ERIC Number: ED348681
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1992-Mar
Reference Count: N/A
Memories of Play, Dreams of Success: Literacy Autobiographies of 101 Students.
Fox, Stephen L.
Despite the stereotype of today's undergraduates as having an inadequate literacy level, a teacher of English at a large midwestern university was surprised to find that students' literacy autobiographies reflect what might be called a conventional literacy success story, one that represents a strain of American autobiography dating back to Benjamin Franklin. Language and education have typically been seen in this country as a means to occupational, social, and political success and power. Writing and reading literacy autobiographies is a useful assignment because it helps students connect college with previous learning, can reignite the previous joy of writing and reading, and promotes a broader concept of literacy. However, the connection between literacy achievement and the success of the American Dream produces an ambivalent reaction for some teachers, since it subordinates literacy to other aims. The students in an introductory composition course at the University of Wisconsin were asked to write literacy autobiographies, and most of them narrated some literacy successes, often before schooling began. During their school years, however, students began to view reading and writing as required and less joyful enterprises. Overcoming fear is often associated with attaining success in literacy activities. In cases where attaining literacy involves great struggle, the success motif can be moving and inspirational. The downside of this outlook is the possibility that students will see literacy only in terms of a chore, and not in terms of play, adventure, and creativity. In a society that values success leading to the American Dream, teachers should try to instill in students other views of literacy focused on play, language and joy. (HB)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: American Dream; Educational Issues; Literacy as a Social Process; University of Wisconsin
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication (43rd, Cincinnati, OH, March 19-21, 1992).