Around the table,
Literacy discussion turned elitist...
Bemoaning some poor Johnny,
Son of a plumber who does not read
Beyond the practical need,
And has no desire to.
I stopped to check my sense of what I had just heard...
Was transported to a prairie farm;
Thought of my Father, then in his eighties
Who felt no need and no sense of loss
For not having read Shakespeare nor Kant
For missing Milton's Paradises and Hemingway,
For by-passing Black Elk Speaks and C.S. Lewis.
Every morning, he read his Bible;
Some nights he read the mail's
Motley collection of literature:
Ads and politicians and fanatics,
Demanding money and his time,
But mostly money.
"I don't have time to read!"
He'd shout when I suggested a novel.
What literature he had was in his head,
Poems memorized when he was a boy
In a two room school, or
His own lines, written as a young man,
Describing work and friends
Long distant now, but still alive
Dad taught me how to read
In different literacies and different texts:
Nuances of sky to read the weather -
What chill or storm or drought was on its way
("Storm's coming, boys! Let's get that hay!");
Cows and calves and bulls,
(Which one was sick or well, dry or bred);
Ways to diagnose mechanical ailments
("Start with the easiest options first");
Metals, to know which welding rod applied
("Aluminum sags, and cast iron cracks");
Grain, rolled crisp between hard hands,
(a test of ripeness);
Cement, to blend the perfect mix,
("Clean gravel/sand, no dirt, not too much water!);
("Always keep some grain on hand" &
"Keep your fuel above half-tank").
So many literacies...
Dad, the Master Reader of them all...
No wonder he'd no time for books.
What is literacy?
These words came in response to a conversation I overheard at the University of Minnesota, in which a group of wealthy White female educators despaired a the plight of the under-educated, unwashed masses of people outside their privileged island of higher education. #Commonpeoplefeedyou!