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”

Man and God

Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis cannot allow her personal beliefs to supersede her political duties, but her rejection of federal court rulings is intriguing.

Davis is the Rowan County Clerk who has refused to issue marriage licenses since the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision because, she maintains, she has a religious objection to same-sex marriages and is exercising her First Amendment rights. The Supreme Court denied an emergency application from Davis Monday evening, and a Kentucky has scheduled a hearing for this morning.

Davis insists that her decision is a choice between heaven and hell. Although she certainly must comply or resign, she must believe, at some level, that she can impose her religious beliefs on her community, which is intriguing (four marriages?) yet ultimately alienating.

Privacy Today

Both Hillary Clinton and former University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise have been criticized for using personal email accounts for public business, which raises some intriguing issues about twenty-first century privacy.

Although Clinton’s intentions are perhaps less explicit, Wise’s seem to have included a desire to maintain confidentiality even though the official university position had been that personal accounts, when used for university business, are still subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) regulations. These regulations in Illinois have nothing explicit about personal email accounts, but a 2012 state appellate ruling upheld an attorney general opinion that FOIA does apply to personal devices and machines in instances of official business.  Continue reading “Privacy Today”

Mission Impossible

Succumbing to the hype, I saw Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, the new action movie based upon the 1966-1973 American television series created by Bruce Geller.

In this fifth installment of the franchise, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) must reassemble the Impossible Mission Force, which consists of William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), and Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), to dismantle the Syndicate, a mysterious organization of presumably deceased agents. Their efforts are aided by Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), who might or might not be part of this rogue organization.  Continue reading “Mission Impossible”