Conflict is unavoidable because people are different throughout the world. They hold onto their own ideas and thoughts. These conflicting ideas and beliefs often lead to either the rejection or acceptance into a new social group. Kara Poe Alexander examined over seven hundred essays where students explained their story behind whether or not they were accepted into a new discourse. Discourses are how people people speak and act; there are several layers to them, the first being the primary discourse. This is the basis for someone’s beliefs and values. As relationships expand so do discourses. Following the primary discourse is the secondary discourse. This is further developed into non-dominant and dominant discourses; dominant discourses provide monetary or status gain along with beneficial connections while non-dominant discourses only provide social connections. All of these concepts were first introduced by James Paul Gee.
Students of the English 122 class were given the opportunity to replicate Alexander’s study. They were all required to write their own literacy narratives, stories about a significant moment in their life that had to do with reading or writing. Afterwards the narratives would be pooled together under the name Rising Cairn. These stories more often than not, shared a time where a student’s relationship with a mentor was developing. Students of the English 123 class went on to read these narratives and were then responsible for distilling the stories in a process similar to Alexander. Following her study where she first introduced master and little narratives, master narratives followed a tradition outlook at literacy where literacy would lead to success and little narratives were more localized to the individual, she then branched the categories out further into eight choices: success, hero, child prodigy, literacy winner, victim, outsider, rebel and other (Alexander 615). Interestingly, instead of Alexander’s diverse collection of essays, those from English 122 seemed to offer the unique views of students who are all at a relatively similar time in their life. Most of the essays submitted had a common thread, a theme that connected all of the stories.
There are simple universal concepts and actions that span all cultures and discourses. Such as smiling when happy, marriage, and the way people speak. Social groups form habits and create their own values and beliefs, something that someone outside of the discourse could struggle to embrace and understand. This struggle comes from an individual’s primary discourse. Conflicts of discourse could attribute to one of the reasons that people of both Alexander’s study and they people of Rising Cairn struggled. It’s no surprise that most of the essays revolved around their relationships with people. Kayla Farrell’s essay “Turn Around” focused on her struggling against a difficult teacher that pushed too much homework on all of the students and displayed how relationships influenced someone’s view. For some of the students of her story, they lost their affection for English. Others faced his difficult teaching head on. Kayla Farrell fell on the side of a fighter. Instead of giving up when presented with a negative influence, she struggled. Spending time after class, she would ask the teacher for help. And when that failed, she went somewhere else. A tutoring center at her high school. There she was able to find willing masters and sponsors to guide her. Kayla’s teacher in this case was a mentor that rejected her. He was a member of a dominant discourse yet he was unwilling to positively guide her. Thankfully she’d had enough experience prior that she was able to mushfake her way through. Mushfake is a term coined by Gee that refers to a person substituting in a different but similar discourse when they don’t have the ‘correct’ discourse for their audience.
People struggle to obtain the correct discourse without a sponsor. As Brandt explains them, sponsors “are powerful figures who bankroll events or smooth the way for initiates” (Brandt 557). Without them to act as a guide, a newcomer would be unable to master a discourse as they would be unable to gain the experience that they need. Abby’s piece, “The Giving Tree and Me,” was about herself as a young girl with her father. Together they would read stories every night. He was her mentor into literacy and a positive one at that. He introduced her passion for reading, he showed her the value and joy that it can bring. Gee calls their relationship that of a master and an apprentice. Brandt looks at it like a sponsorship while Delpit would see a mentor. No matter the term used to describe the relationship, it is the easiest way to enter a discourse. There are cases where someone is able to mushfake their discourse, to imitate. As they perform, they gain experience and become encultured by it. Mushfake can lead to mastery without a direct sponsor. Lisa Delpit, another master of discourse, also believed in the necessity for masters and exposure to the discourse. To truly become a member of a discourse, people must engage in with others.
Unlike Alexander’s study, the students of English 122 seldom wrote about success. Instead, the majority of students focused on local and little stories that emphasized the individual rather than the literacy. This could be due to the initial essay question. Perhaps it was phrased in a way that urged the ideas of a local story. Or the sample size was smaller. The majority crafted unique stories that avoided the idea that literacy means success, instead they focused on the impact that literacy had on their relationships. Literacy is something that everyone learns in this culture, knowledge does not equal success anymore. The idea that literacy is a step in the right direction has downgraded to being only shifting someone’s eyes to the right direction. Success is still far away and only his or her eyes have moved.
Relationships are an important part of acquiring discourses. In the opinion of the essay, relationships are vital to discourse. Any discourse that involves language needs multiple people so that conversation may happen. Without practice or exposure to those who have already master the discourse, they will be unable to become masters. This is why the masters of language and discourse have a significant amount of responsibility for how individuals turn out. If they fail to accept anyone into a new discourse, then eventually there could be no one around to continue on the discourse. Theoretically if that happened, a new discourse would emerge of people who would value being more open for new members. This is why acceptance and guidance into a new discourse is important for everyone. Why teachers need to focus on having a positive impact on students. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the cases. Many teachers fail to inspire their kids to reach further than they thought to. Those are the teachers and people who help kids learn to hate reading. Their disinterest is the start of a downward spiral for a lot kids. The first step of their disinterest. In class they start to mushfake, apply what they already know instead of expanding their conversation.
The majority of papers from Rising Cairn were about experiences with people. Stories of how there was either someone there to push them forward or someone there to hold them back. The influence that relationships have is significant, especially those that reject them from a discourse. Gee and Brandt have their terms to define the positive influence, but what about the negative? Those who are in a position to reject, often have an incredible amount of power towards the individual. Relationships play a significant role in life. They are unavoidable and a necessity in today’s society. Yet many people fail to value them to the right degree. Students from across the country were able to admit to being victims in their essays to Alexander and again the posts on Rising Cairn. These individuals will soon graduate from being students and be active members of society, those who rejected them from a discourse have played a hand in denying them opportunities in the future. While those who were guided now have the connections and values to give them a better opportunity at life.