Literacy and Liberty

It’s not just plainly learning to read and write
Posted by: , September 19, 2018, 12:14 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Learning to read and write in my home country is a big thing to not only every child but also the family. Parents want their children to take writing courses even before their 1st grade entrance. It has, however, never been my case. While my friends had to exchange their childhood memories for some writing practices and reading lessons, I sure was not in a rush; partly because I took on the lesson pretty well, not a single word was too difficult to spell, not a single grammar rule was too complicated to be memorized.

At school, we also had to learn how to sketch a letter prettily and a whole competition was thrown annually to choose the one with the best handwriting. I have always hated that, although I cannot deny the satisfactory of beholding a beautiful piece of handwriting. There is just something about having to follow a pattern then being graded upon that mould and competing for something that is not necessarily useful in life that upsets me. Fortunately, I was not forced to do something that made me uncomfortable, mainly thanks to my supportive and understanding parents. I think that actually facilitated my learning, both in the past and the present for the luxury of studying with great comfort has allowed me to pursue my favorites and helped define the person I am today.

I Think I Randomly Chose to be Left-Handed
Posted by: , September 18, 2018, 9:54 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Learning how to write was a classroom task for me. It involved sitting on one hand and trying to convince myself (and my teacher) that the writing hand I’d chosen was the ‘dominant’ one based on the idea that the letters were slightly less shaky, despite the fact that early on there’s not much difference. There were copybooks similar to those that Douglass describes, where sentences were printed above lines that looked consistently like this


for students to butcher with our scrawls. We wrote ‘The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog,” and then we wrote “THE QUICK BROWN FOX JUMPS OVER THE LAZY DOG,” for pages at a time (we learned to write in lowercase and uppercase print in pre-school and kindergarten; cursive wasn’t taught until 2nd grade). It seemed hellish– before your hands get used to it, they constantly cramp and the lack of calluses on the ring finger makes the already-awkward sense of holding a pencil actively uncomfortable.

Learning to write (and read) openly in a classroom, I realize now, was a privilege that comparatively few people get to experience, especially in the case of women. The restriction of literacy that Douglass confronted in his lifetime is hardly eradicated, and the fact that I was taught how to access the texts and ideas of others through reading, and how to express my own through writing, was a gift the gravity of which I don’t think I could have understood from my position at five years old.

Posted by: , September 5, 2018, 7:59 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I was apprehensive when I first sat down in the uncomfortable stacking chair that marked the beginning of convocation. Part of the seat was on an incline, forcing a point on my back into the chair. The speech by President Ensign began with the usual rhetoric; how exciting it is that the class of 2022 is here, and how we are the future. I was looking in the other direction, when one of her sentences caught my attention. To my disbelief, President Ensign was talking about truth seeking. She went on to explain the grayness of truth, the difficulty it takes to find it, and our duty to search. Up to that point, I had never heard a speech about truth from an authority member. I was finally in a place that valued the same things I valued.

Later on, President Ensign stated that we have made great world progress, using poverty statistics, as if it was that simple. The Native Americans would be considered way below the poverty level, because of their way of life. Is it progress that their land was taken over by the United States, and filled with an economy and industry? What about the destruction of our environment? As I listened to her argument, instead of anger, I felt excitement. Her speech reminded me that in order to fulfill my duty at Dickinson, I had to say things that Dickinson may not be pleased with. As I put my pen on the paper to sign my name into the Dickinson records, I felt a twinge of nervousness. I was signing a contract not only to the school, but to myself. In that moment, I was promising that I would do everything in my power to move the world further, even if that means going places that others don’t want to.

Posted by: , September 5, 2018, 4:56 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

These days all Chinese are talking about the same news that a famous Chinese billionaire, Head of, got arrested on suspicion of rape in August when he was studying in Minnesota. 

However, lots of people in China assert that this billionaire, Qiangdong Liu, might fall into a trap, which means that there might be some kind of disagreement about money happening between this girl and the billionaire when they were together. Even though facts of this case have not been published by Minneapolis police department, suspected pictures of a woman have been spread all over internet, and people kept making insults about her body line and appearance.

