I know that this blog is late, and I hope that doesn’t inconvenience anyone besides Prof. Jaxon and myself. Speaking of, I have to apologize again to you Kim. Hopefully this issue doesn’t come up again, but you are awesome for accommodating me anyway.
Now on to the actual blog post.
So, my name is Heather Stogsdill (pronounced exactly how it’s spelled), I’m 27 years old, I’m a super senior here at Chico State, and my majors are English Lit and Nursing. This semester should be my last for all of the undergraduate work in English, but I am still waiting on admission to the Nursing school. I would just apply for the Master’s program in English here at Chico now, but I’m not allowed to graduate until I finish all of my declared majors so I’m gonna be stuck as an undergrad for a little while more… That’s alright though, I remember saying once that my dream job was “perpetual student,” so it all works out. Eventually, I would like to complete my graduate studies in English and have a part time professorship. Nursing will most probably be my first career, or would the proper word be “main”? Since I was a combat medic before I went to college… Anyway, moving on…
This course will hopefully serve two purposes for me. One, it is one of the options required for the English Studies major (I am adding the Studies option onto my English major, so technically I am a triple major…?). And I liked the sound of it better than the alternative courses. Second, if my future does hold some sort of teaching career for me, then I would like to have had some academic background in mentoring and/or tutoring. Even if it is only for my own benefit (then again, anything that benefits me education-wise will only serve to benefit my students, right?).
Now, for our one day pilot study on our own literate lives, I found myself writing down a whole bunch of stuff that I had never really paid much mind to before. For instance, I always read the running bulletin announcements across the bottom of the screen during the news. I also came to realize just how often I read and respond to e-mails throughout the day (fyi, it is entirely too often). During the self pilot study, I wrote an entire two pages full of my reading everything from packaging labels, to short fiction/nonfiction stories, to the fine print on my credit card agreement statement. And, while this may not have been an average day when compared to the rest of the year, it was a fairly average assessment of the amount and type of reading that I do in a day. This isn’t even counting the writing that I recording having done during the study. I wrote almost as often as I read, much of it notations and annotations on the things that I was reading. I wrote a lot of emails (again, entirely too many), and I wrote a few text messages as well. I also wrote some edits and new pages for a website that I am responsible for as the Information Officer of Little League’s District 2 of California, which is something that occurs more often during the spring as baseball and softball season kicks off.
Some reading I do for personal/private pleasure, some I do for interpersonal/social interactions, and yet more I do for school and business and other such commitments. The same goes for my writing during the day. Perhaps the amount I do for each pseudo-category varies day-to-day, as does everything, but mostly each purpose applies for every day of my “literate” life.
One of the most important things that I noticed while looking though my own reading and writing practices, is the way in which different contexts influenced my interaction with the reading and how I wrote. But also the ways in which I might understand something in a different light than someone else might, simply because of my personal background and individual idiosyncrasies. For instance, I read through the fine print on my credit card statement to pass the time, with no difficulty in interpreting the technical style of writing or the numerical information, while one of my peers may have had some difficulty or may simply have had no interest. Another example would be my reading and annotating on an interesting new biological study that I read for personal education. Many of my English major peers may have difficulty reading through a similar piece because of the terminology.
Szwed’s article seems to agree with me here, that a person’s unique circumstance (their personal/educational background and accumulated knowledge) influences their literacy in rather profound, if not always significant ways. A person’s literacy also depends upon their environment and what, exactly, you would define as “literacy” in the first place. It’s not always to do with knowledge in the use of language, written or otherwise, as I demonstrated above. And I agree with Szwed wholeheartedly in that respect. Another example from my personal life that I could use is the ability to shoot. Does a good soldier have to be an excellent writer? Does s/he have to read especially well? Do they have to be able to read a dense literary analysis or technical briefing? When I was enlisted, 17 and fresh from High School, I may have been able to write a 4 page essay with no problem and read Shakespeare for fun, but I was a bit of an oddity. Really, the most important “literate” I was as a soldier was my marksmanship and tactical understanding. I just so happened to score expert on every weapon I was ever trained on, and was competent in tactics, which made me literate in my profession. Book-smarts were a bonus.
So, Szwed’s point was well received with me.
I would also like to touch on another, more underlying theme of Szwed’s article. That of “multidisciplinary” studies and/or knowledge. Szwed did sort of speak about this a bit, and hinted that it was a possible mode of education for future. I happen to agree with the sentiment. While everyone does seem to have a certain area or subject that they are particularly adept in, I have come to understand that many (if not most) people are talented in more than the one area. Many people are passionate about more than one subject. But at the same time, our tertiary educational system is designed to accommodate a singular, focused area of study. This could be limiting, even hindering to some who find themselves pulled towards differing subject matters.
While obviously not the case for everyone, I think that many would benefit from being able to pursue a multidisciplinary degree. I am actually of the opinion that it would benefit the majority of students to have some educational background in a discipline other than that of their chosen major. But, that’s just me.
Agree? Disagree? I actually want to here another’s opinion on this!
P.S. If you think about studying a different subject matter than your current field, and it makes you cringe inside, then my header image is for you!