Your midterm exam will ask you one or more of the questions listed below about the topics, information, and issues raised in our readings and class discussions thus far this quarter.

The articles/scholars we’ve read and the films we’ve viewed in class will serve as your main sources of evidence to answer these questions. That said, many of the articles we’ve read have focused to varying degrees on summarizing key research and researchers in the field of literacy studies and you are encouraged to use their ideas in your exam answers as well. We will discuss in class before the exam the particular sources that seem the most central to our investigations thus far.

Rules & Logistics

  • You will take the midterm in class on Monday, February 1.
  • You will write your answers on computers in class.
  • I will require you to turn off the wireless network feature of the computer you use and periodically check to make sure you do not access the Internet during the midterm.
  • I will also periodically check to make sure you do not access any other files on your computer for use in your answer.
  • Cheating on the midterm is grounds for failing the course and, more than that, is unethical and unfair and misrepresents what you’ve actually learned.

All of this said, because I want the midterm to help you learn and synthesize our course content thus far:

  • I am making all the potential midterm questions available to you prior to the test
  • I allow and encourage each of you to bring one page of notes you can look over while you answer the midterm questions. Your page of notes must be printed out. You must show me the page before the exam begins. Notes can fill one side of the paper, and must be printed using regular-size fonts, 10pt or higher. If your notes fail to meet these requirements you will not be able to use them during the midterm.

The Potential Questions

1.) Collins, Scribner, Kaestle, and Street all argue that how one defines literacy has tangible implications in terms of policy, politics, schooling, and even research about literacy itself.

a.) Why does Collins argue that a pluralistic definition of literacies both more accurate and more defensible intellectually than the singular literacy? What examples does he provide to make the case that there are multiple literacies?

b.) How, according to Street, does an ideological model of literacy differ from an autonomous model of literacy and why is an ideological model better in his view?

c.) What are Scribner’s three metaphors of literacy and what implications has each had in terms of real-world impacts?

d.) What does Kaestle argue that literacy research has done a good job of discovering and what does he say still needs to be researched more?

2.) In his piece on the history of literacy, Carl Kaestle asks the following question: “Did the introduction of writing create a great watershed in the history of culture and consciousness?” (16).

a.) For those who answer “yes!” to this question (Goody & Watt, Havelock, Eisenstein, among others) what claims do they make about how literacy fundamentally altered the culture(s) and/or human cognition in which it arose?

3.) What is an “alphabet?”

a.) How does an alphabet differ from other representations of human language like syllabaries, logographic writing systems, or hieroglyphs?

b.) What alphabet(s) are the foundation of our English alphabet and what claims have scholars made about the efficacy or efficiency of this alphabet?

4.) How and why did writing emerge, according to Schmandt-Besserat?

5.) How, according to Kaestle, were “trends in crude literacy rates” similar and different in Europe versus the United States? What conclusions does he draw about literacy as a an agent of social change?