Final Project




Jeremy Borden

Texas A&M University-Commerce


For thousands of years, father and son have stretched wistful hands across the canyon of time, each eager to help the other to his side, but neither quite able to desert the loyalties of his contemporaries.  The relationship is always changing and hence always fragile; nothing endures except the sense of difference.”

–Alan Valentine

            As you lay on the cold surface of the floor, your heart beat rises higher as the approach of your nemesis edges ever closely to your home.  You can’t sleep, you can’t eat, you can’t even think straight.  Though people tell you that being nervous can serve as a clearing and sharpening of the mind, you know that that definition no longer applies to you.  You get up and pace.  And pace.  And pace.  Your compatriot is busy clearing a supposed mess that isn’t there.  She looks at you with that fake smile that she has been practicing for weeks.  Deep inside, you know she is as fearful as you.  The only difference is that you no longer feel the need to bow down to a tyrant anymore.  You have found your ways of escape.  The tyrant, stopping in for his bi-monthly visit, will be here in a few minutes.  The compatriot has already told you of his arrival at the gateway an hour and a half ago.  Though I don’t feel the fear that I used to, I can’t help but feel sorry for her.  She still clings to the idea that we will get along and that our trifles will be over.  Sometimes, I feel like the possibility is strong.  However, I had learned to stop holding on to such hopes.   Besides, what do you need people of any kind for?  They always disappoint you.  When the noise of his car starts to roar in the garage, Mom’s tense smile grows wider and she rushes to the garage to help him.  I didn’t feel like helping and chose to go to the office.  I sat in the lush leather chair as the faint headlights outside the window grow dim and shut off.  The wheels of his suitcase slowly come closer to the door and I prep myself.  I boot up the system and stare into the screen.  The screen is one of the only friends that I have in my life, and I needed him more than now.  As Windows and IE comfort me, the man steps into the house and walks pass the office door with Mom not far behind, his folders and letters from employees blocking him from me.  To at least acknowledge my presence and some sort of respect, I utter with a stable voice, “Welcome home, Dad.”  He looks at me and asks, “How are you, son?”  And as usual, not daring to let my gaze leave my friend, I quickly utter the lie, “I’m just fine.”


Looking back on this memory from my new perspective, the events that transpired for the past decade or so seem pointless and unusual.  Though not back then, I realize now the foolishness that my dad and I were guilty of committing all this time.  And to think that it took something which I thought to be so simple to delve deep into the complexity of our relationship.  Literacy, which I had always misunderstood to be a simple reading and writing ability, I quickly learned to be something so much more.  David Barton and Mary Hamilton described literacy not as an inherent skill or ability, but simply, “something people do; it is an activity, located in the space between thought and text.  Literacy does not just reside in people’s heads as a set of skills to be learned, and it does not just reside on paper, captured as texts to be analyzed.  Like all human activity, literacy is essentially social and it is located in the interaction between people”(42).  To think that literacy could be of that nature and connotation seemed trifling to me at first.  And yet, a part of me couldn’t help but make sense out of it.  Literacy serves as a method of communication and information for others to analyze and store.  Reading and writing have almost always been between people of all walks of life.  Whether it be the texts and emails I send to my friends in college, or the memos and files my dad gave his employees, literacy helps shape and define the relationships and functions between acting members of a group or society.  Literacy practices, or what people do with literacy, are ways of utilizing language and texts as part of daily life (Hamilton 43-44).  However, these practices aren’t clear aspects to grasp for all since with them, they carry values; attitudes; feelings, and personal contacts between people (Hamilton 44).  When I read Literacy Practices as a primer for my project, I couldn’t help but think of my dad and me.  For as long as both of us could remember, our frequent clashes within the home were centered on such things as values and feelings.  Whether the topic was family vs friends, life vs school, hard work vs leisure, the values we had and believed in defined the interaction that took place, which by observation can be traced back to the literacy practices and disciplines of our times.  It was very clear, however, that the relationship that my dad and I had was not a stable or peaceful one.  Through isolated incidents of happiness and mutual respect, eras of confrontation and isolation from one another were much more pronounced. 

When researching, I constantly kept wondering if literacy served as an impediment to the typical community of the family, particularly mine.  Both my dad and I went to school (Texas A&M right now), and both of us would describe ourselves as smart and intelligent.  So why did strain between us exist in a dynamic that most cultures considered loving and caring?  Why did my dad and I believe in so many different things?  What exactly lay behind the conflict that had burdened me for so long?  After careful deliberating, I realized that literacy, like any other commodity (Brandt 15), can serve both good and bad purposes determined by the minds of the users.  Literacy, being social, served as the foundation for how family affairs played out.  Both me and my dad, born in different times with different sponsors of literacy, were efficient at differing literacy practices that we both clung to as how we formed our identity.  The environment in which we lived in and the experiences we’ve had shaped helped shape them.  Views on work ethic and morals help mold us into how we think of ourselves and the world, and when someone appears to be antagonistic to those sets of ideals, a strong instinct is to you cling harder and fight back against anything you perceive as a threat to them.  It was safe to say that my dad and I, though maybe not in a literal sense, were playing tug of war most of our lives.  Our feelings and opinions, shaped by the literacy practices we grew up with, served as weapons against each other in our quest for self-preservation.  Dad would pick at my times of leisure and the peers I hung out with, and I picked at his work-life and his inability to change to current times.  Literacy was our ally.  And almost inevitably down the line, our allies began to turn on us.  Thankfully, this project of mine turned into something that served me in my personal life.  Through my ethnography, I was finally able to see my dad’s flaws, as well as my own, and accept them.

Scholarly Works

Martin and Hamilton’s view of literacy served as a framework for my project.  If literacy practices determine the values and social relationships of people, then could literacy disrupt as well as solidify them?  If literacy is rooted through history, then do practices go through an ever-changing process and never stays the same?  Couldn’t the nature of that process harm, as well as heal social interaction?  Those questions could only be answered by looking into the past of my dad and me.  And though corollaries can be made between the subjects of Deborah Brandt’s “Sponsors of Literacy” and many ideas proposed by cross-generational organizations, this project was always about the observations and words of my dad and me.

