Exploring Diversity and Social Justice through Language, Gender and Culture: An ERWC Module Experience
Language, Gender and Culture: An ERWC Module
Have you ever wondered how language affects your identity, your communication, your power, and your social interactions? Have you ever noticed how different groups of people use language differently depending on their gender, culture, race, or class? Have you ever felt silenced or pressured to conform to certain norms of behavior or expression? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you might be interested in learning more about the ERWC module on Language, Gender and Culture.
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This article will give you an overview of what this module is about, what texts and activities it includes, and what benefits and challenges it offers to students who want to improve their critical reading and writing skills while exploring issues of diversity and social justice. By the end of this article, you should have a better understanding of what this module can teach you and how it can help you become a more informed, engaged, and empowered citizen.
What is ERWC?
ERWC stands for Expository Reading and Writing Course. It is a curriculum designed by the California State University (CSU) system to help high school students prepare for college-level reading and writing. The ERWC consists of several modules that cover different topics and genres, such as rhetorical analysis, argumentation, research, narrative, etc. Each module follows a similar structure that involves four stages: pre-reading, reading rhetorically, post-reading, and writing rhetorically. The goal of the ERWC is to help students develop their analytical skills, critical thinking skills, academic vocabulary, and writing strategies through engaging with various texts and tasks.
Why study language, gender and culture?
Language is not just a tool for communication; it is also a reflection of our identities, norms, values, beliefs, and experiences. Language can shape how we see ourselves and others, how we interact with different groups of people, how we express our emotions and opinions, how we persuade or influence others, how we create or challenge stereotypes, how we resist or comply with social pressures, etc. Language can also be a source of empowerment or oppression, depending on who has access to it, who controls it, who benefits from it, and who suffers from it.
Gender and culture are two of the most important factors that affect how we use language and how language affects us. Gender refers to the social and cultural expectations and roles that are assigned to people based on their biological sex. Culture refers to the shared values, beliefs, practices, and traditions that characterize a group of people. Both gender and culture can influence how we speak, write, listen, read, and interpret language. They can also affect how we are perceived, judged, valued, or marginalized by others based on our language use.
Studying language, gender and culture can help us understand ourselves and others better. It can help us appreciate the diversity and complexity of human communication and expression. It can help us recognize the power and responsibility that we have as language users and learners. It can help us challenge the assumptions and biases that we may have or encounter in our daily lives. It can help us develop our empathy, respect, and tolerance for people who are different from us. It can also help us find our voice, speak our truth, and take action for positive change.
What are the main texts and activities in this module?
Judith Butler's video clip
Judith Butler is a famous philosopher and gender theorist who argues that gender is not a fixed or natural category, but a social construct that is performed through repeated actions and behaviors. In this short video clip, she tells a story about a young boy who was beaten up by his classmates for wearing earrings to school. She uses this story to illustrate how gender norms are enforced through violence and social pressure, and how people who do not conform to these norms are punished or excluded.
This video clip introduces some of the key concepts and questions that this module explores, such as: What are gender norms? How are they created and maintained? Who benefits from them and who suffers from them? How do they affect our identity, expression, and communication? How can we resist or challenge them?
Deborah Tannen's article "His Politeness is Her Powerlessness"
Deborah Tannen is a linguist and author who studies how different speech styles affect men's and women's communication and power. In this article, she explains how women tend to use more indirect and polite language than men, such as hedging, apologizing, or asking questions. She argues that this style of speaking can be seen as a sign of weakness or uncertainty by men, who tend to use more direct and assertive language, such as making statements, giving orders, or interrupting. She also suggests that women's speech style can be used as a strategy to avoid conflict or to gain cooperation from others.
This article invites us to examine how gender influences our language use and how our language use influences our power. It also invites us to consider how different speech styles can be interpreted differently depending on the context, the audience, the purpose, etc. Some of the questions that this article raises are: How do we learn to speak like men or women? How do we adapt our speech style depending on the situation? How do we judge or evaluate others based on their speech style? How do we negotiate or resolve conflicts or misunderstandings that arise from different speech styles?
Vershawn Young's article "Nah, We Straight"
Vershawn Young is a professor and scholar who writes about African American Vernacular English (AAVE), which is a variety of English spoken by some African Americans. In this article, he argues that AAVE is a valid form of expression and identity that should be respected and valued in academic settings. He challenges the idea that AAVE is inferior or incorrect compared to Standard American English (SAE), which is the dominant variety of English used in education, media, business, etc. He also challenges the idea that AAVE speakers should switch to SAE in order to succeed or fit in.
