In Deborah Brandt’s, “Sponsors of literacy,” she discusses the role that “sponsors” play in an individual’s literacy learning process. This relationship between sponsor and sponsored is explained as someone/something that facilitates an individual’s literacy while gaining something in return. The sponsor sets either the restrictions or liberties for accessing literacy and also provides motivation for consistent obedience from the sponsored. While the individual is profiting off of the benefits of literacy, the sponsor is profiting from whatever the individual’s success in literacy is. This really helps the reader understand the concept that literacy is a sort of capital that contributes to the economies of literacy. There’s a certain quote in this essay that always sticks out to me: “Literacy, like land, is a valued commodity in this economy, a key resource in gaining profit and edge,” (169). I like it because it have me a whole outlook on literacy. Literacy is not just having an understanding of the basic knowledge in an array of subjects. It is also a tool used to gain leverage over others in finding the right kinds of sponsors in order to excel economically, politically, and socially.
In order to understand this concept, Brandt studies two people in order to contrast their sponsor partnerships and access to literacy. Both individuals, Raymond Branch and Dora Lopez, were born in the same year and moved to the same town in the Midwest. At the time of the interviews, both were still living in the same town. However, these two individuals could not have been brought up more differently. Raymond Branch was born into a white, affluent family in Southern California. His father was a professor and his mother, a real estate executive. At an early age, he has access to his father’s science lab where he was able to experiment with computer programming. When he moved to the Midwest, he received his first computer for Christmas and then a year later he received a modem. Soon after that, computer hardware and software store began to surface fairly close to where he lived. He began building his programming techniques through regularly visiting these stores and sampling various computer programs, coming in contact with founders of different technological advances, and by simply reading as well. With the aid of his sponsors and the opportunities he was given, Raymond was able to graduate from the local university and became a freelance writer of software and software documentation.
Dora Lopez, on the other hand, was born in a Texas border town and then moved to the same small town in the Midwest as Raymond Branch. Her father obtained an accounting degree and worked a as a shipping and receiving clerk at the university. Her mother worked part time at a bookstore, but also attended a technical college for a while. The small university town they had moved to had barely a whopping 1% Mexican-American population which meant they had little to no Spanish resources. They had to travel to the next big city which was seventy miles away in order to find fitting groceries and Spanish newspapers and magazines. Because she didn’t have the same privileges or immediate access to certain resources, Dora had to teach herself how to read and write in Spanish. Luckily, with the help of her mother’s employee discount at the bookstore, Dora was able to get books written by South American and Mexican authors. She also got help on writing in Spanish through communicating with her relatives in Columbia. She wasn’t exposed to computers until the age of thirteen for a summer school program, unlike Raymond who had immediate access from an early age. When she attended college at the local university, such as Raymond, her father bought her a used word processor he found on a bulletin board at his work. She then transferred to a technical college while working for a cleaning company where she was a translator for her supervisor.
From the study of these two individuals we are able to see the difference in their accessibility to resources. Both Raymond and Dora took it upon themselves to become literate in different fields, however one of them had to go the extra mile in order to be adequately educated. Raymond was a rich, white male who was fortunate enough to have a father who could directly give him the resources he needed in order to succeed. Dora was a female who unfortunately lived in an area that was barely 1% Mexican-American. With such a demographic, it shouldn’t be hard to see why she had a difficult time obtaining resources. Raymond moved to a town where he was the majority; he was guaranteed comfortability and accessibility. Dora had to travel in order to be exposed to the material she needed to be successfully bilingual. Her parents weren’t able to provide her with the resources directly but they equipped her with what they could get their hands on from their jobs. Both individuals had sponsors that allowed them to further develop their literacies, however, one had the advantage of being a privileged, white male.
In class we discussed a bit about what this meant for individuals who were born in areas that didn’t provide them with the resources they need in order to become successfully literate in whatever they choose. This is concerning because this allows for discouragement and mediocrity. Students are not being adequately equipped with the right materials because of their socio-economic status and their place of residence. They are expected to go the extra mile when there are others, simultaneously living in the same area (or even a few minutes away) who are thriving off of their abundance of resources. It’s a dangerous problem that I think contributes to the lack of interest in education in low-income cities that have students who come from minority families.
I come from a low-income, predominately Mexican neighborhood in Los Angeles where we don’t have many resources. It is extremely difficult seeing the disparities in my city and comparing them to the advantages the affluent community 5 minutes away has. It’s discouraging and almost infuriating to see them get the immediate resources they need when there are people just down the hill who probably need them more. We are faced with a struggle that we don’t deserve.
Bio: Sabrina was born in Los Angeles, California and move to Chico about 3 years ago to attend Chico State. She started out as a Psychology major, but eventually found her place as an English Education major. She is also obtaining her TESOL with the hopes of teaching English abroad once she graduates. She enjoys spending time with her friends and finding hidden gems in Chico, whether it be a cool place to eat and drink or shop.