Knoblauch’s Literacy and the Policy of Education really got me thinking while on this 12:39 coffee high. So, here it is:
My best friend from home was born in El Salvador, moving to the US when he was 12 years old. His parents still cannot speak English, and he had an extremely difficult time learning the language. To this day, he has difficulty expressing himself in “correct” terms, and his writing is awful. And what Knoblauch’s piece showed me was something that I knew all along, but just could not identify. The reason why immigrants, especially those who do not speak English, do so poorly in the US is because they cannot speak the language. Yeah, I know. You’re probably looking at this thinking that I am an idiot for stating the obvious, but this concept spoke volumes to me. For the first time, I have realized that being able to read, write, understand and speak English fluently has given me such an advantage over anyone who cannot speak the language. Because it is difficult enough to adjust to a culture, and a new way of life. But to live in a country where you have absolutely no idea what anyone is saying, now that is scary.
I am going to be studying abroad in Denmark next semester and hopefully working in Spain over the summer. Now, most Danes speak English so that won’t be a problem. But working in Spain is going to be really tough. I can speak conversational Spanish, but not being able to express my thoughts in the manner I want to is something I have never dealt with. I am going to be working in a place where I am a foreigner, where I am illiterate, where I am the idiot. And after reading this piece, that really scares me. Because literacy is power. We take being able to read and write for granted, and do so without even considering the option of not being able to freely communicate. But, imagine if you were my friend. Waking up one day, having to attend middle school, and realizing that you can talk to absolutely no one in the school, because no one speaks Spanish. That is so scary. I really cannot imagine that. Hopefully, I see what that is like in Spain, but the concept of literacy really got me thinking a lot about how powerful, and empowering, language can be. Better said by Matt Taibbi, “There is a reason it used to be a crime in the Confederate states to teach a slave to read: Literacy is power.”
Would love some comments, and see y’all tomorrow,