In addition to Martin and Hamilton’s view, the ever-present Deborah Brandt will also play a minor role.  My project explored the literacy practices within the era of my dad and myself and how that environment and those interactions defined us.  It is safe to say that the people we meet and socialize with serve as a basis for how we act and compose our person.  These people are known as sponsors.  Deborah Brandt defines sponsors of literacy as, “…any agent, local or distant, concrete or abstract, who enable, support, teach, model, as well as recruit, regulate, suppress, or withhold literacy…”  The environment and social changes one lives through influences people living within those transitions and economies.  Those people cause an ever-widening circle of sponsorship by teaching and molding others based upon the experiences they have lived.  My paper delves a little into the sponsors my dad and I had and how sponsors born into certain circumstances and transition to others are different from the sponsors who were born with different situations already put in place.


            My dad, who we shall name Jim, grew up in the small farm community of Talco, Texas.  Talco is located about an hour’s drive away from Texas A&M-Commerce.  Back then, it was known as East Texas University, a school my dad would later attend.  He grew up in a small 4-bedroom house out by the lake with his parents, one brother, and two sisters.  Besides a lake overlooking the house, a small fishing shed, and several hundred acres of never-ending trees, there was not much in Talco.  His father, J.O., was a very strict disciplinarian whose emphasis was always on family, hard work, and structure.  His dad worked two jobs as a rancher and a factory worker for Lone Star Steel.  J.O. was known for his joking and sarcastic humor, as well as  his reputation as a hard worker and family man.  Being on a farm of minimal income, the family had to work really hard to just survive and get by.  Animals were raised for eggs and meat, which were in need of constant attention.  Typical tasks around the barn included mowing pastures, fixing fences, picking up sticks, feeding and tending to the animals, cleaning the house, oiling machinery, and making all meals by hand.  Leisure time was not common on the ranch life because my ancestors couldn’t afford leisure time.  Free time was goofing off.  Hard work was a given, as well as interaction between that of family.  After all, in a strict and isolated environment like that on a farm, family was the main source of entertainment and communication. 

            Normally, college in my mind served as a place to be free and independent from home and family life.  Not for my dad.  Dad was the first person on his side of the family to ever go to and graduate from college.  Needless to say, Dad was already put under pressure from his father who urged him into a furtherance of education as a way to develop a life in which he could never have.  Dad didn’t have the incentive to goof off or be free.  This is especially due to the consideration that he went to school on a working scholarship, which required 30 to 40 hours a week to work in agricultural pastures and dairy farms.  Friends were cut off from him, and even when away from home, his family (particularly my disciplined and strict grandfather) continued to influence him from birth to his adult years.  

            However, his perseverance and hard work in school paid off as his dedication and self-starting motivation served as a vehicle for being accustomed to an increasing technological and information aware society.  He now serves as vice-president of Nypro, a plastic-injection molding company responsible for the microchips that make all the technology I use function.  Kind of ironic for my situation.

            I, however, was not accustomed to farm life and the resulting behaviors equated with it.  I was born in Plano, Texas but became more accustomed to suburban Arizona life when I moved there in second grade.  In contrast to the life my dad lived, my life was filled with a majority of leisure time.  I grew up in an upper-middle class home with everything I could think of at my disposal.  Computers, video games, cellphones, and any and all methods of common communication were my gateways into life.  My mom was a stay at home mom, so she was the primary family influence of the time.  Being in Arizona with the rest of my family being in Texas, my relatives didn’t serve as direct sponsors for the way I lived my life, not even my Dad.  My dad was on business trips every week.  Only on weekends did I ever see him.  Besides, since most work wasn’t home based but school-based, most of my influences took place within the school environment.  Teachers, assistants, and friends served as the motivators and shaped the beliefs that I carry with me today.  Manual labor wasn’t typical day-to-day.  At most, simple chores like lawn duty, gardening, and cleaning of the house involved hands on applications.  My work stemmed from mostly intellectual and technological duty.  Fixing computers, turning in essays, writing reports, reading assignments, and anything remotely similar served as the foundation of my work ethic which was, albeit less physically stimulating, mentally challenging and required savvy on modern communication and interaction through a digital framework.  Life was easy, home-based entertainment was minimal, so I had to look for my own entertainment.  I constantly looked for ways to keep myself motivated for school since it put me within an atmosphere of work that I was never used to.  Efficiency and finding ways to cutback on work became my mission during my adolescent years. 

Literacy Studies and their Attached Values

            Looking at our two different life experiences and modes of literacy, differences in both of our views and opinions on numerous fronts can be deciphered and interpreted.  In the farm life of my dad, literacy served as primarily functional.  Instructions were the primary forms of text and verbal communication that he grew up with.   His father gave instructions on how to run instruments and the functions that they could be utilized for, and he followed them.  Community was isolated, so family members served simultaneous roles as employees.  Family and work life was synonymous.  On farm life, work was never-ending and involved the creating and planting of crops which provided food for buyers.  That was the primary family business and source of income, which was below average.  His generation and family lived through a Great Depression and World War II, which served as calls and influences for a strict dedication and patriotism to one’s country, which in turn was downsized and transferred to the environment he grew up in (Hamill 4).  Communities involved being structured where everybody had a role and someone in charge oversaw them.  Learning literacy involved using literacy as a means of progressing and surviving during hard times.  Duty was put before pleasure, and values that embraced family and home were put over other messages (Buffum and Lovely 2-4).  In his case, getting through work was the way you served your family.  During the proceeding Baby Boomer years, dedication to self-driven motivation and a reliance on independence to get by became reinforced through him because of the sheer-size of the population moving to the workforce.  This led to my dad’s spirit of competitiveness, which though not ruthless, was necessary to make something of yourself.  Identity was determined by far you got in life and what job you stuck to.  Options were limited, so thus the means to get jobs and the experience needed was limited.  Your experience was what made you worthy.  Structure was put over liberal scheduling because my dad in his situation where his work got him through college and away from his family, couldn’t afford to in his words ‘diddle-daddle’ when there is work to be done.  Ethic for him was being a self-starter and sticking to a cause, no matter how long it took to fulfill.  In his time, his fellow co –workers, according to the book “Generations at School”, were the ones responsible for the 60 hour work-week (Lovely and Buffum 8).  His workaholic status fits in with this description.  Communication was done in person since inventions like cellphones were not created then.  Direct conversation and confrontation was ideal in all situations.  Monetarily wise, you saved instead of spent because in the past, he didn’t have enough money to spend so every penny counted.  Any change to this paradigm of thought and action was intimidating and in some ways dangerous to your survival.  And I saw that even as dad got accustomed to modern businesses and current methods of communication, the underlying desire for structure and identity still persisted.

