Thursday, January 27, 2011

CLAM Assignment #3: Cultural Literacies

I thought the E.D. Hirsch excerpt, along with the Cultural Literacy video, were them most interesting parts of this segment. It put in words something I have always known but never quite been able to articulate: the way that culture-specific "background knowledge" (cultural literacy) enables learning.

The academic world and learning itself has always been a topic of interest to me. I was a high-performing student in High School, by South Carolina public education system standards, which admittedly means very little. Even at the time, I did not believe my performance should have been that outstanding (all I did was show up to class with the homework finished, for Pete's sake), and I was frustrated by my peers who didn't care enough to try. "When am I EVER going to use this?" was the constant whine. I couldn't convince anyone that the things we were learning -- however broad in scope or tedious or seemingly irrelevant -- were a foundation for something greater. Not just college applications, but for understanding the world we live in. The knowledge is valuable as potential for new knowledge... which is itself valuable.

From a culturally specific point of view, that is. When I hit college I was totally out of my element. Conservative, homeschooled, and nerdy (see previous), I had a LOT of YouTube videos to watch and slang to catch up on. saved my social status on more than a few occasions when I had to figure out what people were talking about (what is "shotgunning"? What the heck is a "bro"?) . Thankfully, as Lauren mentioned in her post, there are plenty of tutors waiting to help incoming freshman make that cultural adjustment.

Now I'm trying to cross another knowledge gap. A lot of the knowledge that is helping me become "culturally literate" is picked up on the go: body language, trial and error, asking myself why everyone is staring at me. Learning some history from class has really put things in context, too. I was amazed at the huge portion of Barcelona that is carefully master-planned into matching sets of blocks: an undertaking that could make it in America. After lecture today, I realized that Spain has been under socialist government for a long time. They could do that sort of thing without asking opinions from every Sergi with a coffee shop on the alley. Barcelona's architectural setting makes a lot more sense when coupled with its historical and political setting.

Later in class I had a moment with Patty when we realized that Holland and Poland are both parts of the Netherlands. We felt pretty stupid about being confused... but political geography like that isn't relevant in the culture we come from, so we lacked the context for that information. "The Netherlands" is a term without strong meaning for me... something vague about windmills and wooden shoes comes up, but that's about it. I'm sure the nomos is much different for someone from the Netherlands -- or Spain -- or anywhere east of the Atlantic.

I'm coming into Europe with a uniquely blank slate. My blog is called "Small Town Girl Adventures" because as I prepared for this trip, I began to realize just how culturally illiterate I was for this setting. Geography, history, and language are all massive gaps in my knowledge, due to my educational, family, and cultural background. My naivety has had a profound effect on my first few weeks here, as I attempt to learn everything starting from surface level. Rather than seeing my ignorance as merely a handicap, however, I've been appreciating the opportunity to start from scratch, as free as possible from preconceptions and prejudice. I have baby eyes... everything is new and it makes it that much more amazing.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Clam Assignment #2

Social Networking Relationship History

Second CLAM assignment. Looks like I may have to set aside my anti- (gerund) about (gerund) policy. ;-)

Clam Assignment #1

So I am expected to blog about my initiation into CLAM: Cultural Literacy Across Media, because there are simply not enough acronyms in the world to make the University happy. It’s a course in which we maintain a blog for “Cross Cultural Awareness” credit back home in Tigertown. So far everything seems really… ah… obvious. From my perspective, it’s hard not to know how to blog unless you’ve been living under a rock with a really flakey wifi connection. So I expect this will be enjoyable. I love blogging.

(I also hope never, ever again to blog about blogging. It’s like songs about the life of a singer-songwriter, or poems about writer’s block: all the appeal of an ingrown toenail and likely infected with a thriving colony of stupid).

I WILL SAY, however, that I am excited about doing our documentaries and I already have ideas for mine which I will not tell, because you’d steal them, you sneaky-sneaker!

El fin.