NLA Discussion: Adult literacy education a Constitutional Right?
cb.king at verizon.net
Tue Apr 10 12:29:45 EDT 2001
Kathleen and Angela Hock:
About our students' (1) franchise, and (2) their ability to vote
intelligently, to understand their own political culture more
comprehensively, and hence be participatory citizens, . . .
Adult educators know this fact: Though no one is formally or
legally kept from the poles because of illiteracy, without literacy
and basic education, our-their franchise is, in fact, and for all
intents and purposes, null and void, especially for those who
have been brought up in an already marginalized environment
where nothing is an invitation to participate, and everything public
or printed is a threat to your existence.
Angela, the fact that someone has to write a book about
participating in the democratic process, and that it should be
read by many of us so that we can understand our "franchise"
in the larger sense of not just voting but participating, speaks
to the complexities and the social, psychological, political and
just-plain demographical barriers we must cross in order be
involved in what this book, and others like it, is talking about.
This is part of the unknowing "classism" I am talking about:
If someone is raised in a group-family that is already actively
involved, this person will have a basic model to follow from
childhood. And this model (and many others) is taken on
very early on and
(1) stepped into like a glove in adulthood, and
(2) unwittingly projected onto others, as if everyone has shared
in these positive experiences when they, in fact, haven't. Their-
our own experience is an illusion when we operate under the
assumptions that others have our experience. This is a common
human problem, but becomes **institutional** when it effects
policies and practices at the level of political power.
It's a different glove for many of our adults. Our glove (ingrained
assumptions forged in childhood we take with us into adulthood)
is the assumption that we have no place in that dialogue--there is
a blank place in what should be a modeling participatory experience,
. . . and so literacy and continuing education, where it is assumed as
a part of the mental landscape at the foundations of a more
fortunate person's basic experience of the world, for others
participation equates to building a whole new political life where
there is **nothing** or worse--negative, fearful experiences, to
re-form and build on.
This dimension of classism, in part, is what I think we must get
over when dealing with our communications with legislators.
Not **all** legislators, nor do I mean **all** students have a
negative experience here, but I think it safe to say that this dynamic
of vastly different political inheritances is a big part of it.
The "franchise" is only on paper for these people, and they
cannot "read" it.
It's not just me, but a whole tradition of folks have thought that
there is in fact **no franchise** without literacy and education, and
that, without these things, a democracy is seriously threatened--from
a degeneration from within--because (1) many-most illiterate,
less educated adults do not participate, and (2) when-if we do
participate, a democracy has a better chance with people who are
involved in the dialogue and know themselves as political beings.
This last thing has become so much more important since (1) our
ability to communicate has increased so much, and (2) we can no
longer afford to foster cloistered, provincial people who pay no
attention to political affairs in both the local and the international
arena. Need I mention the China debacle.
At the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin
was asked, "What have you wrought?" and he answered,
" . . . a Republic, if you can keep it."
Best to all,
----- Original Message -----
From: Catherine King <cb.king at verizon.net>
To: <nla at world.std.com>
Sent: Tuesday, April 10, 2001 4:06 AM
Subject: NLA Discussion: Adult literacy education a Constitutional Right?
> Kathleen says: "The state literacy tests in order to vote were
> thrown out by the Supreme Court because they were
> used to exclude large numbers of black voters. Literacy is
> not a prerequisite for voting, nor should it be."
> We are not talking about making laws that say you have
> to know how to read **in order to be allowed to vote.** What
> we are talking about is saying that people who can read
> and write, and be on the road to all the other understanding
> that goes along with that, are **better able to vote** be
> politically aware, and to participate. They can't do that
> if they cannot even read the Constitution and the Bill of
> Rights for themselves.
> We need to have legislation (and perhaps a whole new way
> of looking at adult education now) that speaks to the education
> of people who **already have the franchise.** We are not talking
> about legitimating the franchise through reading. We are talking
> about educating participatory democratic citizens so that they
> can and will participate under their own literate and political
> power afforded to them through literacy and continuing education.
> Hope things are good in El Paso.
> Catherine King
> - Original Message -----
> From: <KathleenBombach at aol.com>
> To: <nla at world.std.com>
> Sent: Monday, April 09, 2001 5:25 PM
> Subject: NLA Discussion: Adult literacy education a Constitutional Right?
> > > Kathleen Bombach
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