            I, on the other hand, did not share the same viewpoints and literacy practices as he did.  As apart from a rural farm community as can be, I grew up in the unified community of upper-middle class suburbia Arizona.  My life consisted of a life of leisure rather than a life of hard work.  My perception of my home life transitioned to that of school and work.  It seemed to me that being efficient meant changing the way you learned and acted to methods which required minimal effort.  To me, making something more difficult than it needed to be was useless and a waste of time and resources.  Work was not an obligation, but a means to an end (3).  In addition, because technology made me much more proficient at getting school done and connecting to the world, I soon became isolated and disconnected from humanity in general.  Even though I loved my family, my literate skills with inventions made me less dependent on them in a lot of ways.  Kids my own age, people I hung out with on a daily basis, served as my sponsors of literacy and my compatriots, other than my mom.  My dad’s work ethic on his job kept him from being with me for a long time, even to the point of missing birthdays and important school functions.  Because of this, I saw comfort in school and the community of different individuals that fostered a fondness of change and diversity within me.  I didn’t see the need for my life to be structured and orderly because the many kids who had broke out of the shells of their families (many of who were getting divorces because of the emphasis on work over family)  how they relied upon each other were so unique and different from each other.  Being structured was being close-minded and unaware of the modern age for me.  Divorce rates were high when I lived, and most parents were overworked and critical of the leisure that most kids had, which created an air of resentment and intimidation between kids and their parents.  Because of this, I was critical of any kind of authority which seemed to want control over my choices.  I wanted independence and rejected the idea of people looking down my back.  Even finances served as breeding ground for differences as I spent money, he saved it.  I needed to be engaged with other people and I was dependent on others opinions because there was so many avenues of education to go down that I felt overwhelmed by the possibilities. 

Growing Dysfunction

            With so many differences in the way the literacy practices of our age influenced the way we behaved and thought about the world, some strife between parent and son is expected.  It is only natural that differences between people serve as seeds of growth for debate and confrontation.  But a healthy confrontation always results in something being gained from both sides.  However, the majority of the relationship between my dad and I was unhealthy and would remain that way for a long time.

            I had already known how hard-working and disciplined my dad was when it came to his job.  However, it wasn’t because of idolization or my recognition of his ethic.   It was his lack of presence in my life that made me aware of it.   For weeks on end, my dad would go on one of his little ‘business trips’ which often resulted in me only being in contact with him on the weekends.  At first I was okay with it, because it only reaffirmed my need to not have my parents breathing down my back.  However, over the months and months he would be gone, I started to feel a sense of rejection from my own father.  His work ethic, the one that was engrained in him from a young boy, was tearing him away from me and my mother.  My mother acted like it didn’t bother her, but when time without him increased exponentially, she grew depressed and lost.  She was an immigrant getting used to this country even after 10 years, and without her husband to guide her, she seemed like a lost little kid to me.  Whenever he did come home, my dad would be so stressed and tired that all he would do would sleep and sleep.  Even when home, he seemed distant.  Whenever we voiced our concerns, he would go on about how what he was supporting our modern way of life and that without him, we wouldn’t enjoy the leisure we had now.  And though deep down I knew he was giving us a life he wished we had, it seemed like we were a burden that he had to micromanage.  We felt like employees more than family.

            Eventually, he did learn to stay for a while and he even retired early to be with us.  I thought that this would finally be the time where my dad could just relax and be himself.  Let his hair down.  Be a family man.  After all, work and family were not the same thing to a kid growing up like me.  When one was free, one should spend it with the people you loved.  Unfortunately, his retirement seemed to spawn an emotional disconnect from him that was even more pronounced than before.  Because he was always gone, my dad never managed to make any connections or social relationships with anyone outside of the family.  Just like growing up when literacy and work kept him with his family, his only contact outside of his employees was us.  So when mom and I would go out and do things with other people and invite him along, he just seemed so confused and dispassionate about the lives he never knew we had.  After a while, all he did was sit out in the backyard and listen to music because mom took care of house stuff and I had my school to keep me company.  Pretty soon, he turned to drinking as a way to escape a somehow monotonous state of being he got himself into.

            Months after months, I would get rid of the beer cans and the scotch and the liquor he would leave about.  Alcoholism had run in the family, something in which I didn’t know because I never had actual conversations with my dad.  I didn’t realize a lot about my dad or the family he grew up with.  I hardly saw them, so I didn’t have that sense of connection that my dad did.  In a lot of ways, I began to grow guilty over not needing them as much as society was telling me that I needed them.  My mom soon grew despondent as she stopped trying to impress him.  She soon developed an addiction to shopping and started being thrifty with everything she liked.  A part of me thinks she used products to both fill the void and give me anything I needed, trying to support me in the only way she knew how.  This led to fits of drunken rage as my father would yell and verbally abuse her over the waste she was doing.  Nights fights would happen over and over with me hiding in my bedroom and not coming out.  Home life, instead of a haven, was turning into a personal hell for me.  It wasn’t until I realized that both of my parents were circling divorce agencies in the yellow books and newspaper advertisements that they left about did I suddenly fear for my future and how I would be turning into one of the many other kids at school with no prospects and nothing to live for.

            It was years of this hell that my mom and I realized that Dad needed to be kept busy.  So he soon went back into the workforce and out of our lives.  And though we hated to say it, my mom and I liked the days where dad buried himself behind his file memos and his instructions to employess, his handouts, his computer sheets.  The various literacies that dad used to support his family were now used to block him from us.  Unfortunately, that led to a new development in our relationship.

            During the days when my dad was drunk, I used school as a shelter from reality and my parents.  Work assignments, computer essays, and daily tasks became my shield against my dad.  On the weekends when he would come home, he would always ask about what I was doing with my life and how school was going.  Because my dad and I never personally communicated in language, I would respond with a lack of enthusiasm and tell him nothing.  This seemed to increase his oversight of me and what I was doing.  He started doing ‘projects’ with me which involved organizing the house, teaching me how to use tools, mowing pastures, making me fill out applications, and even taking me to the ranch in Texas to work there.  It seemed Dad was concerned for me and my apparent lack of motivation and used his style of work ethic and tried to instill it into me.  He turned my pleasurable literacy into functional literacy without warning.   My leisure time with friends and family was diminishing.  I didn’t understand the reasoning why.  I hardly ever saw him most of my life.  When he was a part of my life, he was nothing but an angry drunk.  And now, he was back to work and was dragging me down the same path as him.  When I questioned his methods, his temper grew short and he and I would get into yelling arguments a lot over how my life was going.  Without knowing it, I soon began to resent him.

