Vera Kam RD Peer Review

Rough Draft: Ethnography of Community

Statement of Purpose: I chose Ethnography of Community because I’m just really interested in literacy and the effects of literacy. I focused a lot on rhetorical devices because I wanted to show how language has developed so much that we are able to analyze things so deeply with these devices. 

Research Methods: I wanted to include as many forms of literacy as I could, but many of today’s literacy methods are through speaking so that ended up being my largest focus. I looked at novels I read in the past and how I analyzed them, as well as structures used in my past English courses. I also looked at famous speeches and historical moments and what role literacy played in them. I used outside sources, so I still need to find a source that we used in class to add. 

Many believe that literacy is just the ability to read and write, but there are actually four types of literacy: reading, writing, speaking, and listening (“What Is Literacy?”). Much of what we do in our daily life includes literacy from reading stop signs and train timetables to listening to music. The first forms of communication go all the way back to 3500 BC, and literacy has progressed and branched off into so many different important forms of communication and entertainment (“A Brief History of Literacy”). In my ethnography, I observed what these forms of communication have evolved into: television, commercials, movies, speeches, and debates. With a focus on rhetorical devices and strategies, I was able to pull several sources that showcase these literacy skills that have developed. These skills have helped society develop more independence and opinions of one’s own. There are many sources provided today that help people decide what their beliefs are.

The most common way literacy is taught and developed is through education: school, tutors, and classes. In most English classes, there are lists of novels to read and analyze throughout the year or semester. There are different types of essays to write according to what is taught as well: character analysis, rhetorical analysis, literary analysis, and much more. In AP English Language and Composition, Collegeboard focuses on rhetorical analysis. Throughout the year, students focus on learning and memorizing rhetorical strategies and devices and applying them to literary works like speeches and excerpts from novels. One of these rhetorical devices were allegories, which is defined by Merriam Webster as “the expression by means of symbolic fictional figures and actions of truths or generalizations about human existence” (“Allegory Definition & Meaning”). Many of the novels read in high schools across are allegorical. Some of them include Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies, Fahrenheit 451, and The Invisible Man. Many of these are allegories for major events in history such as the Russian Revolution in Animal Farm, in which historical figures such as Joseph Stalin and Leon Trotsky are illustrated in the form of pigs. Fahrenheit 451 was set in a society in which books were illegal and, if found, would be burned, which was an allegory to the book burning happening during McCarthyism. Allegories would also help authors write about their personal lives. The Little Prince is known to be an allegory for author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s life. Allegories help teach students about history and current events through metaphors and symbolism. 

Rhetoric is also often used in speeches through persuasive techniques. Speeches are often used to share the speaker’s perspective with the audience. In doing this, the speakers often use three techniques: ethos, pathos, and logos. Ethos determines credibility of the speaker, such as having a doctor present a speech about medicine. Pathos appeals to emotion, and logos appeals to logic, which often uses statistics. In Nikki Giovanni’s speech “We are Virginia Tech,” which was given after a shooting took place at the university, she utilizes pathos when she says “”We are strong enough to stand tall tearlessly, we are brave enough to bend to cry, and we are sad enough to know that we must laugh again” (“Transcript of Nikki Giovanni’s Convocation Address”). She mainly uses pathos in her speech, since the students and faculty have gone through  traumatic experiences and are mourning. The use of these literacy skills show how literacy is used to unite groups of people through empathy and emotion, as well as trust. Ethos, pathos, and logos, all help the audience trust the speaker more. 

Literacy is extremely prevalent in politics. Reading and presenting bills and laws are incredibly important, since they affect such large groups of people, so it is important that politicians are able to understand them and present them effectively to help others understand them. In politics, literacy is often used in the form of speaking in debates, presentations, and confirmation hearings. One major event in which speech literacy was essential was the presidential debate of the 2020 election. The 2020 election was very controversial, to say the least. Both candidates had a very good chance of winning the presidency, but the debate was where a lot of doubts in them were raised. Ethos and pathos were demonstrated numerous times through the debate, such as when Biden asked “How many of you got up this morning and had an empty chair at the kitchen table because someone died of COVID? How many of you are in a situation where you lost your mom or dad and you couldn’t even speak to them, you had a nurse holding a phone up so you could in fact say goodbye?” (“September 29, 2020 Debate Transcript”). He uses pathos, but also uses a rhetorical question to not only appeal to those who had lost a loved one from COVID-19, but to show that these deaths could have been prevented if he were president and that they could keep from losing anymore lives if he is elected. He uses ethos when he states “violent crime went down 17 percent, 15 percent in our Administration. It’s gone up on his watch” (“September 29, 2020”). Literacy is incredibly important in situations like these because it is used to help individuals determine which one of these men they believe should be president. Literacy is also useful today because it shows one’s character. In the debate, both candidates displayed impolite behavior. Biden’s most notable line of “Will you shut up, man?” (“September 29, 2020”) was controversial because some saw it as immature, but others saw it as necessary and humorous. Trump also displayed impoliteness through an ad hominem fallacy when he said “TRUMP: I don’t know Beau. I know Hunter. Hunter got thrown out of the military. He was thrown out dishonorably discharged. BIDEN: That’s not true he wasn’t dishonorably discharged. TRUMP: …for cocaine use. And he didn’t have a job until you became Vice-President. Once you became Vice-President” (“September 29, 2020”). An ad hominem fallacy is a personal attack on the opponent, which reflected poorly on Trump, but also reflected badly on Biden to some, as they believed he used his position of power to help his son, or nepotism. The reason this debate was held was to not only showcase the candidate’s views on policies, but to also show their character to the voters to help them develop their own opinions. Literacy is useful in this way, since it really helped solidify individuals’ choices in who they would vote for. 

Today’s society is largely defined by technological advancements. Naturally, literacy advanced along with technology. We sit in the car, listening to music or the radio, watch television and movies in theaters, all of which are forms of literacy. The effects of this entertainment are endless. Not only do they show us countless situations that we could find ourselves in, but they also could greatly help those that aren’t fluent in a language. Many immigrants learn English through television and captions. Literacy is also crucial to television through commercials as well. Ethos is often used in commercials- Taylor Swift would inspire people to buy a Coke, Johnny Depp riding a horse would influence someone to buy Dior, and Jennifer Aniston’s flawless skin definitely made me consider buying Aveeno at some point. These commercials, television shows, and movies all have purposes: learning, development, persuasion, and much more. The development of literacy has led to more and more intricacies. What started out as simple syllables and words developed into fluency, which developed rhetoric. Society creates literacy practices that help people learn more about others’ personalities, character, and beliefs. In turn, these people reflect on that and develop their own. From that, communities develop even more by becoming more complex. Literacy has stemmed into debates, socratic seminars, novels, and essays which greatly help society learn more about the world. 

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