LRDG: A tale of two contexts: A discussion of the school literacies of the Old Colony Mennonites

Date: 6 November 2012 Time: 1 - 2 pm

Venue: C89, County South

Talk by Wendy Crocker (University of Western Ontario/ Canada):

Mexico - home to many Old Colony Mennonites. The purpose of this discussion is to unpack themes that I have distilled from the photo and audio data collected during my research trip. I travelled to the Mennonite colonies in Mexico to observe first-hand the school literacy practices of the Old Colony (i.e., Low German speaking Mennonites or LGM). Members of this transnational culture travel annually between their homes on the campos or colonies near Cd. Chihuahua, Mexico, into southwestern Ontario, Canada in search of employment as agricultural workers. This migration has been occurring since the 1950`s and while it is not as evident as in previous decades, the number of Old Colony children in Ontario public schools still waxes and wanes with the seasons. While in Mexico, these children also attend school but have very different school experiences and literacies (New London Group, 1996) than when they are in Ontario. The purpose of this discussion is to present my data using a multiliteracies (Cope & Kalantzis, 2008) perspective in light of Street's (1984) models of literacy. I ask: How do the school literacy practices of Old Colony Mennonite students in Mexico compare with those of the same children while in Ontario schools?

In this discussion of school literacy (i.e., reading and writing; Purcell-Gates et al, 2004) practices that privilege print (i.e., reading and writing; Kress, 2003), I draw on my experience as a participant-observer during my recent visit to the Old Colony schools in Cuauhtémoc, Mexico. My data presents an interesting juxtaposition of the school literacy practices of the LGM when at home in Mexico and what they experience when in Ontario schools. I propose that each site takes up a similar autonomous view of literacy (Street, 1984); one that privileges different languages (Martin-Jones & Jones, 2000) and uses of literacy. As I continue to unpack my thinking around this unique research experience, I am considering how the LGM students negotiate the power structures underpinning their demonstrations of literacy from the prevue of the government (in Ontario) to the responsibility of the Gemeinde (in Mexico), an area developed more deeply in my larger doctoral study.

Event website:


Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Associated staff: Karin Tusting (Linguistics and English Language)

Organising departments and research centres: Educational Research, Lancaster Literacy Research Centre, Linguistics and English Language

Keywords: Literacies, Literacy learning, Multilingualism