            Unable to truly communicate how I was feeling, I soon sank into my own depression.  Movies, television, the internet, cell phones, instead of being used to connect with the world, became vehicles through which I escaped the world.  I drowned and wasted away in a digital paradise.  Technology was what I knew and I relied on it to get me through.  The repercussions of this are still felt by me today.  I have pronounced ADD and I still cope through escaping into technology.  Pretty soon, it was tough to make friends and the ones I had slowly turned their back on me.  This became worse in middle and high school as I tried to use the literacy I knew, book smarts, and I sold myself to people in order for them to like me.  I tutored and did homework for others thinking they would reciprocate my kindness.  Often they never did.  I slowly lost interest in academic affairs as I became so lost and jaded about my current state of life.  Dad went through repeated episodes of relapse and my mom drowned her sorrows in her friends, so I hardly saw her to.  School didn’t want me, home didn’t want me, and I didn’t want me.  My grades slipped and I became catatonic to everyone.  This process went on for so long that when time came around for me to go to college, I couldn’t process it.   And when I realized that the school I was going to was the same school that my dad went to, I railed against it.  It soon became the final nail in the coffin as I nervously told my dad that I needed a year.

            My father was never more disappointed in me than in that moment.  I spent the year with my mom while he moved down to the farm as he planned to retire in a place he felt happy.  It was during this stage that the family, including me, felt like something needed to be done.  My mom, who was on my side for a long time, had to finally ask what was wrong and why I chose to stay.  I decided to write a letter to her because I had never communicated directly about my feelings to anyone before.  Emails, letters, and texts were the vehicles I used to protect my anonymity and though I wish I could be more upfront, I wasn’t ready. 

            I told everything.  How I felt neglected and unloved by my dad.  How I wished he were gone because that was the only time I felt comfort.  My lack of friends and my escape into computers and TV.  That I didn’t know what I wanted from my life, or if I wanted one at all.  The fate I felt I was going to suffer by entering a learning environment that my dad went to.  I told everything.  And truth be told, letting it out finally seemed to calm me down and clear my head.  And during the year that I stayed behind, I would often visit the farm and talk to my dad.  I take it that my decision to take a gap year finally broke the silence between us and communication started.

Conflict Resolved

            Now though my dad are still in a sort of reconstruction phase, I do feel closer to him than I have felt in a long time.  We’re talking more and telling each other about the things we felt in school and the strifes we both went through.  It was during our talks that I realized how alike my father was to me.  He wasn’t mister popular on campus, but had people turn on him and cheat on him the same way kids had cheated on me.  He talked about his father and how long it took for his father to admit his love for his son.  I suddenly saw all the things I saw in myself within my dad, and the differences we shared did nothing to outweigh the similarities that really counted.  We both loved each other, we both wanted to take care of friends and family, and we both wanted happiness.  It’s just that we had different methods and grew up with different ways of reaching those goals.  But he and I were too busy living in a bubble to notice.  Instead of treating literacy as an all-encompassing and ever-changing way of viewing the world, we each had rigid definitions that we looked through our whole lives.  I should have known better.  Looking through the world through your own eyes is beautiful, but it’s also limited.  It is important for people to know that literacy is more than just words, or even a culture.  It’s a way of expression all that it is to be human, to feel, to want, to love.  That’s the important thing.

In Conclusion

            In conclusion, I walk away knowing a little bit more about myself and my family and how though different in upbringing, practices, and values, the important things like friendship and family remain the same.  It’s the way we show our appreciation that differs.  And let’s face it, technology and innovation and literacy will continue to change as they have been the past decade.  If anything, we should expect more progress with the exponential growth of efficiency in the modern information age.  It’s important to utilize and produce efficient technology, but as long as we don’t become so disconnected from real life.  It’s important to realize that change is inevitable and that if you can’t adapt yourself, you risk getting lost in the wind.  And most of all, look at the people around you and see how different friends get along.  The most important things I walk away from with this ethnography project is the knowledge that, “people change their ways by changing their attitudes.”  And hopefully, that little adjustment can result in a world where literacy in all its forms can be appreciated and connected to everything.  Because to me, literacy is an expression of who you are, and you should share it with the world.

Works Cited

“Did You Ever Wonder?”  The Center for Generational Studies.  2007.  (November 30, 2009)


Barton, David and Mary  Hamilton.  “A Social Theory of Literacy Practices and Events.”  Local

Literacies:  Reading and Writing in One Community.  NY:  Routledge, 1998.  6-13

Brandt, Deborah.  “Sponsors of Literacy”  CCC.  49.2 (May 1998):  165-85

Hamill, Greg.  “Mixing and Managing Four Generations of Employees.”  FDU Magazine Online.

            Fairleight Dickson University.  2005.   (November 5, 2009)


Lovely, Suzette and Austin G. Buffum.  2007.  Generations at School:  Building an Age-Friendly

            Learning Community.  California:  Corwin Press.


Research Journal 26

Right now, I am playing a juggling act with this project that I am undertaking and all current other classes right now.  I tell you, college stress was not what I expected.  I am probably going to be doing all nighters for the second half of this week.  It also doesn’t help that my visual stunt was going to be a powerpoint presentation for the speaking aspects of the project and my laptop is still currently in submission in the technology services department.  I guess I’ll just have to borrow one of my classmates if their not using it at  the time.

My questions are basically technical questions about the research profolio?  If we are annotating an item or a link in the table of contents which is under another tab in the research portfolio (like Tools or Artifacts), does the item have to be annotated and cited in the same way as on the Table of  Contents?  Do we post links to all 26 RJ entries under the RJ tab?  Do we only site the specific ones really relevant to our project in the Table of Contents section?  What do you do if one of your research tools was a book with no digital link?  How do you put a physical book under a digital tab?  Does a codebook count as one of the 25 annotated items?  Can wikipedia be cited for the project?  Are the writing assignments counted as annotated items?  Do all 4 have to be used? 

What is the minimum length for a textual ethnographic essay as a final project (not counting the powerpoint for visual reference?)