This case deepened my understanding of gender equality. When I went through the news and comments below, one of them saying: “she looks like that type of girl”, I was disgusted and humiliated, and even realized how much work is still needed to be done to talk about gender equality in China. Without knowing the truth, people made conclusion so easily and arbitrarily based on how much money  this billionaire has. And people judged this girl to be prostitute just by a suspected picture posted online by anonymous. I glimpsed the future and the direction I am heading to. Nowadays press in China is controlled by government and power, and the public opinion can be easily directed and suppressed once something serious happened. I think truth needs to be exposed, put under sunlight and talked about in a right way. 

Learning to Read
Posted by: , September 5, 2018, 4:11 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

      When I was eight years old, I had already decided reading was the worst thing I had ever tried. Not only did I not enjoy reading, I hated how I was forced to sit down next to my mother for 30 minutes a day and practice reading starter books for children. I could not have imagined then, how something I disliked so much would turn into one of my greatest passions. It was only after three years of not reading a single word I didn’t have to, that I discovered the novel which would change my perception of reading forever. The Tower Treasure, the first book of the Hardy Boys series that was given to me as a gift for my birthday when I was 11 years old, and was my first introduction to the pleasure a great story could bring me. I was able to pretend like I was a part of the motorcycle-riding, teenage detective duo, solving crimes and going on dates with pretty girls. However, more than that, The Treasure Tower was my first taste of how literature could function as a transportation mechanism, allowing me to leave where I was and travel to wherever the setting of the novel of my choosing would take me. Books not only became a way for me to use my imagination, but as I got older, a way for me to garner the perspectives of other cultures and different people. Reflecting upon those times when I was younger, when I was forced to sit next to my mother for our daily reading sessions, it all seems like a cheap price to pay for a lifetime of exploration. 


Connect the Dots
Posted by: , September 5, 2018, 3:11 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

My kindergarten teacher hated me. I was five or six years old, uninterested in rules or the people who set them, and I loved Harry Potter. None of these pieces of who I was are particularly abnormal for the age group, but the Boiling Springs school district had some very strong ideas about which parts were acceptable, and the answer was none of them. Rules were there for my safety, the people who set the rules were important because they said so, and Harry Potter was off-limits because it had two purple dots.

The dot system at W.G. Rice Elementary school is not unique– it exists in elementary schools all over the United States. All of the books in the library are coded according to a reading level assigned by the librarians: for example, one yellow dot is an easy first grade read, and two purple dots is an advanced fifth grade read. Students are not allowed to check out books that do not match their grade level dot. The entire Harry Potter series was coded as two purple dots, which meant that it was strictly out-of-bounds for me. Still, it took two attempts to check out various books in the series (the Sorcerer’s Stone and the Prisoner of Azkaban, if I’m remembering right) as well as bringing in my own copy from home and reading it during math class before my teacher called in my parents for a meeting. The meeting went something like this: My parents come in one evening after work, with me, and we all sit down in the kindergarten classroom. For some inexplicably dramatic reason, the principle is there. My teacher schmoozes with my parents for a little while to try and make herself seem like a friend, and then they turn the subject to my wild, delinquent self. “It’s cute that she’s pretending,” smiles my teacher, giving me a facial expression roughly equivalent to a just-too-hard pat on the head, “but it needs to stop.” Long story short, I had to read passages, summarize the books that I had read thus far, and have my parents threaten to move me to a new school before I was given special, written permission from the principle to check out books that were above my grade level.

It was a defining experience in my life. It was the first time that I had come up against institutional censorship, and it wasn’t fun. I’m sure that many other students have experienced similar situations, and it is my own opinion that the entire concept of the dot system in school libraries needs to be discarded. The potential benefit of helping children find books suited to their reading level is solidly outweighed by the limitations that it places on anyone who finds themselves outside the average reading level for their age, be that above or below.




Reading a Map
Posted by: , September 5, 2018, 2:51 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I seldom make generalized statements about myself, and I am always trying to become better at everything that I do. Nonetheless, the one thing that I can guarantee will never change is my horrible sense of direction. When I have a schedule that I must follow, it is extremely difficult for me to arrive on time unless I know exactly to where I must go. To ease my anxiety about becoming quickly lost and confused while navigating this, not even particularly large, campus, I downloaded the Dickinson app onto my cell phone. One of the features within this application includes a campus map. Using this app, I am able to search for specific buildings within several different sections of campus. For example, if one needs to locate Kaufman, one simply must type its name into the search bar and a map will appear. Despite the usefulness of this map, I find myself easily misreading the instructions and becoming more lost than I ever had been at the beginning. It is therefore necessary for me to put down my electronic map and actually ask someone to point me in the direction of my intended destination. When I inevitably get myself lost despite my usage of a map, I find it somewhat amusing (once I have found my way). An important form that literacy takes is one’s ability to read and understand a map. I am a seemingly literate individual; however, if I was to be put into a situation where my life and wellbeing depended on my ability to read a map, I would be deemed nearly entirely illiterate.

