Rebecca Powell

Rebecca Powell

Literacy as a Moral Imperative

This brings us full circle to our original discussion of literacy as a national priority.  Given that we accept the arguments presented thus far that (1) literacy is both socially and culturally constructed, and therefore (2) our conceptions of literacy include ways of speaking and behaving within particular contexts, and not just the ability to produce and understand written texts (i.e., a discourse), how then is literacy being defined in national discussions concerning a literate populace? Page 13

Underlying Value Assumptions of Schooled Literacy

(1)    There are  certain discourses that are more literate than other discourses, and therefore are inherently superior;25

                …it (literacy) has emphasized superficial features of language, thereby denying access to the     linguistic experiences that would enable the acquisition of secondary discourses. 29

(2)    Borrowing conventions from science and technology will result in superior instructional programs and practices;25

An emphasis on scientific, objective ways of knowing has led to the prevalence of a medical model approach to dealing with literacy problems

Students who lag behind in their written language development are often thought to be in need of a thorough diagnosis, followed by an appropriate treatment.32

(3)    Literacy instruction and research can-and ought to be-neutral (reading and writing are processes that can be removed  from their actual functions) 25

Confronting the issues of neutrality calls us to become critical by interrogating the ways in which our own ethnocentric biases determine the very questions we ask about literacy instruction, as well as how we go about seeking answers to those questions. 36-37

As a result of preoccupation with managed curricula, meaningful dialog that might lead students and teachers to consciously reflect on their own perspectives and values gets omitted in favor of covering course objectives and simply “getting through the textbook.” 42

A proper literacy demands that both students and educators learn how to “read the world” at the same time they “read the word” (Freire and Macedo 1987), and that the word be a part of their own lived experience. 54

I suggest that democratic participation can be realized in classrooms by accommodating multiple perspectives through the use of genuine dialogue and through the incorporation of multicultural/multiethnic texts. 75

Teachers and students are challenged to interrogate their cultural assumptions and to examine their ideological perspectives by becoming coparticipants in investigating the dynamics of cultural production and power.94

I suggest that the transformative potential of a critical, proper literacy will be diminished unless it is mitigated by an ethic of compassion and care.  Our vision for transformation must be a moral one-one that is driven by a goal of equity and that nurtures a collective social consciousness. 121

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