Writing Assignment 4

The Mature Disciplinarian:  WA4

            I remember growing up as a child, working on the ranch in Texas with my dad during school breaks.  It was somewhat of a family tradition that my dad and I (not to mention the countless other cousins, aunts, and uncles) would travel down to  Talco and shape up J’O’s ranch.  Rewiring fences, feeding the cows, mowing the pastures, organizing fishing sheds, and cleaning and killing animals for future  meals down the line seemed like never-ending tasks.  It was not uncommon that during these intervals, Dad would most likely bust out in some non-condescending lecture about the ‘kids these days…’  “Kids these days don’t know how to behave…no morals…don’t know the meaning of the word work,’ were just some of my dad’s age-old wisdom he would give me.  It was only until I got to college that I began to ask myself what were his reasonings behind it.   Why does there seem to be generational differences that seem to lead to conflict?  How does one generation differ from another, and can those differences be explained as to how certain people’s views about economics and lessons change?  I know that my dad was a dedicated and organized person, but what caused him to be that way?  Was it the lack of revenue and economic opportunities of being a farmer in rural Texas which sprouted his independence and fascination with manual labor?   Did the cultural era he grow up nurture in him the idea of what work and relationships should be like?  How does he differ from me?

            I must admit, the questions I’m asking weren’t easy to find answers for.  I am of a person living in what most people would call the Millenial Generation (people with birthdates ranging from the late 70’s to the 90’s).  I can only interpret what other people say and think about the past.  It’s hard to find a culture on campus consisting of whole communities of Veterans, Baby-Boomers, or Generation X’s.  However, one oral  history within the Texas A&M Commerce’s library proved to be of some great insight.  The oral history was that of W.A. Jackson, a white male of the Mature Era (people born before the 1940’s) who specialized in education and was a former student of what used to be East Texas Normal  College. 

            No offical date of birth is given in the interview, but based up certain inferences in when he attended college, J.W. Jackson had to have been born well within the range of 1888-1889.  The interview was taken on March 5, 1974; this implies that Jackson was around the age of 80 during that time.  Jackson was a resident of the small Hunt-Hopkins County area who came to East Texas after high school in the year of 1909.  Before his education, he lived on a farm with his dad who specialized in cotton picking.  Through the hard work of his father, his education was paid for in full, which only  ammounted in 125 dollars (inflation wasn’t as rampant as it is now).  Coming from an agriculture background, he soon went off a journey of self-education at the private college in Commerce.  Of course, the college was a lot smaller than it is now, which came complete with two separate dorm buildings for boys and girls.  The population of the school was about 2,000.  He  pursued subjects in various academic forums, including but not limited to physics, algebra, geometry, and general history.  He completed 2 to 3 summer semesters before actually jumping right into the teaching profession.  He actually didn’t get his Ph.D before going back to East Texas and graduating in 1949.

            This was an oral history that the class had listened too very briefly through Dr. Carter’s record.  Now knowing that I wanted to explore the economic and cultural situations of various generations, it seemed appropriate as a character and good representative of the past school’s education methods, J.W. Jackson’s interview would be of consequential use to my report.  He functioned as a link into the mindset of older antebellum America, which is not very easy to specifically find even with modern communication and flow of information.

            One thing I could say about J.W. Jackson is that he is a man of very few words.  While most other interviews consist of explanations of various topics and even ruminations of past habits, Jackson seemed very direct and very short.  Very often, the interviewer would give pause to give the recipient time to answer, and even then it was only one very short sentence.  Repeat questions had to be asked, especially when being asked of current generation problems and solutions (the current generation during the interview was that of Generation X, people born in 1965-1980).  Though limited in words, the point was usually given.  He seemed to be of a man who didn’t have time for chit-chat.  He was there to answer specific questions, and he answered them as simply as he could. 

            Another thing about him was his idolization of Professor W.L.  Mayo, a person that English 102 has become acquainted with as a strict disciplinarian.  This is actually one section of the conversation that Jackson took time to reflect upon.  He portrayed the man as very formidable and very strict on discipline and hard work.  “If a boy or girl didn’t do the right thing, he’d just make them skedaddle,” J.W. said in response to how Mayo ran his school.  Punishments included being fined, being sent home, and at worse, flogging.  Though me and no doubt several present students would find that laudible, Jackson spoke of it with strong diction and pride in his voice.  If anything, Jackson would probably say that we students don’t get enough discipline of this sort (though he was referring to the kids of the 70’s, it would seem logical that he would say the same of us).  When asked how current students would view such policies, he responded with a short and curious, “That’s a mystery to me.  I don’t think they have enough discipline really.”  Why was he such a straight-forward person who viewed these various measures as good taste.  What does he see in his generation that is apparently lacking in future ones? 

            Being a teacher of 20 years, JW Jackson has seen a lot in his lifetime.  He was a teacher to students during several historical events.  He lived through the economic growth period of the 20’s, the Great Depression of the 30’s, and during the combat years of World War 1.  Through these specific periods, Jackson commented on how students were affected, even mentioning that back in his days there was a spirit of communication and compassion between student and teacher, something that is not seen very much today.  JW Jackson was very brief in his criticism of modernization, with phrases like ‘not as moral as they used to be,’ being used.  What is even more curious is his lack of solutions to these supposed problems, only going as far as saying it was because ‘of changing times.’  This indirectly implies that the culture of economy itself had some influence.  It resembles the structure of a nature vs nurture argument, one in which one’s environment can dictate one’s beliefs and ethics.  Does it?  How did the environment of the Mature’s differ from that of Generation X?  And what results in the somewhat animosity presented within the interview?

            I know personally that I am very different from my dad in a lot of respects.  Dad, growing up in a household with a lack of monetary revenue, (which was common for farmers in that age before subsidies from the U.S. Department of Agriculture took effect.) didn’t have time to make friends or form strong relationships with those except his brother and sisters.  Work, for him, was an obligation that had to be undertaken in order to get by.  His parents, my grandparents, used beating as a discipline, so that could have ingrained in him the sense that work had to be done immediately without question.  Because the work on a farm is continual and time-consuming, family served as his support beacons.  He often stressed the importance of family because those were his sponsors in life that kept him company.  Me being of the Millenial Generation, a time in which mass communication is being perfected through Facebook; cellphones, internet, and television, I am a person who has more time outside of work because of developments in technology.  Because of that, I place friends on the same level as family because it is now easier for me to keep in touch across distances.  Geography does not limit me in my influence as it did in Dad’s day where there was a lack of personal vehicular engines, unlike today.  In my world, getting information about anything is typically easy and instantaneous.  Because I am used to things being quick and easy, I often rail against my dad’s farm work because of its never-ending process that brings about no personal goal. 