Literary Ploy
Posted by: , September 5, 2018, 2:27 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized


“any occasion in which a piece of writing is integral to the nature of participants’ interactions and their interpretive processes”(Heath 1982)

“Events are observable episodes which arise from practices and are shaped by them. The notion of events stresses the situated nature of literacy, that it always exists in a social context” (Barton & Hamilton 2000)

These two quotations I gathered from an article titled “Literacy events and Literacy practices”. The article defines both terms in clearly and simply, using two separate writings as a source. The article helped me comprehend what exactly I am looking for when searching for a literacy event. What writings have shaped or manipulated large groups of people? Do dictators and tyrannical leaders exploit literacy events and practices of their people in order to gain or keep power? What examples are there of this? I looked up “Soviet Newspaper” in order to find any examples of this.

“Pravda” could be a fitting example. Originally founded in 1905 by a Russian Railroad tycoon named V.A. Kolezhnikov, the paper was not offically published until 1912 in St. Petersburg. Pravda, which translates to “truth” in English originally served as journal detailing social life, arts, and literature. After the October revolution, Vladimir Lenin used Pravda as official paper of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party. Pravda often featured articles from the proletarian perspective, and gained favor throughout Russia’s lower class this way. Pravda became the official Newspaper of the Soviet Communist party in 1918. The status and popularity of Pravda make it a literary event among the Soviet People. The use of propaganda in the Pravda influenced its reader’s interpretation of the paper, and the country as a whole. The Soviets utilized Pravda to portray an image of the USSR that differed from the reality. Any significant event in the USSR, or the world, could be distorted to favor the Soviet Party, especially its leaders. Joseph Stalin was an editor for Pravda and frequently used the paper for political gain. Pravda’s role in garnering the faith and attention of the Russian people prove its magnitude as a Literacy Event in the USSR.




Russian School
Posted by: , September 5, 2018, 1:36 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I used to resent going to Russian school when I was younger. Until around the age of 12, my parents forced me to attend Russian school early every Sunday where I would recite poetry and prose in order to improve my mastery of the Russian language. The names Pushkin and Yesenin brought out a certain discomfort in my mind because I had learned to associate them with rising early on a weekend and being dragged on a 40 minute car ride to listen to poetry for hours. My teacher, an amicable, elderly Russian woman named Sveta, was always very happy to see my cousin and I for our individualized lessons. I remember always being keenly aware of Sveta’s passion for poetry, often times the things she read to us moved her to tears. I was young, and felt uncomfortable with these situations. Who was this woman crying from some words on a page of which I cannot even grasp the full significance? A few months ago, I heard news that Sveta had passed away. It has been a number of years since I had last seen her but her passing caused me to reminisce on those dreaded Russian lessons. They not only improved my language skills, but they imbued me with an appreciation for poetry. Now that I embark on this new journey through college, I am not able to practice my Russian with my family around me. Perhaps, I’ll pick up a few of those poems that Sveta used to teach me.

Story of a foreigner living in America
Posted by: , September 5, 2018, 10:44 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Encountering Amy Tan’s experience, I cannot help but relate to the difficulties she faced. Both being a non-native English speaker living in an environment where people speak nothing but English, the switching between different languages is inevitable. The language I used with my parents back home is my mother tongue, Vietnamese, which is the most proficient and pure and consists of no cursing words or abbreviation. The language I talked to my friends is the perfect combination of all the languages I have accumulated for the past 18 years, natural and simple. The third language I have just recently familiarized myself with is daily-life English, which requires certain amount of time to excel. Sometimes I take great pride in being a bilingual person, but some other time, I found myself disconnected with my own language; from time to time, I actually forgot Vietnamese expression and had to substitute it with English words. Back at home, during my preparation for the Common App, I usually went through some of my drafts for the final essay with my parents. I read the passage out loud in my perfect English accent only to be reminded that I eventually had to translate it into Vietnamese for them to follow. The obvious presence of difficulty lingered around my 18 years of language practices and it has yet to disappear.