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Friday, November 15, 2013

Switched Genres


Dearest readers, 

I bet you thought I gave up writing. This is not true! I simply switched genres. Check out the brand-new peer-reviewed journal article I co-authored in the Fall 2013 issue of Journal of Language and Literacy Education.

Let's hear it for non-fiction! Woohoo!

Here's the link if you'd like to admire my work: jolle.coe.uga.edu

Love to you all,

Vicki




Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Do the Words "Geek" and "Tattoo" Go Together?

If someone says the word “tattoo,” what do you picture?

A.    A big Harley-Davidson motorcyclist with a skull and crossbones hidden under his black leather jacket?

B.     A twenty-six-year-old girl with a small butterfly on her ankle?

C.     A gang member proudly displaying his number of kills with tattooed teardrops on his face?

D.    A working-girl showing off a tramp stamp to prospective customers on her street corner?

E.     An Indian geek with an ORACLE brand tattoo splayed across his unimpressive abs?

If you chose answer “E,” you’re obviously up with the latest in tattoo trends. Dean Nelson of the UK Telegraph recently reported that Indian employees of high-tech companies are getting company logos tattooed on their bodies in order to celebrate being hired by these prestigious firms. Even when they take other jobs, they keep the tattoo as a permanent reminder of their success. 

I suspect that this may be a cultural trend that will not transfer to U.S. employees. Americans, on the whole, tend to frown on the “branding” of anything but cattle, and I’m sure PETA doesn’t like that practice much, either. Looking back at our history, it is difficult to view the branding of humans as anything less than a symbol of slavery. American workers may like their jobs at Microsoft or Google, but I just don’t see an employee willingly having “IBM” tattooed on an arm or leg. Of course, employees who don’t like their jobs may choose to have their employer’s logo tattooed on the place where they sit; there would be a certain satisfaction in that, don’t you think?
 
Telegraph Article: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/10062046/Bangalores-IT-workers-start-tech-tattoo-craze.html

Tattoo Photo: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/media/photo/2012-04/69563152.jpg

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

North American Wood Apes

Sign on Pikes Peak Highway  
Photograph by Ashish S. Hareet/Wikimedia Commons
An important announcement follows. Now pay attention!

The organization formerly known as the “Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy” will from here-on-out be known as the “North American Wood Ape Conservancy.” That is all.

Just kidding. Comments must be made, no?

First, it is a fact that the designation “Bigfoot” has become a derogatory term. Furthermore, people who hunt “Bigfoot” are often victimized by uneducated persons who make rude comments.

“Bigfoot” is normally pictured as an ape-like creature that walks on two legs and leaves enormous footprints in mud and snow. Since there is no scientific proof that these creatures exist, many people consider “Bigfoot” to be as real as ghosts, the Loch Ness Monster, and Donald Trump’s hair. But – and this is a BIG but – what if there is enough circumstantial evidence surrounding the mythology of “Bigfoot” to make a case that “Bigfoot” is indeed real?

Consider, if you will: What if “Bigfoot” is actually a “North American Wood Ape?” And what if the “North American Wood Ape” is actually a human genetic “cousin” or even an evolutionary ancestor of Homo sapiens? What are the anthropological and sociological ramifications of finding such a living creature? Further, are people who seek the “North American Wood Ape” as barmy as the people who seek “Bigfoot?”

This is a serious issue that deserves some serious consideration. Until proof is found of the existence of either “Bigfoot” or a “North American Wood Ape,” I believe that it is only fair to err on the side of politeness. I, for one, will now refer to all such animals and/or imaginary beings as “the creatures formerly known as Bigfoot.”

Sunday, April 21, 2013

"...and all I got was this lousy t-shirt."


Remember those shirts you could buy at tourist spots a decade ago to give to family members or friends who weren’t with you? You know, the ones that announced to the world that “My aunt went to Hawaii and all I got was this lousy t-shirt?” If you bought one of those shirts and gave it as a gift, shame on you! If you received one of those t-shirts, you have my sincere condolences. Those shirts still rank high on the list of “tackiest gifts ever.”

Alex and Kayla went to the Jason Aldean/Luke Bryan concert last weekend. I had given them the tickets for Christmas and had been kicking myself ever since for not buying one for myself. Anyway, the point is that I was not at the concert. My son, though, is a nice young man. He bought me a concert t-shirt as a gift and I love it.

Now, however, when I wear the t-shirt, people come up to me to ask me if I enjoyed the concert. They tell me about their favorite songs, and rave about the way Jason Aldean’s butt looked in that tight pair of jeans. Unfortunately, I then have to explain that my son went to the concert, said he enjoyed the music but was decidedly silent on the subject of Jason Aldean’s butt, and that he had bought me the t-shirt.

It’s only now that I understand why those “My aunt went to Hawaii” shirts were popular for so many years. They must have saved many a recipient from having to answer questions such as “When were you in Hawaii? My husband and I went last year!” and “Which islands did you visit?” Perhaps a shirt that proclaimed “My son went to the Jason Aldean concert and all I got was this t-shirt” was exactly what I needed. Sigh….