This article invites us to explore how culture influences our language use and how our language use influences our culture. It also invites us to question the norms and standards that govern language use in different domains and contexts. Some of the questions that this article raises are: What is AAVE? How is it different from SAE? How did it develop? What functions does it serve? How is it perceived by others? How does it affect our academic performance or opportunities? How do we balance our linguistic identity with our linguistic competence?
Audre Lorde's speech "The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action"
Audre Lorde was a poet and activist who wrote about issues of race, gender, sexuality, class, etc. In this speech, she argues that silence can be oppressive and dangerous for marginalized groups who face discrimination or violence. She urges her listeners to transform their silence into language and action. She shares her personal experience of being diagnosed with breast cancer and how it made her realize the importance of speaking out against the injustices and oppressions that she faced as a black lesbian woman. She encourages her listeners to overcome their fears and silences and to use their words and actions to create change in the world.
This speech invites us to reflect on how silence can be harmful or helpful for ourselves and others. It also invites us to consider how we can use our language and action to transform our lives and our society. Some of the questions that this speech raises are: What are the sources and consequences of our silences? How do we decide when to speak and when to listen? How do we cope with the risks or costs of speaking out? How do we support or inspire others to speak out? How do we use our language and action to challenge or resist oppression?
Other activities and assignments
In addition to reading and analyzing these texts, students also have to do other activities and assignments that help them develop their skills and express their opinions. Some of these tasks are:
Quickwrites: short writing prompts that help students activate their prior knowledge, connect with the texts, or reflect on their learning.
Discussions: oral interactions that help students share their ideas, perspectives, experiences, or questions with their classmates or teacher.
PSA scripts: written or recorded messages that aim to raise awareness or persuade others to take action on a specific issue related to language, gender and culture.
Activist letters: written communications that address a specific audience or institution and advocate for a change or a solution to a problem related to language, gender and culture.
These tasks allow students to practice different modes and genres of communication, as well as to demonstrate their understanding, creativity, and critical thinking.
What are the benefits and challenges of this module?
This module offers many benefits and challenges to students who want to improve their reading and writing skills while exploring issues of language, gender and culture. Some of the benefits are:
It exposes students to diverse texts and perspectives that broaden their horizons and challenge their assumptions.
It helps students develop their vocabulary, comprehension, analysis, synthesis, evaluation, and argumentation skills.
It encourages students to reflect on their own experiences, identities, values, and beliefs.
It empowers students to find their voice, speak their truth, and take action for positive change.
Some of the challenges are:
It requires students to read complex texts that may be unfamiliar or difficult for them.
It demands students to write in different genres and formats that may be new or challenging for them.
It invites students to confront sensitive or controversial issues that may cause discomfort or conflict.
It expects students to respect and appreciate diversity while acknowledging and addressing oppression.
The ERWC module on Language, Gender and Culture is a valuable learning opportunity for students who want to enhance their reading and writing skills while exploring issues of diversity and social justice. It provides students with various texts and activities that help them understand how language shapes and reflects our identities, norms, values, beliefs, and experiences. It also helps them recognize how language can be a source of empowerment or oppression depending on who uses it, who controls it, who benefits from it, and who suffers from it. By studying this module, students can develop their analytical skills, critical thinking skills, academic vocabulary, writing strategies, as well as their empathy, respect, tolerance, voice, truth, and action.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the main goal of the ERWC module on Language, Gender and Culture?The main goal of this module is to help students develop their critical reading and writing skills while exploring issues of diversity and social justice related to language use.
What are some of the texts that students read in this module?Some of the texts that students read in this module are a video clip by Judith Butler, an article by Deborah Tannen, an article by Vershawn Young, and a speech by Audre Lorde.
What are some of the activities and assignments that students do in this module?Some of the activities and assignments that students do in this module are quickwrites, discussions, PSA scripts, and activist letters.
What are some of the benefits and challenges of this module?Some of the benefits of this module are that it exposes students to diverse texts and perspectives, helps them develop their skills and vocabulary, encourages them to reflect on their own experiences and identities, and empowers them to find their voice and take action. Some of the challenges of this module are that it requires students to read complex texts and write in different genres, invites them to confront sensitive or controversial issues, and expects them to respect and appreciate diversity while acknowledging and addressing oppression.
How can students succeed in this module?Students can succeed in this module by being open-minded, curious, respectful, and engaged. They can also succeed by asking questions, seeking help, giving feedback, collaborating with others, and applying what they learn to their own lives and contexts.