Literacy? What are you?

Abstract: Academic contrived literature suppresses creativity and the drive for literacy and self-expression in people. The common school curriculum takes the wrong approach with educating individuals on literacy causing them to keep their emotions and views to themselves. Literacy should be self-explored and should represent personal experiences.

  • The project is arguing against the common curriculum seen in schools today. It argues that literature is something that should be explored by one’s self and should reflect the inner conscious.
  • One element that I really focused on in the initial draft, was the use of literary examples to help support my argument. I believe that this use of Birkets and Graff really helps strengthen my argument.
  • Something else on my to-do list that was not quite achieved was the addition of a counter argument. I think that I should have spent a little more time working on the counter argument, which would ultimately show the other side to my argument. I did introduce a counter, but did not go in depth.

Literacy is defined as ability to read and write. To me, literacy is so much more than just the ability, because many people can read and write. A lot of those people choose not to express their inner views and feelings using their literary capabilities because of past encounters of forced literature. Contrived literature in school has left a sour taste in many people’s mouth because of the way it was forced upon them with the common “curriculum.” Literature should be something self-explored and should be an expression of one’s interests and views. Literacy to me is not exactly the ability to write, but the ability to explore one’s self through reading texts of interest, and writing of personal experiences.

I have had a relationship with reading ever since I was a young child. All relationships have phases. The first phase of every relationship is the cupcake phase. The cupcake phase is a newfound love, that everything you do makes you think about them. This began when I first started to read fiction novels by myself around the fifth and sixth grade. I became so infatuated with novels like Harry Potter, Eragon, and novels of Greek mythology that I would sometimes find myself constantly thinking about the characters; I would try and be the characters in real life. The next phase of the relationship is the disbelief phase. You find yourself in disbelief because your partner is forcing views and other things upon you and you question the relationship. This phase with reading occurring during the late states of middle school and all through high school. I was forced to read non-fiction novels that did not interest me, and write about things I had no interest in, contrary to the journals I would write about my fiction characters. I was angry and in disbelief that literature would do this to me. I was angry that literature would be forced upon me like this. I still am trying to reach the final phase of my relationship with reading and writing, the re-found love. Soon I will find pleasure in reading again, but until then I will myself being forced to read books that do not interest me because it is part of a “curriculum.” I might be getting close, but I am sure not there yet.

The biggest mistake in the common “curriculum” I have experienced through my schooling, was that writing had to be passive and with no opinion. Everyone’s writing was the same, with just different syntax and diction. This is where the curriculum went wrong in their schooling. Literature is supposed to be something of opinions and inner views. No two people’s essays should be the same in concept because no two people see exactly the same on any topic. For example, my senior year of high school I was asked to write a final paper comparing two books that my class read. The comparison was not what I took out of the book, or not how I felt about the book, but the plot and common writing techniques. This made me hate the books we read because I was just regurgitating the contents of the books onto a 5-page paper, double spaced, times new roman, 12-point font. The entire class spark-noted the books and compared them in an essay that they deleted upon submitting it, just like programmed robots. Gerald Graff wrote in an article called Hidden Intellectualism, “I can’t say schooling silenced me–it wasn’t powerful or well organized enough to do that. What schooling did was prevent me from recognizing my own intellectualism (Graff P40.)” In this excerpt, Graff was specifically saying how the schooling failed to allow children to express their views and personal opinions. The article hidden intellectualism brought up some key points. Throughout the article Graff commonly said how schooling brought down individuals who believed their whole lives that they were less than intellectual because they couldn’t keep up with contrived literature, and think the way they were told to. This is where the “curriculum” went wrong. This is where people strayed away from literacy because it was inflicted upon them and made them feel stupid.

Somewhere along the line, literature went from being personal and relatable to something abstract. Literature became something that we must think hard and long to try and understand. The earliest signs of literature in the world, was of stories. Literacy began as a thought, not as writing. People would tell great stories of war heroes by the camp fire, while little boys would listen and imagine themselves one day saving their village in a heroic manor, just as a young boy would imagine himself hitting a homerun with the bases loaded to win the world series. People in later generations began to writing these stories down and reading them by themselves. Reading was still a matter of self-interest, and genuine adoration. When did the “curriculum” become something that no one cared about or could relate to? It is easy to argue that we must read to become more articulate and more knowledgeable, but of what importance is knowledge if it is not useful to you? Sven Birkets in The Gutenberg Elegies writes about his personal experiences with literature and the importance of it to him. He writes how, “the desire and the ability to write are closely bound up with the love of word (Birkets 39).” By this, Birkets implies that in order to love and understating writing, you must be able to appreciate good literature. How is one supposed to appreciate good literature if they never feel inclined to read it? In this passage of the Gutenberg elegies, Birkets shares personal experiences which made him appreciate literature. Reading and writing should be explored by one’s self, not forced upon.

Through literacy, anything is possible. The possibilities of exploration are endless. The “curriculum” does not limit me. I can go to a library and in one day learn all there is to astronomy, and the next day everything there is to cooking. Self-explored literacy ignites an ever lit fire that only knowledge can douse. Somethings are read for pleasure, and other things are read for knowledge. A specific instance I genuinely enjoyed the “curriculum” was my sophomore year writing assignment. My teacher, Ms. Howe, gave little to no guide lines. She told my class we have to write about a controversial topic we feel strongly about. The only rule of the assignment, was that we had to persuade her. I forever to this day am proud of the work I did. I enjoyed this assignment more than anything because I could explore topics in the world around me and educate myself on both sides and construct an argument.

The more something is forced upon someone, the less likely someone would be to enjoy it. For example, the more someone is forced to read and write about stuff that doesn’t interest them, the less likely they will be to read or write about something that does interest them. This is bad because this leaves people bottled up with emotions, radical views, and heavy opinions. Graff wrote in his essay, Hidden Intellectualism, how since schooling inflicted literature on children, they stayed quiet on their opinions and resorted to violence on the playgrounds when presented with a disagreement. Self-explored literature taught me to explore both sides of an argument and educated myself before forming my own argument. Writing is a great way to let out your inner emotions. It is a good way to help express yourself in a way that you’re not normally comfortable with in public.

Literature can help individuals reach new potentials and share personal experiences that people could one day value. It should be valued as something personal and held close to you. Through literature someone can explore the world around them and find a thirst for knowledge without becoming too self-absorbed. Literacy in schools today is contrived and makes children lose their thirst for knowledge in entirety. Self-experiences and explorations should be a reflection of literature in today’s world.


Works Cited:

Graff, G. (2001). Hidden Intellectualism . Retrieved February 09, 2017, from


Birkerts, Sven. The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age. Boston: Faber

and Faber, 1994. Print.


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