[AAACE-NLA] the list--latest rendition
jons at lacnyc.org
Mon Jun 19 13:04:27 EDT 2006
Let's not forget that "modest progress" in adult literacy is often due
to a lack of time to study. Here in New York State, 47% of adult
education students are employed full-time or part-time. Many of them,
particularly those who are women (60 percent of the student population
in New York), have extensive family responsibilities. Adult learners who
get children ready for school in the morning, rush to a job, work all
day, then do the shopping, fix dinner, do the laundry, and put the
children to bed, have to be highly motivated to enroll in a literacy
class. Thousands are. Even so, family emergencies and other
responsibilities may prevent them from attending every lesson. When they
stay up late to read an article or write an essay, they sacrifice sleep.
Limited time and sheer exhaustion can slow progress as easily as weak
preparation, low self-expectations, or a learning disability.
From: aaace-nla-bounces at lists.literacytent.org
[mailto:aaace-nla-bounces at lists.literacytent.org] On Behalf Of
gdemetrion at msn.com
Sent: Sunday, June 18, 2006 9:57 PM
To: awhitesi at ccsf.edu; National Literacy Advocacy List sponsored by AAAC
Subject: Re: [AAACE-NLA] the list--latest rendition
Thanks for your comments.
A couple, things:
1. I am less the author of this list than compiler and scribe.
Whatever its strengths and limitations, the list, partial as it is, is
an attempt at identifying commonly acknowledged factors contributing to
low English literacy among adults.
2. In the struggle for communicable language I have sought to make a
shift from "causes" to "correlations." From this respect not even
learning disabilities would be a cause, since, apparently, there are
many people with learning disabilities who do not have a problem with
reading. This doesn't even begin to address the matter of LD, or
literacy, for that matter as an intellectual construct, culturally and
historically derived within what might be defined as the ideology of
20th century schooling. I thought it wise, however, not to bring in the
social theories of French philosopher Michel Foucault whose work,
nonetheless, goes very much to the point of what we are discussing. In
any event, with all this aside, I'm looking both at literacy and the
various factories identified in the document as mutually intervening,
and the relationship, therefore, correlational, if I am using this
I've interspersed additional comments within yours.
AW: Forgive me for entering the conversation so late, but I find this
list troubling. For one, as a list, it treats these categories
rhetorically as parallel. But "increasing immigration" is not a cause of
low literacy. Nor are these problems at some level equivant "causes". It
can be argued that failed educational policy causes poverty, but not
GD: See above: The document speaks of correlations and intervening
variables, not direct linear causation.
AW: Second, each category on the list is complex. Not all immigrants who
can't read English have "literacy" problems: some don't speak English,
some read other scripts, some have no schooling but can read, and
others can't read in their first language. Nor do all immigrants make
"Modest progress". Young adults with no schooling often make impressive
gains in Spanish reading in the native language literacy program where I
teach, and go on to study GED in Spanish. But few schools offer native
language programs; at issue is a commitment to teaching reading, not the
motivation or capacity of students to learn.
GD: Your inference about the complexity of literacy is acknowledged, a
topic that I have sought to address in my scholarly publications. The
statement in the document on immigration does not speak about all
immigrants. It says, rather "immigrant groups possess among the lowest
levels of English literacy." Leaving complexities of definition aside
for the moment and the various ways individuals and groups appropriate
literacy in relation to all that they possess as well as perhaps lack,
the reality is that millions of immigrants do have basic difficulty in
mastering both English reading and speech and comprehension to a level
of their own satisfaction, even as many do, in fact, make "modest
progress" even as I am not the one to judge what progress is.
Also, one may take issue with it, but the Proliteracy repot, The Number
of Functionally Illiterate Adults in U.S. is Growing provides
statistical on the incidence of low English literacy on pp. 4-5. Be
advised that I am using the term "literacy" broadly here, to include ABE
and ESOL students. Here's how to access that report:
AW: Finally, you mention "increasing standards for what counts as
literacy". Thirty years of literacy studies have shown that one size
doesn't fit all in terms of reading and writing, that we can't equate
the behavior of a restaurant worker clocking in with that of a college
student writing a paper, even though they both involve computers and
writing; literacy practices are embedded in particular social contexts,
which have different social value. Some people are socialized into these
practices, and some aren't: the college student might perform badly on
many of the tasks of the restaurant worker, and might need help
"reading" the context. What is absent from this list is that with
globalization, there is an increased need for service workers not
factory workers, and a corresponding decreased commitment to education.
GD: I accept your points, even your implicit neo-marxian last sentence.
BTW, this is not a dispersion. Without marxian social and cultural
analysis there would be no basis outside of capitalism to critique
capitalism, so the notion of the "hidden curriculum" implicit in what
you say has more than an element of truth to it. This was got at
indirectly in the discussion on poverty and failed educational policy.
Nonetheless another point could be added to draw out the politics more
explicitly. I encourage you to do that, which then we can add to the
list, but as for me, at least for this project I'm 98% done as I prefer
to focus on my own research. In terms of a more nuanced definition of
literacy, one perhaps based on critical social practices, that's
definitely where I'm coming from in my own scholarship. Nonetheless,
and this is no minor point, in broad terms, given the role of
technology, the increasing informational processing sector of the
workplace, the importance of high school, college, and trade school
credentialism, I think one could reasonably say from a broad-based
societal perspective standards have increased in terms of what counts as
literacy. Of course, the individual is the intervening variable of
major proportions in the determination of one's own literacy needs.
As I say, one can parse this list indefinitely and still not reach
agreement. I do encourage you or anyone else either to work directly
with the list or just to provide short full statements that then can be
added or integrated to the list. To the extent that such feedback
continues to come in on or off list (each me at gdemetrion at msn.com
<msn://@mail.mar@/compose.htm?NW=true&mailto:email@example.com> ) I'll
continue to play my scribal role. Not for to long though as I have
other work to do.
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