Public Literacy Essay Questions

In the Public Literacy essay, you will respond to one of the following questions, using at least three of our readings and your own experiences/observations to develop your response.

  1. For a variety of reasons, such as race, gender, class, ethnicity, people face significant obstacles in achieving the literacy they need to participate in a particular culture. What are some of these barriers? What causes them? How do people cope with or overcome them? And what are the costs of achieving literacy?
  2. Amy Tan says that she worries about "the power of language: that if one says anything enough times--in any language--it might become true." Discuss how this can happen when a person is labeled or marked in a particular way, how what we call someone affects our perception of them and their perception of themselves.
  3. Deborah Tannen argues that by becoming aware of the variety of conversational styles among students, students and teachers can create more effective classroom discussion. Consider your own experiences in the classroom and those of some of the authors we have read. Given those experiences, how could teachers and students create better environments for students to participate in the reading, writing, listening, and speaking activities in their classrooms?
  4. Many of the writers we have read have shown us the conflict of their home language and public language. What causes this conflict? What are some of the consequences of speaking a language that differs from the dominant language of the culture in one must live, work, and go to school?
  5. Amy Tan contemplates the Sapir-Whorf theory that "our perception of the world and our interaction with it are defined by the language we speak." To what extent do we create our own "reality" with the language we use? How have some of our authors tried to cope with cultural or linguistic "realities" that were quite different from their own perceptions? What were some of the effects--good and bad--of these divergent realities?
  6. Create question of your own that focuses on one of the issues raised in our reading. Write up the question and give it to me for approval as soon as possible.