A Response to the Writing, Literacy in Three Metaphors


The word literacy is defined as the ability to read and write or competence or knowledge in a specified area. The very definition of literacy shapes our perception of an individual who falls as either literate or non-literate without delving fully into circumstances that put them into either category. The text defined literacy as a social achievement, but without resources, access or social power literacy cannot be deemed universal.

In working with the Adult Literacy Center over the course of the semester, the forms of literacy that describes what I am doing are Literacy as Adaptation and Literacy as Power. I find that both work hand in hand especially in the cases of the adult learners I have the privilege to interview week after week. While it can be argued that literacy is a social right, often those who are marginalized whether it is by race, social status or the educational system have difficulty attaining the skill that it is left to be described as a private power.

The No Child Left Behind Act was established in 2001, in hopes to close the achievement gap with accountability, flexibility and choice focusing on the development of basic skills. Without setting a national standard states were left to come up with their own previsions on how the new act would be implemented. The variants of criteria would lead to the perpetuation of educational inequalities and differential access as some states would promote functional literacy while other states pushed for achievement levels to go beyond functional but reach college standards over time.

So the question that then should be posed is what is defined as functional literacy? Is functional defined as in the ability to write your name, address and birthday or functional as a means to effectively get a quality job, secondary education or even drive. I think that what would be best is to promote a set of standards that are equal across the board. All communities and cultural groups would have the same functional foundations no matter where they live, who they are and given background.

This is where I believe Literacy as Power comes into play as a relationship between literacy and group or community advancement. For some to be literate is a tool that allows them to be seen as dominant or elite. Those who hold this belief also believe that if a member of poorer class has the resources or access to become literate, they hold just as much power in the world as them if not more. A concept they have a hard time dealing with. The text describes literacy as an instrument for human liberation and social change and to not be literate is to be in a state of victimization.

In many of the interviews that I have conducted there is a universal belief that once they become better learners they will be able to achieve greater things whether it is a better education, better job or set an example for those who look up to them. Yet until they reach that level, most of the adult learners perceive themselves as lacking skills to be the best they can be. Looking at the digital age, I don’t believe the concepts brought forth through the reading have changed. If anything, I believe that they continue to progress as technology in more ways than not has been a progressive tool in widening the gap between the literate and illiterate, while those who are “illiterate” find creative ways to use technology to their advantage.

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