Archive for the ‘Resources’ Category

Jim Gee

(Another title from Gee. Recommended for anyone at least mildly familiar with video games and interested in education. If you do read it, I recommend saving some time by skipping right to the end — the final chapter is an excellent summary of all of the chapters.)

Stacey and I spent some time this afternoon talking about the Gee reading. As I’d expect from him, it’s very interesting and  accessible. What good can literacy do?

I clung to his paraphrasing of Freire: “Freire believes that literacy only empowers people when it renders them active questioners of the social reality around them” (37). Active thinking is the only time we’re really doing anything useful anyway — the way that Descartes struggled with his “evil demon” (aside from the deus ex cop-out) was to realize cogito, ergo sum — and in his argument, he really isn’t just saying “I think, therefore I am”, but rather “I am thinking, therefore I am.” It’s that present act of thinking that proves existence, and it’s that present act of thinking that is the only hope for reading in light of Plato’s dilemma.

It’s something I’ve recently talked with my wife about, actually. I’ve come to be a rather liberally-minded person, but have realized that I don’t question ideas, politics, policies, etc., as much as I did when I described myself as a “moderate.” I was thinking, and so I was not (in Gee’s world) controlled by the political machina or by society to think a certain way about the information input. But now, I have to ask myself: Am I thinking, or no?

What this means for my work is that I have to make sure that the guys are thinking about what we’re doing (and perhaps more importantly — or at least more directly — I have to make sure that I’m thinking about the work I’m doing). This presents some challenges — I think we might have to be sneaky about how we get them to be thinking about it. Definitely incorporating news articles and/or editorials seems to be a good way to do it — to get them to be actively thinking about their reading and writing.

They might also find the Plato discussion interesting — I mean, it’s ultimately about social power and the man, right? That’s a language that these guys speak, understand and care about.

I’m also interested in how Gee’s statement about education/literacy as a social norming tool works here. “[Education] has stressed behaviors and attitudes appropriate to good citizenship and moral behavior, largely as these are perceived by the elites of the society” (34). This puts us into a tricky situation, I think. For the most part, the boys are in Turning Point because they’ve engaged in what we generally believe is self-destructive (or even socially destructive) behavior, and I don’t think we can easily dispute that or say that it’s only the elite who say so. However, what is their road out? That, I think, we can say is determined by an elite.

These are questions that such minds as Gee and even Plato have struggled with… and I’m not sure I’ve done any better at coming up with an answer! But it all makes for very interesting food for thought.


Ok, so maybe I chose the title for this post because I’m hours past lunch and hours away from dinner… or, maybe it stands on its own. I found a couple of things related to the CLC’s interests, although they may have no other links to themselves.

#1 — What Star Trek Can Teach Us About Writing

Some of us here are Creative Writing types — you probably already know these tips. Some of us are English Ed types — you probably can appreciate modeling in a workshop. But how many of us really think we’re experts in both fields? (Don’t answer that, Tobi!)

“What Star Trek Can Teach Us About Writing” is a great blog post that does just that — it uses the recent film Star Trek to illustrate some points about effective story telling. Using movies and TV shows is a great way to model the art of writing, and it’s a great way to connect with people that might be totally different from you. Rather than advising them, “Don’t tell me about your character, show me,” talk about a movie that you both have seen and how we learn about characters through actions.

Anyway… it’s really cool even if you aren’t a sci-fi nerd like me.

#2 — (on the more serious side) Incarceration in the United States

Perhaps the information isn’t new to you, but its presentation is compelling.

#3 — (how’s this for on the mark?) Communicating from Prison

Does it require an explanation?


Linda Christensen

When I studied how to teach writing and composition with Cindy O’Donnell-Allen at CSU, she introduced us to Linda Christensen’s Teaching for Joy and Justice, a remarkable book that combines philosophy with practice. (Most books on teaching that I’ve come across give either one or the other.) It’s highly recommended for anyone who wants to work within community literacy. I’ve embedded a link in the image above (as well as here) to a page at the National Writing Project website where they talk more about Christensen’s philosophy, offer a brief video with her, and most importantly where they have posted a free chapter from her book, Chapter 5: Language and Power.