Critical Literacy as a Tool for Learning

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					Making “Makin’ It” Possible:
Developing Critical Literacy
             Elizabeth Birr Moje
                University of
                 Michigan
               William T. Grant
               Scholars Retreat
                   June 2005
You should write a book, and you
should call your book, On the Streets of
Detroit, no, Underneath the Streets of
Detroit. You should write about what
we, what the people who live here, think
of the city, not the police or the high
society, but the people who really live
here.
   [Ramiro, Ethnographic Interview, 2003]
When people go to Hart Plaza for the
Mexican festival or to Cinco de Mayo, the
tourists only come and see the parade or
go to the food booths, but they don’t see
the real meanings underneath it, they
don’t understand it.
Overarching Project Goals

 To document and analyze how youth use and
  learn literate practices and various kinds of
  texts
      to learn content knowledge
      to develop and enact identities
 To integrate youth literacy and cultural practices
  with in-school literacy learning
 To provide a space for youth voices
Everyday funds of knowledge                            Disciplinary knowledge and
and discourse: Youth culture,                          discourse: Science and
popular culture, ethnic culture                        Language Arts



                              *content knowledge
                              *literacy and language
                              practices
  Youths
                                                                   Schools
                              *identity development and
  Families
                              strategic enactment
  Peers
                              *awareness of oppression
                              and collective struggle
                              *opportunities for action
                              that benefits youth and
                              communities

                      Community-Based Organizations
 Research Design and Foci

 Eight-year community ethnography in
 predominantly Latino/a community of Detroit
   Basic   Research Component
     •   Youth literate practices
     •   Youth cultural, popular cultural, and school texts
     •   Youth national language practices
     •   Youth identity enactments and development
          – Developmental and spatial analyses
     • Youth literacy motivations and skills
   Intervention    Research Component
     • Social action and critical literacy projects
Data Sources & Participants
 School observations: Latino/a middle- and high-
  school students observed and informally interviewed
  in school classrooms 2-3 times per week, each week,
  for 7 years (n = 300)

 In-depth, semi-structured interviews: Latino/a youth
  (n = 65), ages 12-20

 Community mapping: 2 formal maps; routine
  ethnographic mapping; youth-constructed maps

 Artifact collection (drawings, stickers, books,
  clothing)
Data Sources & Participants
 Ethnographic observations and Interviews: Latino/a youth (n
  = 15), ages 12-20, followed over 5-7 years

 Informal and formal unstructured interviews: Parents,
  teachers, community leaders (n = 18)

 Surveys: 6th, 8th, and 9th grade students at 3 public schools
  and 1 private school (n = 350; targeted n = 775)
      Latino/a, African American, European American, Native American
      Additional samples in Boston, MA & Austin, TX; national sample via NCTE
Analysis Methods

  Constant Comparative Analysis
  Discourse Analyses
  Narrative Analysis
  Hierarchical Linear Modeling
  Cluster Analyses
Findings of the Basic Research Component
 These youth are strategic as they use literacy and
  language practices to position themselves and to
  enact particular identities.
 Racial/ethnic identities are, by far, the most salient
  identities in their everyday lives
 Popular cultural texts (and information
  technologies) play a prominent role in youths’
  negotiations of ethnic/racial/class and affinity
  group identity.
Findings of the Basic Research
Component
 Middle-school aged youth in the study read a wide
  number of texts, but have few extended encounters
  with print prose (i.e., little book reading)
 As youth have aged, they’ve begun to read more
  books (girls) and newspapers/Internet sites (males)
      HR cluster analysis.ppt
 Youth find books they consider “real” most
  appealing; real does not necessarily connote non-
  fiction
Exemplar: Popular cultural texts
                    The Homies are a group of tightly knit Chicano
                      buddies who have grown up in the Mexican
                   American barrio (neighborhood ) of "Quien Sabe", (
                   who knows ) located in East Los Angeles. The four
                   main characters are Hollywood, Smiley, Pelon, and
                                      Bobby Loco.