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Boston Marathon Bombings


 “There is a Chinese curse which says ‘May you live in interesting times.’ Like it or not, we live in interesting times. They are times of danger and uncertainty; but they are also the most creative of any time in the history of mankind.”                                                          

Robert Kennedy

Capetown, South Africa

 June 6, 1966

           
Many days have come and gone since Robert Kennedy made this speech in 1966, and many innovative ideas have rocked our world. The past 57 years have indeed been some of the “most creative of any time in the history of mankind.” We have explored our Solar System, made medical advances that have increased our life spans, and developed technologies that allow us to communicate instantly with people on the opposite side of the world. However, it seems that we are still cursed to live in “interesting times.”

Yesterday, glued to the chair in front of my computer monitor, I watched the three bombs go off again and again, backing up and replaying the video footage, unable to believe that someone would actually target long-distance runners and their families at the Boston Marathon finish line. Many friends and members of my family are marathon runners, and they are some of the most practical, caring, and courageous people I have ever met. Why would someone consciously choose to harm them? Why was yesterday afternoon in Boston fraught with “danger and uncertainty?”

While we probably will find out who was responsible for making and detonating those weapons, I suspect that we will never understand why. Most Americans no longer believe that killing someone over religious differences is righteous, no longer believe that killing someone over a piece of property is a better solution than settling the argument in court, and no longer believe that killing random strangers to make a point is justified. We don’t understand people who don’t value human life as we do.

That doesn’t mean that we simply accept with dismay the violent actions of those who force “times of danger and uncertainty” upon us. American law enforcement will work within the law to discover the identity of the person responsible for yesterday’s act of terrorism. Then the judicial system will weigh the evidence, and the alleged terrorist will have a fair trial. Adhering to Superman’s ideals of “truth, justice, and the American Way” does not make us weak; the “American Way” keeps us strong by allowing us to keep our humanity intact when we are attacked without provocation. We do “live in interesting times,” but it is how we choose to react when “danger and uncertainty” are forced into our lives that makes us resilient.

My heart goes out to the victims and families of the Boston Marathon terrorist. Know that Americans all over the country are standing with you.

Friday, April 12, 2013

College Students Can't Read?



Is this really true? Are college students actually unable to read? Let’s ponder that question for a moment. Even if we believe that the American public system of education is ineffective – and most of us do –is it possible for students to spend 12+ years in the company of certified educators and come away with a high school diploma that they are unable to read? Call me Pollyanna, but I don’t think so.

The students I have worked with at Georgia Gwinnett College can read. As a matter of fact, they read all the time. Look over their shoulders and watch them as they read texts and Tweets, web pages, FaceBook statuses, and Desire2Learn schedules. Their comprehension is perfect. They can read, and they can read well.

So why do GGC instructors contend that their students can’t read?  Perhaps the answer lies in a disconnect between students’ literacy experiences and the academic language of college. Consider this example: You are reading a history textbook that alludes to “Camelot.” There is no explanation given; you are simply expected to know the reference. At this point, you can keep reading, ignoring the unintelligible allusion and only partially understanding the text, or you can Google it. Wikipedia’s article on Camelot is about an ancient legend, but your history class is currently discussing the Bay of Pigs. Huh? You do what any sane person would do – you close the textbook and throw it on the floor, stomping on it as you leave your dorm room to head to Starbucks.

At some point in their education, students were supposed to have been introduced to ideas (at least minimally) that would support their understanding of the concepts taught in depth in college. In the past, students read classical literature, philosophy, and science texts written by “dead white guys.” This was a great way to learn, considering that the sum of human knowledge was finite and contained in these texts. As students read through these works, they would understand allusions and references to them written in later books. There was an “academic language” that everyone understood. This is not the case today.

The sum of all human knowledge can no longer be contained within dusty volumes sitting on shelves in libraries. “Dead white guys,” while certainly not irrelevant today, are no longer the focus of our public educational system. Allusions to Archimedes, Descartes, Nathanial Hawthorne, and Herman Melville are most likely going to confuse, rather than to clarify an issue for students. Allusions to Maya Angelou, Neal deGrasse Tyson, Stephen Hawking, and Sandra Cisneros, however, may have a better chance of being understood.

So where does that leave a GGC instructor? Are we supposed to carefully remove allusions that students don’t understand? Are we supposed to hide our treasured musty copies of the “dead white guys’” books, only reading them under the covers at night with a flashlight? Absolutely not! Perhaps it is enough to be aware that unfamiliar allusions may be used in textbooks or lectures and then be willing to explain them so that students will understand them. Don’t give up on our students yet; they CAN read!

(Note: The Pollyanna allusion used at the beginning of this essay refers to someone who is perpetually optimistic and comes from the following source:
Porter, E.H. (1913). Pollyanna. New York: Simon & Schuster.)