           I can see the similarities in the interview with J.W. Jackson.  I kind of picture him playing the role of my dad, the one of wisdom and experience unfamiliar with today’s methods.  I see myself as the interviewer who wants to know why his views are antagonistic to mine and if they have to be?  I think it can be explained by the period he was brought up and worked in.  Being a mature, he grew up in the midst of war-time shortages and economic depressions.  He probably worked hard and paid his dues because that was how you could survive back then.  Even while technology improved and fads changed, he stuck with a strict work ethic because that is what he is used to.  Generation X’s, due to the matures and Baby Boomers long hours, copied long working habits out of observation.  However, the economy and individuals focused on increasing productivity and minimizing costs.  This led to ways of shortening the work hours and increasing bang for buck.  This often results in Mature’s accusing X’s of punching the clock.  Work is an obligation to Jackson, while the 70’s viewed work as a difficult challenge one overcomes.  One often did work individually on a farm, while the people of the 70’s became entrepreneurs in how to conduct business  efficiently .  Matures in the work environment often consorted to former memos as communication, while X’s preferred direct immediate contact.  Mature’s, due to long hour work, didn’t have a balance between family and work which transcended to the Baby Boomers.  The negative effects were felt by the X’s when parents were usally busy as a sense of self-worth arose from it.  The term latch-key kids referred to X’s.  This is probably why today there is a stress on finding a proper family/work balance.  So much can be studied by looking into the behavior patterns of individuals like Jackson and corresponding them with the cultural shifts of his or her age and finding causes and effects.

            J.W.’s interview proved very valuable in validating and researching how generations view and differ from each other.  If anything was gained, it is my conviction that maybe generations are not as different as we think they are.  Yes, technology and culture have changed within the past few decades, but our desire to be happy and well-off hasn’t.  Maybe the nature of human beings haven’t changed.  No generation has to be more moral than another.  If anything, antagonistic feelings can be result of generations not being able to understand others and look at things from other people’s point of view.  Hopefully, this paper will contribute to the Commerce’s scholarly discussion by showing how literacy and values differ from generation to generation, why, and what can be done so that all literacy views can be represented as mutually helpfuly, not mutually combative.  Who says one way of learning and living is better than another?  Maybe they represent different languages, different in style and composition, but similar in goal and directive.  My dad is just now starting to understand why I value work and friendships different than him.  And it is because of our understanding that we are getting along better than ever before.  Maybe this project can help others do the same.

Writing Assignment 3

WA3:  Economic Research Proposal

AS the weeks  have passd within the c lass, I have found myself repeatedly drawn to the subject of economics.  As stated in Beverly Moss”s essay Ethnography and Composition, one frequently can conduct a through fieldworking process when the culture is one the ethnographer is interested in or is currently a part of.  Because I plan to double major in Economics, I have consistently approached the subject in the majority of the research journals assigned.  While most tend to see the literacy and the artifacts, I am mostly concerned with human interaction and how it has helped evolve technology and social interactions within choices, which at bottom is what economics is all about.

After the meeting with Dr. Carter, I have found numerous statements and questions residing with the separation of generations.  Today, there seems to be both agreement and disagreement into how generations see each other.  Numerous adults view the current generation as one of laziness and interdependence.  To them, economic responsibility is called into question and there are perspectives focusing on the lack of motivation of today’s population, particularly current academic students.  Some say we rely too much on other people to fulfill our needs and that the traditional school systems were more effective at teaching, not just school subjects, but character, hard work, and tradition.  However, there are some adults (examples of which can be found in Resnick and Yancey’s findings) indicate that maybe the past generation is failing to acknowledge the difference economic circumstances and methodologies of the age.  Maybe the current generation’s methods of learning are more fitting to the modern age.  Older generations can try to acknowledge our differences and appreciate new conceptualizations of learning, whatever they may be.

Through my research project, I plan to focus on the questions of economic responsibility and how its views have changed through the ages.  How does the method of teaching nad learning differ now than in the 20’s, 30’s, and any other time period of Texas A&M Commerce (once known as East Texas Normal College)?  How do past students and teachers view the methodologies and technology of the current generation, and vice versa?  What are the personal views and beliefs of the local community focusing on current economic systems and the impact at the micro level?  How do people view the economic periods of older and younger individuals?  All these questions will hopefully answer the question of economic independence and how it has changed or been modified over time.  Hopefully, through this research project, I can better understand how economics develop (especially local) and the implications it can have on the individual players.  In the long run, maybe I can use this information to further my understanding of human behavior, and maybe, help me in my career as a possible future economist/analyst.

To get a better insight and concept of the environment of past years, I plan to use some oral histories located within the archives of the university.  The histories of JW Jackson and Mary Bowman used in ‘Research Journal 7’ will prove to be of some assistance.  Both offer insight into the teaching methods and views of East Texas Normal College.  The maps involved show the school developing and I can hopefully get data from the library as to what the schools deemed important for students and how it is reflected geographically.

Obviously, oral histories are important for research of the psat as they’re might not be a lot of psat generations still living within the local community.  However, Dr. Carter has informed me of a memoir writing group of past alumni that are meeting various days next week.  I hopefully can conduct personal interviews with each one and get access to any materials they have already published.  Because so much of my research proposal is dependent on personal viewpoints, most of my research will come through fieldnotes and face-to-face interviews.  Students and teachers currently on campus can serve as fodder.  This is not to indicate that local residents in the surrounding area will not be exempt.  Since economics is close to politics nowadays, I might want to pay attention to online think tanks of various viewpoints and their demographics.