                        Their separate and distinct personalities and
                   characteristics together make up a single, composite
                       entity that is the "HOMIES." In an inner-city
                    world plagued by poverty, oppression, violence,
                   and drugs, the Homies have formed a strong and
                      binding cultural support system that enables
                   them to overcome the surrounding negativity and
                   allows for laughter and good times as an anecdote
                    for reality. The word "Homies" itself is a popular
                        street term that refers to someone from your
                     hometown or, in a broader sense, anyone that you
                      would acknowledge as your friend. In use in the
                   West Coast Latino community for decades, the word
                   "Homies" has crossed over into the now mainstream
                      Hip-Hop street culture that has taken America's
                                    young people by storm.
                            -Dave Gonzales [creator of Homies]
 Exemplar: Popular cultural texts
I2: So what do they express about being Mexican? What do
   you think they express? Is there anything in particular
   that’s part of the point?
M: The way Mexicans live . . . . Or things like sometimes
   these people become what they are because of problems
   they face. So yeah, that’s what they explain why they are
   the way they describe them. . . .
I2: So the thing that makes them all what they are is that
   they tell you something about—
M: --The background of the people.
I2: The background of the people. But they’re supposed to
   be inspiring? They’re supposed to be inspirational? Like
   people whose stories, they’ve overcome something
   difficult?
M: Yeah, because they have graduation or overcoming
   everything. They tell you to finish school, and stay cool
   and all that stuff. Stay out of drugs. Some of them try to
Findings

 Young people’s understandings of ethnic and
 racial selves are changing as they encounter
 new identity contexts (i.e., physical or
 geographic spaces, relationships, and time
 periods)
     Movement across geographic spaces takes them into
      ―contact zones‖
     Popular cultural texts (i.e., books and mass media)
      provide ―home fronts‖
 You should write a book, and you
 should call your book, On the Streets
 of Detroit, no, Underneath the Streets
 of Detroit. You should write about
 what we, what the people who live here,
 think of the city, not the police or the
 high society, but the people who really
 live here.
Underneath the Streets of Detroit:
        Youth Social Action
    and Critical Literacy Projects
“To tell people what our community is
really like”
 Target Products:           Group Learning Goals:
   Individual                 To learn more about
    Photoessays                 own community
   Individual Powerpoint      To learn how to do

    presentations               research
   Group Video                To learn better

   Individual book
                                literacy skills
    chapters                   To learn how to work
                                with a group better
Major Assertion of Intervention Component


 Youth are already capable of critique . . .
  What they don’t have is:
    Content knowledge and vocabulary
    Comprehension skills and strategies

    Research skills and strategies

    Synthesis skills and strategies

    Communicative skills and strategies

    Models
National Assessment of Educational Progress
(1998)

                         4th grade      8th grade     12th
                                                      grade
   Below basic                .38           .26             .23
   Basic                     .24            .38             .32
   Proficient                 .31           .33             .40
   Advanced                  .07            .03             .06
  Disproportionate numbers of ethnic and racial minority
   students and children who live in poverty are represented in
   the BELOW BASIC and BASIC categories
The “Steps”
  Setting Individual          Project
   Learning Goals               Brainstorming
  Measuring                   Project Research
   Knowledge/Attitudes
      External measurement
                               Project Refinement
      Self-measurement             Questions
  Group Conversations              Claims/Conclusions

      Learning Goals          Project Presentation
      Target Products
Individual Learning Goals, May 04

 Yolanda:                    Ramiro:
   I want to learn how to      The main things that

    put a book together          I‘m trying to get out
    from information that        of this project is to
                                 see or project our city
    we get.                      in a different way
   I want to improve my         (good way).
    English and writing.        And to also improve
   I want to improve            my moral as well as
    more social [build           how I see things.
    social skills].             Also learn how to work
                                 as a team and see how
                                 other people see
                                 things.
Individual Learning Goals, May 04
 Pilar                     Panchito:
                                 I realy want to know why the
    Learn more about my
                             
                                pople write on the walls I believe
    community                    that the people that due this
                                 thing are people that want
   Improve my writing           expresar lo que ciente o rayan
   Improve peoples idea
                                 because some friends rayan
                                 tambien.
    of Detroit                  Quiciera saber y descubrir more
   Improve peoples idea         people that write y juntarnes
                                 para poder hacer une que
    of me                        halplara about something good
                                 olgo que le gustara a la gente que
                                 le daria gusto ver, algo que fuera
                                 como una motivaicon; que le diera
                                 gusto y Felizidad a todas las
                                 personas que pudieran ver este
                                 mensage.
                                Por favor Consume lo q‗ tu
                                 cerebro produce!
Initial Project Brainstorming, May, 04
 Show the struggles we’ve lived through
      Police or government don‘t do anything about it: Police have
       stopped people for drug trafficking, but people who did these
       things eventually get on parole
      Political leaders aren‘t in touch in with the different levels of
       the community
        • If the government would have the same structure that gangs
           or drug syndicates have, they‘d be successful because the
           leaders know what different levels are doing—the illegal
           drug industry is like a beautiful time piece; everything goes
           back to the Roman empire, the structure, everything. They
           don‘t know how to go back, they should learn history.
      You can‘t show care if you haven‘t been taken care of.
 Show school drop-out rates: You’re showing that
  schools aren’t doing anything about gang violence.
Project Brainstorming (Sept 04)

