NLA Discussion: Volunteers
AndresM at NMAIL.EPCC.EDU
Wed Apr 30 12:36:14 EDT 1997
This is in response to both the message ["Role of Literacy in Summit on
Service," posted by Alice Johnson] and to comment on the president's Literacy
initiative to have a bunch of volunteers providing Literacy services.
I know that my next comments may offend some people but I have been
thinking about them for a long time:
Whenever anyone talks about literacy initiatives we immediately begin
making reference to volunteers and volunteerism. I am personally terribly
offended by this. While most people consider Literacy as something
anyone can participate in, I consider Literacy as a highly evolved
paradigm with its own sub paradigms, idiosyncracies, nuances,
peculiarities and particularities. I have been working in this field for
exactly 10 years and 7 months; and I study extensively, and I do not
consider myself an expert in the field yet. However, I feel that I have a
much more thorough grasp of the field than most people. Therefore, I am
utterly offended when either the president, the secretary of education,
Laubach, Literacy Volunteers of America, NIFL, NCAL or anyone else
makes suggestions to get a bunch of volunteers to do something that I
am not yet sure of who to do. In fact, most lay volunteers do not even
know what words like pedagogy and andragogy mean.
I am submitting some analogies for comparison. Whenever someone talks
about improving the delivery of medical services, nobody mentions that
we are going to have 1,000,000 volunteers by the year 2,000 taking care
of patients. When NASA talks about their programs they do not make
reference to getting volunteers to help build the space shuttle. When we
address the need to improve the work of air traffic controllers nobody
makes references to volunteers.
I am sure nobody would go to a hospital if you knew that several doctors
were volunteers, recruited by Laubach (many of them senior citizens).
Nobody would fly if a single air traffic controller was a volunteer
recruited by the "Air Traffic Controllers Volunteers of America". Do you
all get my point?
Please do not get me wrong, I think that there is room for volunteers in
any field. Often, graduate engineering students work for NASA and
Medical doctors have to work for three years as residents. I would be
totally in favor of using graduate students in Education to do volunteer
work under close supervision. However, making the bulk of the field, or
an entire initiative dependent on volunteers is totally absurd.
The field of medicine, the field of aeronautical engineering and many
other fields definitely need improvements. Patients are still dying and
airplanes and space shuttles are still falling. Yet, we spend fortunes to
get the most consummate professionals work in and make
recommendations about these fields.
According to the results of the NALS the field of literacy is not doing so
either. Further, we do not need to look at the NALS to conclude this
anyway. Many adults are sill not able to read or write and we do not yet
know who to prepare them or even reach them (both geographically and
emotionally). Yet, the president of this country, who appears to have a
somewhat progressive view on education, suggests solving literacy
problems with a bunch of volunteers. Pleeaseeee!!!!!
Could someone make sure that the president and the secretary of ed and
everyone in the USDE get this message.
Andres Muro <AndresM at NMAIL.EPCC.EDU>
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