The personal interviews will have to be conducted in a particular way.  First off, I plan to present myself in a kind and courteous matter to potential subjects.  I must come off as curious and interested, but not overbearing so as to scare off informants.  The hardest part for me will be letting go of how I view current and older generations so as to not get in the way of my research.  Ethnography must be about the people/culture and the hypothesis formed around what they say.  As the story Mamma  Day shows, coordinating a literary discussion with others is hard when one’s own vision separates the observer from the observed.  Honesty must go a long way and I plan to be upfront about the purpose of my interviews.  I will tell them that the interviews serves as  part of an English assignment for the further literacy discussions on campus.  The permission slips shown will tell the interviewee the class, the teacher, the pr0ject, its purpose, and how the information shared will be used.  I will not force a deadline.  If the subject can’t decide in time, I will move on to other potentials.  I will not force a deadline.  If the subject can’t decide in time, I will move on to other potentials.  I will not force others to talk to me; it will be of their own volition.  Aliases and hidden identities can be used if subject is not comfortable being acknowledged.  All drafts for the ethnographic report will be shown to the observers before being presented.  All interviews will be handwritten, with tape recorder being used if given permission.  Most will come from students and teachers.  In addition to interviews and any oral histories within the archives, I will also conduct important fieldnotes on the local population.  This can include the home lives of residents, the studying habits of students, the methodologies and strategies of teachers within a classroom environment, and so on.  With the classroom environments, it might prove difficult if teacher is not willing to give permission.  If  not, I will make do with various views from the students themselves. 

I hope that my project will contribute to both the Commerce Writes Research Project and the scholarly community by seeing the personal lives of human beings nad how the current economic age affects those involved.  Economics is such an important subject because it explains human behavior within a social context, which at bottom is what any field of academia is about, people.  Economics affects all humans because it is humanity.  Our choices and decisions of local communities combine to affect the policies of a country as a whole.  It enables us to understand the evolution of history and literacy in all forms (informational, personal, etc.).  With scholars, it can offer a way of thinking about the world to make the best of what we have.  I hope that this project can offer people new perspectives on generation gaps and how people are different, and maybe,  not so different from each other.

Writing Assignment 2

James Gee Library


Literacy:  The Underlying Human Culture


            As I approach the galactic airport, I can’t help but feel anticipation for where I plan to travel that day.  The terminal doors open before me.  I step inside and circle my eyes in awe of the place.  In front of me lies the guardians of all that is, was, and will be.  They smile at me and offer assistance in what I’m looking for.  I wonder how often people have walked into this place wondering that same question?  I politely decline my offer and look around.  To my left, a foreign mess hall is housing several young businessmen and businesswomen, obviously taking a break before they head off for destinations unknown.  I look to my right and I see the mysterious oracles.  They are housed in little cubicles, each with a human interacting and conversing with it.  I hear no words, but I can see the help that’s offered.  Whatever one wants to know, the oracle states it.  Where ever one wants to go, the oracles give the directions.  As I make my way past the holders of knowledge (not daring to whisper for fear of disrupting the ways of the force), I stop at the towering structures before me.  Shelves upon shelves, I know all the things I see, and see all that can possibly be known.  These are the artifacts, the sacred keys which, when once opened, can transport the seeker to ripe new worlds waiting to be discovered.  I can only wonder how so much was discovered and put here?  I ponder the universe and all of the wonders I see everyday, and I look at the key I have picked out.  As I prepare to open myself up to all that this key can teach and offer, I realize that if I didn’t learn to love the world around me, I wouldn’t be wanting more.  If these keys weren’t allowed into human hands, we would live in a dark and dismal place with no purpose.

            This strange structure, which most natives in the community refer to as LIBRARY, is considered a breeding ground and marketplace for literacy discussions and intellectual stimulation.  Books, magazines, computers, and even art, are the devices through which thoughts, meanings, and facts are portrayed.  It is through this building and its workers that literacy can be studied and interpreted.  Yes, literacy competency, at the very bottom, is having the ability to read and write.  It’s the skill required to get most jobs, interpret most facts, and to form most opinions.  But is that all literacy is?  For me, it once was.  I thought that all one had to do was to read words, understand them, write them correctly, and you were then considered literate.  But literacy has been under a plethora of connotations that can relate to one another.  Some consider literacy the representation of the human mind.  Some go so far as to say that literacy is a universal culture through which behaviors, beliefs, and opinions are spread among the world.  Some state that literacy is nothing but fundamental skills required to get by and survive in the labor market.  But literacy is also considered to be the collection of actions and meanings that once attached to us and the surrounding community, define our existence and way of life.  There will probably never be an exact and precise attribute to zero in on the nature of literacy competency.  But since literacy was created out of necessity of human interaction and existence, and since each individual is unique in a multitude of ways, then there probably shouldn’t be any single definition.  For how can we narrow such a conceptualization with so many functions and applications.  Maybe it is up to each person, in their own interest, to define what literacy means and applies to them.  Just maybe, it is because of our curiosity and our own pursuits which allowed literacy to reach such an unprecedented status in our lives.

            Within the human environment, it is clear that humans are social creatures.  Within our daily lives, we pass people on the street, talk to teachers and professors about current affairs, use Facebook and Myspace to keep in touch with a community of people, and read and write about subjects another author already completed and marketed to the general public.  Social interaction involves communication and visual representations of thoughts, which is literacy.  So in essence, there is what we could call various sponsorships of a literacy market.  Deborah Brandt calls sponsors, “…delivery systems for the economies of literacy, the means by which these forces present themselves to individual learners.  They also represent the causes into which people’s literacy usually get recruited.”  In a more simple explanation, we learn and mimic others that we meet or know in our lives.  Consider a simple book located on the second floor of the James Gee Library called American Values:  Opposing Viewpoints.  This book is a Greenhaven Press anthology, or a collection of various articles by people of differing beliefs and backgrounds.  The dimensions involved are in-depth and ever-cycling.  The text itself formats opposing opinions on various sub-issues being faced against one another.  One view is told, and the next view is the exact opposite.  All debates held are about the issue of what constitutes American values.  Obviously, having such a format singles out a function.  This book is supposed to encourage debate and to develop reasoning and conversational skills.  For whom though?  Maybe it’s to college students taking speech.  Maybe it’s targeted towards kids and teens with keen interests in this subject that want to expand their wealth of knowledge.  Maybe it’s for adults using it to have an exciting political discussion with their friends.  But whatever the audience, it is made to enhance our personal skills.  It is taught to teach objectivity over subjectivity.  The main dimension that is hard to understand is why.  Why did a company decide to create a book on this?  How did the company choose which views to hold?  What are the authors; Greenhaven Press, and the audience’s motivation behind the creation of such a vast scripture of opinions?  It depends on the person.  And when one question is answered, another is asked.  What are the backgrounds of the writers?  Why do they hold the views they have?  Why is objectivity preferred over subjectivity?  Literacy is so complex, that even the specifying dimensions of literacy cannot answer all questions.  But it is clear how much involves interaction among a community or society.  Our backgrounds include family and friends.  Their views (and the reasons they got theirs) influence how we think and belief.  And ideas, in order to be applied to somebody’s life, require socialization. Literacy, like any good and service, is a commodity used for profit (money, knowledge, pleasure).  Buyers and sellers are involved, and not in that format.  Maybe all humans are sponsors at some point in their lives.  And it obviously has contributed to the vast sea of information and text present today.  It goes to show that humans, moving freely among others, help contribute and develop literacy in direct and indirect ways.