 “Get other people to have a different
  perspective of Detroit--outside of Detroit, in
  the suburbs and in Michigan, to show about
  our community”

 To “compare media representations with our
  real lives”
     Media representations of Detroit are skewed ―because there
      are more minorities in Detroit‖
Project Brainstorming (Sept 04)

  “To learn about our community”
      Y: ―Like the Freedom Festival, everything on
       the news, it was showing only part of the
       problem, we need broader perspectives on the
       problems‖
  To explore issues of discrimination:
   racial/ethnic and socioeconomic:
   Background, when it started, and how it
   continues in the US
Project Brainstorming (Sept. 04)

 To “see how other communities live and how
 they take care of their people”
     R: ―‘cuz like White people, man, are cold-blooded;
      they leave their old people and parents in the
      retirement homes.‖
Youth Data Collection Methods
 Independence festival photos; Cinco de
  Mayo
 Census data and crime rate data for cities
  across the world
 Media representations of different cities
  across the world
 “Experiments where we test theories of
  discrimination”
 Interviews/Surveys
 Reading studies about discrimination
                                   Are Chicanos the Same as Mexicans?

   Here are some reasons why many U.S. citizens of Mexican extraction feel that it is important to make
    the distinction:
   • Not "Americans" by choice
   A scant 150 years ago, approximately 50% of what was then Mexico was appropriated by the U.S.
    as spoils of war, and in a series of land "sales" that were coerced capitalizing on the U.S. victory in
    that war and Mexico’s weak political and economic status. A sizeable number of Mexican citizens
    became citizens of the United States from one day to the next as a result, and the treaty declaring
    the peace between the two countries recognized the rights of such people to their private properties
    (as deeded by Mexican or Spanish colonial authorities), their own religion (Roman Catholicism) and
    the right to speak and receive education in their own tongue (for the majority, Spanish) [refer to the
    text of the treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo]. Therefore, the descendants of this population continue to
    press for such rights, and many hold that theirs is a colonized land and people in view of the fact that
    their territory and population was taken over by military force.

   • Mexicans first, "Americans" second?
   Another and more numerous class of U.S. citizens of Mexican extraction are either descendants of,
    or are themselves, people who conceive of themselves as temporarily displaced from Mexico by
    economic circumstances. As opposed to the waves of European migrants who willingly left their
    countries due to class and religious discrimination, and sought to make their lives anew in the "new
    world" and never to return to the "old land," these displaced Mexicans typically maintain strong family
    ties in Mexico (by visiting periodically, and by investing their incomes in homes or kin in Mexico), and
    usually intend to return to Mexico provided they can become economically secure. Therefore these
    people maintain and nurture their children in their language, religion and customs.
   However, There is great tension within this population between those of Mexican birth who conceive
    of themselves as temporary guests in the U.S., and their descendants who are born in the U.S., are
    acculturated with the norms of broader U.S. society in public schools, and are not motivated by the
    same ties that bind a migrant generation of Mexicans. This creates a classic "niche" of descendants
    of immigrants who are full-fledged U.S. citizens, but who typically do not have access to all the rights
    and privileges of citizenship because of the strong cultural identity imbued in them by their upbringing
    and the discriminatory reaction of the majority population against a non-assimilated and easily
    identified subclass. This group of people feels a great need to distinguish itself from both its U.S.
    milieu and its Mexican "Mother Culture," which does not typically welcome or accept "prodigals." This
    is truly a unique set of people, therefore, in that it endures both strong ties and strong discrimination
    from both U.S. and Mexican mainstream parent cultures. The result has been the creation of a
    remarkable new culture that needs its own name and identity.
One In-process Project

  BothSidesOfTheCoin.ppt
Thank you, W. T., for

  The cash
  A broad-based, longitudinal program of research
       New grants
       Development of an interdisciplinary and ethnically
        diverse research team
  Capacity building of future scholars
  Opportunities to learn new methods
  New partnerships and friendships
  Attention to youth, families, and communities
Acknowledgements

  Research Colleagues
      Ruth Athan, Rosario Carrillo, Kathryn
       Ciechanowski, Tanya Cleveland, Tehani Collazo,
       Lindsay Ellis, Jacque Eccles, Jeanne Freidel,
       Katherine Kramer, Ritu Radhakrishnan, Paul
       Richardson, LeeAnn Sutherland, Laura
       VanDerPloeg, Helen Watt
  Mentors
    Shirley Brice Heath
    Paul Pintrich

				
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