Saturday, October 25, 2008

Reading Response Wkshp2.rtf

GLIT 6727
Julia Blushak

October. 24. 2008
Response to Reading – Workshop 2

First, tacit knowledge. And then comes literacy. And somewhere in this progression, the

fortunate reach a level of consciousness that includes self-knowledge, critical thinking,

and social efficacy. The discussions throughout the assigned articles in Workshop 2

piece together arguments for engaged learning for every child/person regardless of class,

sex or colour. But these readings, though informing, presume a level of political and

historical reference on the part of the reader. So, I am compelled to read original sources

to satisfy my own curiousity – for instance, which theory begat which approach, or who

smelled something rotten first and hit the alarm, or at least drew attention to the rot?

As a Canadian I am frustrated again to read texts and socio/economic profiles that

seem remote from the Canadian experience and demographic. Yet the emergence of

global concerns, new waves of immigration, and changing economic markets have

brought the lessons of Paolo Friere and his transnational disciples closer to home.

For me, there is a single theme connecting all the readings, and a line from Friere’s

‘Education for Critical Consciousness’ says it tidily: “for committed behaviour has its

roots in critical consciousness and capacity for genuine choice.” (1973, p. 20)

When teachers, pedagogy, entrenched class structures and political forces stand between

the learner and the tacit knowledge of being his/her own person, the role played by

critical literacy becomes essential. This new understanding for literacy as social agent,

especially for children, is exciting, and definitely related to my interest in creativity for

personal and social agency. It’s interesting to read that the most progressive, elite schools

in fact embrace the use of imagination, play, personal reflection and self-directed

problem-solving, while the schools for the underclass are barely able to hold onto their

students, let alone give them free reign within curriculum. So, using Friere’s notion of

‘critical consciousness’ as theoretical ground, it seems that critical and creative thinking

is possible with literacy apprehension.

The phrase “Language is such a weapon, and what goes with language: reflection,

criticism, renaming, creation” in Adrian Rich’s article ‘Teaching Language in Open

Admissions (1972)” and the line “They live in commerce, not in isolation” from

sociologist Frank Penkin in J. L Stuckey’s article “Literacy and Social Class” seem to

articulate the inward looking and outward looking aspects of literacy with consciousness.

Growth in knowledge and understanding through critical literacy can occur when the core

of a learner is allowed to trust his/her own tacit knowledge. Again, many articles brought

forward the importance of recognizing the very ground and social air that the learner

breathes, that the learner occupies a specific time and place, and uses this awareness for

authenticity of being in the learning process.

So, on an individual level, in grows out. And, on a societal level, out grows up.

Throughout the readings there has been the recognition that each learner-thinker-reader-

writer is a free agent already, entitled to demonstrate, participate, and activate

possibilities within a social network of others with similar possibilities. This recognition

is actually a noble vision that must be crafted within systems of entrenched class bias. I

have often wondered about the subtle and not so subtle attitudes of mistrust between

those who work with their hands and those who work with creative craft or imagination, and the others who work with reason and scientific inquiry. The bias goes several ways

though I’ve met more fair-mindedness and appreciation of the other from those with

more exposure to wider texts and ideas. Knowledge itself has its own class structure and

we must be careful not to sometimes blur away the person within the work through bias

and disrespect.

Equality of means for equality of ends is a fine mission for the teacher of literacy.

The current economic meltdown in the U.S.A. could be demonstration of both the power

and suffering possible through applied and misapplied critical literacy. Those who were

the most literate, confident and true to their sense of entitlement took advantage of those

less advantaged, who in turn, failed to connect the dots and consider they were being sold

down the river instead of the American Dream. If the out is to grow up, there must be an

opportunity for those without means to figure out their own dream and take charge of

their own success. The lessons carried forward through the Workshop readings have

been sobering and yet hopeful in declaring the individual literate learner as the liberating

force in whichever system he/she recognizes as stifling their pursuit of growth and

knowledge. In a day to day application, critical literacy can offset the bad smell of

injustices perpetuated in our educational activities by working to get rid of the source of

oppression within exclusionary and socially biased systems of thought.

Freire, P, Education for Critical Consciousness. New York: Continuum, 1973.

Freire, P, Pedagogy of the Oppressed: New, Revised, Twentieth-anniversary Edition.
New York: Continuum, 1993.

Wkshp2-Rd2(SOQ) WK1.rtf

GLIT 6727
Foundations of Literacy Learning I
Julia Blushak

S. Garland, Therrien, L & Hammonds, K (1988)
Why the Underclass Can’t Get Out of Under (1988)

-notion of rampant poverty in 60’s, 70’s – Vietnam war happened but it was still a time of promise for many ie: pop culture flourished, but ideologies were being uprooted – not aware that blue collar was threatened so much then, as my father enjoyed privilege of working in the USA

-class discussion is more valid in Canadian context today than 20 years ago
-the need for more trained skilled workers is in discussion and worries about Doctor, nurse shortages are real
-hi-tech is everywhere and those without a new kind of literacy need not apply – though training can happen at any level

-how have the times and social supports improved in America over this 20 year period

-how educational systems are embedded within a social/economic fabric – they can be a strong thread or merely a support structure

Colin Lankshear
Reading and Righting Wrongs: Literacy and the Underclass (1989)

-exclusion is so much generated by socio-economic forces – “those excluded have no real way of getting in”

-unusual experience to read this angle from an American--the ‘anti-capitalist’ angle is so blatant and presumes a level of political/economic understanding in the reader around
the ‘big ideas’ at work in society.

-is it possible to train a greater number of teachers with ‘critical literacy’ literacy to make a significant difference/change in society at the classroom level

-the USA has struggled for years with notions of inclusion and exclusion and will continue as the economy shifts again through global market structures