Topical Introduction

Are you literate? Every student in USP would probably answer this question with a resounding “Yes!” But this seemingly simple question hides many important issues concerning identity, politics, and technology. Cathy Fleisher writes that “the concept of literacy is problematic; literacy is always a representation of something, a naming of an individual or group of individuals that reflects as much about the namer’s beliefs and values as it does about the person being named.” This course will investigate the beliefs and values that are often hidden in naming someone or a group of people “literate.” Furthermore, it will demonstrate the ways in which these values and beliefs are reflected in and shaped by governmental policies, historical trends, such as globalization, and technological transformations.

Some of the questions that may be taken up are: In what ways has language and literacy shaped a Singaporean identity? Where and when is Singlish accepted as an appropriate way of speaking and writing? Is this changing? What is at stake in government sponsored literacy programs such as the "Speak Good English" and the "Speak Mandarin" campaigns? How has governmental policies on language affected the use of non-official languages such as Hindi or Chinese dialects other than Mandarin? How have iPhones, the internet, and facebook influenced the ways we write and speak?


The module is divided into three units. In the first, students will examine the literacy trends that they discover in Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives (daln.osu.edu), housed at The Ohio State University. They will produce an electronic argument that analyzes a pattern of literacy practices in the United States of America. In the second unit, they will examine their own histories to discover how they developed the literacy practices that they rely on today, and they will collect literacy narratives from fellow students and people living in Singapore. The third unit will ask students to investigate the common traits of Singaporean literacy narratives. On many days this semester, the class will be conducted in seminar format, which means we will engage in discussions about reading, writing, and speaking practices, and we will examine the rhetorical strategies used to help people become literate citizens. As a class, we will raise questions, pose problems, interpret readings, challenge others' ideas, and develop strategies for successfully completing assignments. There will also be many sessions in which we perform workshop-style activities, including developing interview questions, reporting, and writing in different/multiple languages and technologies. In addition, this course will also focus on writing processes. As a result, we will also develop peer review, conferencing, drafting, and editing strategies. Although there will be mini-lectures on a variety of writing-related topics, we will spend the majority of class time engaging in collaborative discussions and activities.