Speaking of function, reading and writing serve vast purposes and goals.  Some people use literacy as a means to gain knowledge.  Some use it as a means to enhance their social and working lives.  Others simply read because it gives them comfort and pleasure.  Resnick goes far as too state that it is because of the varying applications that schools should not be the primary sources of development.  What can a library be used for?  Well, the above example is classic for informational purposes.  One reads books like that to expand his knowledge and power,

especially students.  It increases the subjects he can talk about comfortably.  What about applications?  Though not concrete, the staff of the Writing Center serves as a practical literacy concept.  They personally look over people’s work and correct it.  They impart practical services which helps students write better.  Here, literacy is used as a tool to apply to everyday tasks.  And pleasure?  There are non-fiction books and magazines everywhere on the 5th floor.  From motorcycles to sports, from mysteries to science fiction, there is a subject for somebody to look up for fun.  The library provides literacy in all forms, and the functions don’t have to be mutually exclusive.  Maybe looking up new information is pleasurable.  Maybe the information can be transformed into integrating concepts of human existence.  To me, it is pleasurable literacy that started my career.  I never would have found my major if I didn’t enjoy research.  I would have never enjoyed my academic years without previous experience.  I never would have been able to tolerate being exiled from peers without my own travel into the world of books.  And that is where I think academic institutions fail.  They can’t properly instill in every single student a desire to read.  Everyone perceives literacy differently, and everyone uses literacy as different means for different ends.  Academic institutions don’t have the resources to treat students individually.  Schools are too isolated from a natural social environment in order to embrace literacy of all views and forms.  Again, human action is the process by which humans interpret and develop reasoning skills.  Though schools can develop what skills are inherent in incoming teens, it is our sponsors that we coordinate with that give us the beginning stages of a well-cultured being.

            So what is the important of all this?  Literacy is the way in which a human being interprets and acquires knowledge.  It is the process by which one can create a visible voice, a sort of immortality.  Literacy enhances social relationships between people and creates places in society for those different than us.  It is information that can help shape the political and economical landscapes of geographic reasons.  It is concepts that can be applied in daily work to make ourselves more efficient.  Can the true impact of literacy ever be found out?  Maybe not.  Will all dimensions be answered and all inquiries figured out?  No.  But what does that mean?  It means that the freedom to interact with people and the freedom to develop new forms and compositions of literacy is more important than ever before.

Without human interaction, we wouldn’t be better off materialistically and spiritually.  Without human interaction, productivity and efficiency would go down the drain.  The fact that we value things which are banned and controversial proves our reliance on the liberalization of ideas and content.  Human action has purpose.  And that purpose is accomplished through the voluntary associations of a society.  Freedom allows new ways of thinking to emerge.  New technologies like computers and cell phones have made current generations more informed and organized.  Culture can now be studied through fieldworking.  At the basis of every field of research, this question should be somewhere within the mind, “What makes a human being?”  That elusive question is the basis behind which every action and invention has been created from.  Literacy is a reflection of human nature and culture.  And as we study it further, we will be better able to shape a world better than the last.  When we “speak, write, and know,” we mold the keys to the worlds of the present and future.  And maybe, that’s when we can appreciate not just the destination, but the ride itself.

Research 19

1)  I chose to undergo Box Number 31 on page 406 in Chapter 7 which involves finding information on the internet.  Since I am most proficient with the internet, and because I need quick access to a variety of informaiton like political events and technology developments, I chose to do this exercise.

I chose to type the word generation in the yahoo search engine.  The first entry that came up was a wikipedia entry of course.  Wikipedia seems to spring up a lot in information.  I wonder why that is.  Is it because of the amount of undergoing transformation by readers?  Anyway, believe it or not , multiple definitions for generation began to pop up.

The first generation was defined as the act of procreation.  Huh?  I thought that went by another term?  yeah, it is the act of producing offspring.

However, I soon discovered that generation can be refered to as multiple things.    Apparently, generation could also mean creating something that is inanimate, like electric generation or cryptograhic code generation.  So that was not what I was looking for.

Familial generation was presented next.  A familal generation is defined as the average time between a mother’s offspring and her daugher’s offspring.  This is a very good definition from when I think of my father and myself.  However, familial generation can be very different from that of another family.  So no go there.

However, cultural generation gave me something I was looking for.  Apparently, it was given meaning from individual families to broader social groups.  Wikipedia states that around 19th century, concepts like industrilazatoin, westernization, and modernism began the concept of separating people by age.  That seemed clear enoug.  And since the concepts involved relate directly to economic and political concepts, I chose to go by this definition.

I then began to type the various generational names that I knew into different search engines.  I typed Baby Boomer Generation into google. An actual site came up, BabyBoomers.com.  It defines people as born between 1946-64.  This is very brief, but certain trends helped define a generation are numerous and too much to mention.  The census bureau also defined baby Boomers as this term.  Since the census bureau tends to agree, I think I will accept this definition over all others.

Milennials I also typed in.  Instead of that coming up, a generation called generation y came onto the first link.  I didn’t think that could be possible.  Generation Y was defined by Fud magazine as 1980 to 2000.   But wikipedia references it from late 70’s to beginning 90’s.  That’s quite a gap.  I didn’t even know that there was controversy into how generations were defined by time. 

It seems there is no national consensus on what constitutes a specific group of people.  I guess most of that work  will be up to me.

Research Journal 23

I should be happy that this is more of an open topic thing.  Right now , I’m just finishing my field research.  I think I know where to go with my project.  It’s just planning out which will be my problem.  I need to quickly go through all of my things and code them.  I think my code is secure.  The letters V, BB, X, Y, and M will correspond to the different generations I’m collecting.  The various lowercases which will be hyphened next to them will dictate the subject matter within that field, example e for education, we for work ethic, c for communication, l for leadership skills, and so on.