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Behind The Scenes Essay, Research Paper

Fishmans depictions of the Amish and Heaths portrayal of the people of Trackton are similar. The Amish and people of Trackton are similar by the implied meanings of reading and writing, the absence of literary enforcement and importance, and the literary correlation of distribution of power. The Amish, when first teaching their children to read, would not necessarily sit down and help their children sound out words; rather, they would take them to church and expect them to memorize church hymnals. As Fishman observed, Yet because singing may mean holding the text following the words as they appear following the words from memory or from others rendition, children of Eli s age and younger all participate, appearing as literate as anyone else (242). The Amish idea of reading is not associated with the fundamental understanding of vowels and consonants; instead, it is sided with memorization and repetition of words and phrases. As Fishman states, Before Eli Jr. went to school, he knew what counted as writing in his world, just as he knew what counted as reading. He learned at home that being able to write means being able to encode, copy, to follow format, to choose content and to list (247). Much like the Amish, Trackton townspeople understood reading in a similar manner. The young children of Trackton, are sent to the market, with given a warning to watch out for Mr. Dogan s prices (Heath 300). How is it that the children could tell the difference between $3.50, and $4.50? The key to their differentiation was appearance. The children memorized how much they should pay for an item, and if the number on the ticket differed, they knew not to buy the product. Shirley Brice Heath responded in a similar manner by stating, The dependence on a strong sense of visual imagery often prevented efficient transfer of skills learned in one context to another (302). Neither the Amish nor the people in Trackton enforced the skills of reading and writing. Any efforts to strengthen English skills would be abolished because according to Fishman, schoolwork rarely enters the household, field, and barn chores matter more (241). An example of the restricted learning environment, which the young male Amish encounters, is that they may only attend school to the eighth grade; thus, the women mainly do the writing. Are the parents of these Amish children severing any hope of allowing their children to function in a literate society? Depending on which society these children choose to reside in, these parents may be more than adequately preparing their offspring, since literacy is a context-based situation. As seen through the eyes of the Amish, reading is not nearly as valuable in their household as knowing how to plow a field is, because it is applicable to their lifestyle. Although the people of Trackton also used reading in a way that applied to their lifestyle, their discouragement of literacy was less than a survival-based tool. Heath exemplifies this by saying: For Trackton adults, reading is a social activity, when something is read in Trackton, it almost always provokes narratives, jokes, sidetracking talk, and active negotiation of the meaning of written texts among the listeners (p306). She also mentions that those from Trackton read for immediacy, instead of reading for enjoyment, or self-improvement. Perhaps this is the reason that Trackton is such a low-income town. Another reason for Tracktons faulty economic standpoint is that reading alone is antisocial (Heath 300). The son of Aunt Berta modeled this type of behavior when he escaped from the cotton fields and read alone under a tree. Although her son grew into a successful man and obtained a college degree, the town still tells tales of his peculiar boyhood habits (Heath 300). Various religious elders did the only admitted isolated reading (Heath 300).

Religion is a driving force in both the Trackton and Amish communities. As Heath states in her introduction, besides Newspapers, car brochures, advertisements, church materials, and homework and official information from school that came into Trackton everyday (Heath 300), there are few magazines, except those borrowed from the church, no books except school books, the Bible, and Sunday School lesson books, and a photograph album (Heath 300). In these societies alike, the women are the main regulators of what reading material enters the home; thus, by the mainstream educators standpoint, they are more literate than the men and children. The women in Trackton record the history, correspond through mail and, as in the Amish community, monitor the reading material. Though these women have great influential power residing literary leeway, the men have the power to override any and all of their decisions. Eli Sr. s exemplifies this by reading a newspaper instead of the Bible, or Disney books. Although religion, women, and men retain much of the perceived literary power, the authors play a significant role in how the reader determines these subjects literary worth. Heaths primary question was; are the people of Trackton literate? In her anthropological study and by mainstream educators standards she concluded they are literate only within the boundaries of Trackton. Fishman ventured to answer the same question; are the Amish literate? She too concluded that the Amish, within their precinct, are indeed literate. Ultimately, the similarities of these two communities are evident in both their mannerisms, and economic standpoint. Through implied literary meanings, lack of literary enforcement and support, and the vast distribution of literary power in both the Trackton and the Amish communities, it can be concluded that the occupants of these societies are literate, but only within their own context. WORK CITED PAGE #1.) Fishman, R. Andrea. Becoming Literate: A Lesson from the Amish . Literacies. Terence Brunk, et al. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. 1997. (239-251).#2.) Heath, Brice Shirley. Literate Traditions . Literacies. Terence Brunk, et al. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. 1997. (299-315).


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