Thursday, May 29, 2008

Critical literacy in a death match with all other forms of education!

Just an attention grabbing headline... fear not! 2 thoughts: 1) "Despite the potential of harnessing these agendas, some teachers' private politics and identity positions may well be conservative or even reactionary and no conducive to interrogating power relations or identity politics. In such cases, textual politics are relatively easier to broach, though the long-term classroom effects and take-up may be limited. Not all teachers want to lead, as Vasquez does, a critically literate life." Barbara Comber being quoted (Larson, 64). - Wow, okay, so does that's depressing, you get the vibe that if a teacher doesn't use this technique that they're a failure. Do you agree with this? Comber seems to really like critical literacy and if you read between the lines seems to have a real disdain for anyone not participating in it. While I think there are some amazing things that Critical Literacy can accomplish, I'm also quite sure that the world has lots of things to offer children, and that this is only one of them. Combers general tone in the questions at the end of the chapter seemed more discouraging than helpful to the numerous teachers out there who are not using (or able, equipped, willing) to use critical literacy. I was disappointed by the tone, it seems that an educator should be more supportive and understanding of alternate perspectives, abilities and strategies of other educators. 2) It seems as though the classroom experience in the larson chapter on Critical Literacy could just as easily have been in the section on Community of Learners. This begs the question: does it really help anyone to classify teaching styles in these ultra theoretical models? If one teaching approach can be classified as multiple models what does it tell us? Shouldn't we really be looking at what makes a good educator and a good educational environment? Aren't the good points of "new literacies" "community of learners" "critical literacy" the use of authentic cultural practices, etc... etc... etc... all fundamentally the same? Aren't they all engaging different learning styles, different brain centers, different perspectives, different time and mode structures? The point should be activating all parts of the human brain from as young an age as possible, these contemporary education models are all basically different ways of trying to diversify the types of stimuli we are exposing and engaging these young brains in. As far as I know, this is about neuronal development and building those neural pathways requires as much and as many different "things" in any given day as a child can be exposed to. Isn't this more useful than fancy names and made up words to describe something much more fundamental? Does this types of scholarship hurt more than it helps? Does it really encourage teachers or does it push more away? Can't even sub-par teachers be reached by a more fundamental understanding than these modern theories seem to have? I think the biggest thing is that we need to keep Ph.D.s employed and the only way to do that is come up with new theories, new big words and new research that quite frankly is just recategorizing what we already know in our hearts to be good and to work. Its wonderful to be trying to escape the "backwards" mindsets of times past and become more reflexive, but we should also remember that our children should not bear our sins. This is education, it is life, it is not a chance for us to atone for the horrors of generations past. Love, excitement, stimulation, hope, opportunity, triumph, failure, information of all sorts, experiences; these fundamental tools exist in all forms of education, the key is have as much and as diverse a sampling as possible no matter what you choose to call it. If a practice can be called critical literacy but looks just like community of learners, why even have the terms?

1 comment:

Lisabeth said...

Jason, thank you for your articulate response. You metion that "while I think there are some amazing things that Critical Literacy can accomplish, I'm also quite sure that the world has lots of things to offer children, and that this is only one of them." -so do you see critical literacy as an optional component of instruction or a necessary component of curriculum among a variety of other essential pieces? Can it not be found throughout instruction?

And can you elaborate on what the 'good points' of critical literacy and community of learners have in common? I view these as two very seperate ideas, and I was wondering what commonalities you feel they share.

I do think this type of language is necessary, because while these ideas represent what we know to be "good" we need to attach language to these ideas and concepts in order to discuss and debate them. I think we are continually broadening the body of knowledge in research in education and I don't think that blanketing all research work into a "recategorization" framework does anyone (teachers or students) any favors.

I agree that learning (in all ways - as a process, practice, or even memorization) is a cognitive process, however, 'what' is being learned is at the heart of the debate for me.

I like this debate - I think we should get class members involved!!