Culture, Literacy, and What Every American Might Need to Know

Hirsch (1988)Americans profess a profound belief in political equality, and yet we are uncomfortable, if political scientist Robert Putnam (2007) is right, with cultural diversity. This tension, which can be seen in the motto of the United States (e pluribus unam), acknowledges the extent to which our national identity emerges from widespread cultural contact that, though potentially a resource, can also, if it results in cultural fragmentation, provide to be a liability.

This possibility is one reason why E. D. Hirsch Jr. (1983) advocates for a cultural literacy, or a shared cultural context that, among other functions, serves as the basis for what Hirsch describes as linguistic literacy (165). This shared context, which Hirsch maintains is primarily created by English and history, is a prerequisite for interpersonal communication and social participation.  Continue reading “Culture, Literacy, and What Every American Might Need to Know”

Mixing It Up

Researchers suggest that codeswitching, or mixing two languages, is often constrained by age or ethnicity or location, but people in Beirut reportedly codeswitch in everyday interactions even though the interlocutors are both Lebanese, which could have some intriguing implications for cultural identity.

Cultural identity has historically been defined by linguistic boundaries and textual traditions that, though arbitrary (see Wright 2004), have been indexed to nationalist norms as imagined communities (Anderson 2006), in which print and other media encourage the belief in shared identities and shared values. French people, especially those who are cultured and, thus, epitomize the identity, speak French, for example, and are familiar with French literature.  Continue reading “Mixing It Up”

Stories to Live By

studiesI admit that, as the summer started, I had seen the three biggest box office movies although I thought all, as films, were flops.

That surprised me given that review aggregation sites suggested average or better evaluations of each. Although each had a lower rating if the sample was limited to the more credible critics, the worst movie, even if only using these these critics, had a 4 in 10 average rating.  Continue reading “Stories to Live By”