Born to play by your own rules

James Paul Gee and Lisa Delpit, are two highly intelligent people who have helped move the discussion of discourse forward. They have also written some noteworthy things, from Gee’s book “Literacy, Discourse, and Linguistics Introduction” to Delpit’s paper on “The Politics of Teaching Literate Discourse”. The average person will probably never hear about these people in their lifetime. But for those people in a college writing class or are those who conducting a study on discourse or literacy, these people are going to appear often. Gee talks about discourse as an “identity kit”( 7) designed to teach how to do something and how to look in different areas. He later discusses discourse in two different ways, “primary discourse” and “secondary discourse”.

Primary discourse, as Gee explains it, “is the one we first use to make sense of the world and interact with others” (page 7). It teaches us to interact with ourselves and others around us. Secondary discourse, on the other hand, involves being given something and learning from that. Gee simply explains it as, “Each of these social institutions commands and demands one or more discourses and we acquire these fluently to the extent that we are given access to these institutions and are allowed apprenticeships within them” (page 8).

Delpit thoughts on discourse are the complete opposite of Gee. Delpit believes that there are two major problems with Gee’s ideas on discourse. The first is that, “Gee’s notion that people who have not been born into dominant discourse will find it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to acquire such a discourse” (page 546). The second is “the aspect of Gee’s work that will find troubling suggest that an individual who is born into one discourse, it with one set of values may experience major conflicts when acquiring another discourse with another set of values” (page 546-547). Delpit believes even if you weren’t born into primary discourse doesn’t mean that you won’t acquire one.

Delpit and Gee disagree on how to acquire discourse. Both explain in their research ways that discourse is acquired and whether it is done so through interactions with people or from a classroom setting. Gee argues that acquiring a discourse is from “social practices through scaffold and supported interaction with people who have already mastered the Discourse” (page 7), and that a discourse is not mastered from someones typical instruction. However, Delpit believes that though a discourse can be acquired in a classroom setting, there will be those who believe you can’t be taught. She explains that, “If teachers were to adopt both of the premises suggested by Gee’s work, not only would they view the acquisition of a new discourse in a classroom impossible to achieve, but they might also the goal of acquiring a discourse questionable at best” (page 547). Both Gee and Delpit believe that a discourse can be acquired, while Gee supports the idea that it isn’t mastered but that you learn it from someone who has mastered it. Delpit believes that a discourse can be learned so long as you are willing to learn, the opposite what Gee is saying.

Delpit argues that, “Gee’s notion that people who have not been born into dominant discourse will find it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to acquire such a discourse” (page 546). I would agree with this because Gee seems to be saying that if you have nothing, then you are going to born with nothing. Looking at the movie “Bend it Like Beckham”, Jess has to experience this with her family. At first her mother doesn’t like the idea of her playing soccer because she is showing too much skin and is spending too much time on the pitch. But at the end of the movie, Jess realizes that she can do both by finding her discourse and finding the balance. The balance not only comes from the her, it also comes from the family accepting what Jess wants to do.

Gee’s description of a discourse as an identity kit is appropriate because people sometimes look at someone and place limitations on them. But that’s not the case with everyone. An example of this is clear from this movie. When Jess first goes to practice with Juls and she is talking to the coach, she thinks that she is a joke. She didn’t arrive prepared with all the proper equipment and she was dressed in the wrong attire. Then she goes out, demonstrates her ability, and surprises her coach. This example truly shows that you can’t judge people by what they look like because their true identity will show.

Gee explains that primary discourse “is the one we first use to make sense of the world and interact with others” (page 7). This simple sentence has a greater meaning. By taking things and breaking it down into smaller things instead of taking the whole thing head on, it helps someone get a general idea of someone and how they interact. A good example from this can also be found in the movie “Bend it like Beckham” when the father gives Jess permission to leave her sister’s wedding early so that she can go to the soccer match because he knows how much it means to her. Her father also knows that this is the best way that she will interact with people and be herself. The way that this connects with what Gee says is because Jess’s father is making the connection with Jess and interacting with her for the first time since she started playing; he thought she was wasting her time. He also knows that futbol is really important to her and gives her permission to do what she believes is right.

Although Gee and Delpit disagree on how a discourse can be learned, it doesn’t mean that they disagree that learning a discourse is important. Gee’s argument is that a discourse can only be learned from being born with it and that you are unable to learn it from someone who has mastered it is ridiculous. Delpit believes that a discourse can be learned from someone who has mastered it even if you aren’t born with it. I agree with Delpit. Yes, if you aren’t born with something it’s going to take hard work to learn something but it is possible. Anything is possible if you set your mind to it.

Looking back to my life and how soccer is a huge part of my life I can relate to a time in my life that I has seem player that didn’t belong on the field and after a season with a good coach and player that supported him he surprised me. During the last couple years of high school soccer we get new freshmen every year and as a freshmen you’re going to start off scared and not ready to play but they end up surprising me. My senior year we had this sophmore that took my spot at center back and he really didn’t belong there but after a few games and some help from me he added up becoming a huge part of the team and I was able to help take over the rest of the field and help places that really needed it.

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