether people agree with it or not is uncontrollable. Gee says that once one is fully fluent in a Discourse then the social group that they are now a part of will give them social goods. Gee states that “Social groups will not, usually, give their social goods…to those who are not ‘natives’ or ‘fluent users’” (10). I agree with Gee because if you think of it, if you are not part of a social group or Discourse, then you will not get the benefits of that Discourse or social group. The only way that you as a person outside of the social group or Discourse, is to acquire literacy in the Discourse. This will allow a person to be successful in gaining the social goods. Theres the argument that if someone misses an apprenticeship, which is the only way to become literate and fluent in a Discourse, then they will never be able to acquire the social goods of the social group. Also the argument still of what is considered as “success”. Like I had said, success has many different definitions. However, I believe that the only success that matters is the successfulness of yourself. So this means that you can only judge if you are successful or not. If you have literacy acquisition in something that you believe in then you can consider yourself successful in that Discourse or social situation even though others may not. Success in some situations though can be observed by others. As Brandt says, if the person being sponsored by a sponsor is successful, then the sponsor will also experience success as well. This also goes for an apprentice and master. If the apprentice is successful then the master will also be successful by gaining another fluent person in that specific Discourse. In the narrative “Eyes Wide Open” by Erica B she talks about how Mr. L caught her interest in learning in the fourth grade. She wonders what it would be like if she had a different teacher for fourth grade. While Erica thought she was successful because she enjoyed her teacher and his ways of getting his points across does not mean that another fourth grader who had Mr. L as their teacher felt the same way. Erica says “My teacher showed me more interactive ways of learning.” (B, Erica). This is a good example of Erica’s preference in learning. However, not everyone learns best from interactive ways. Some people may find more success in learning when they are just given a textbook to read out of. Success in learning is more specific to the person doing the learning and should not be generalized. They could have been less successful than Erica or not successful at all. This is an example of how success depends on the learner’s interpretation rather than sticking to the webster dictionary definition. Erica’s definition of success may be that something that she had trouble understanding was now clear but her classmates definition of success could be getting an A+ on their next test. This goes for everyone. I have my own definition of success when it comes to math. I think I am successful when I pass a homework assignment that I did all by myself. Many others think that is something that everyone should do but being a struggling math student that is what I consider success.
There is a very generalized definition of success that many people think of when success is mentioned. People think of having money, having stability, having a high social status as successful and while that could be success for one person, that does not mean that those social goods are the only things that could mean success. Gee’s definition of success is entering a dominant secondary Discourse with full fluency. Although that may be the main goal in the end, that does not mean that someone could be successful when making it into the apprenticeship. I believe that while on the road to entering a dominant secondary Discourse, you can have many little successes along the way. Brandt’s idea of success applies to both the apprentice and the sponsor. “Sponsors, as we ordinarily think of them, are powerful figures who bankroll events or smooth way for initiates” (557). This is how Brandt describes sponsors and how they have a role in making learning easier for the apprentice. While success usually is for the person learning, a sponsor is considered successful if the learner is successful. In a way I think that Brandt’s idea of success could lead to bias success because sponsors tend to sponsor people that only they see promise in. I definitely think that this is true however because I think you have to be at least a little bit successful in order to get noticed and sponsored by a sponsor.
In the literacy narrative “A Nervous Little Reader” by Emily MacDonald, Mrs. McNeil could be considered a sponsor and Emily is considered the learner. Mrs. McNeil had seen that Emily was struggling and saw something special in her which led her to offer extra help. While money or social goods wasn’t really a product of success for Mrs. McNeil, satisfaction and gratification were. Emily and her family recognize this sponsor as the women who helped Emily learn to read and that in itself can be considered very successful. Emily herself had become more comfortable while reading and talking to people which shows that she made progress and was successful in overcoming her anxiety. In her narrative, Emily credits Mrs. McNeil with helping her recognize her own anxiety. Emily says “If she had not mentioned this my anxiety would be just as bad now as it was then” (MacDonald). Later in the narrative, Mrs. McNeil makes yet another appearance when Emily credits her for teaching her how to read. “…or if i had never sat down with Mrs. McNeil to learn how to read I do not know where my reading skills would be today.” (MacDonald). Here she gives Mrs. McNeil who is her sponsor credit for teaching her how to read. Although it may not be your most desired social good, accreditation still is a way of a sponsor receiving a good from their successful student.
The acquisition of literacy is very important in becoming successful. I believe that in order to have the slightest bit of success one needs to acquire literacy. However, most people believe that this needs to be a drastic change but I believe that it can be a very small step forward. Gee says that when entering a dominant secondary Discourse, you become successful. That is true. That does not mean that throughout your apprenticeship, you cannot gain small successes like making it into the apprenticeship itself.
B, Erica. “Eyes Wide Open.” Rising Cairn. University of New England, December 1,2016. Medium. 6 March 2017.
Brandt, Deborah. “Sponsors of Literacy.” Literacy A Critical Sourcebook. Edited by Ellen Cushman. Bedfords/St.Martin’s, 2001, Boston, New York. (555-571)
Gee, James Paul. Literacy, Discourse, and Linguistics: Introduction. Journal of Education. Volume 171, Number 1, 1989. (5-25)
MacDonald, Emily. “A Nervous Little Reader.” Rising Cairn. University of New England. December 6, 2016. Medium. 6 March 2017.