Friday, May 30, 2008

May 29 Blog

The readings for this week provided a wealth of information, ranging from the historical development of literacy to Paulo Freire's “Pedagogy of the Oppressed.” These readings demonstrate the complexity and multiple aspects of reading and writing. For instance, Freire was able to implement a highly successful literacy program that challenged the political status quo. Freire's approach encourages the pupil to constantly examine their place in society. Central to this educational pedagogy was the need for critical reflection. One may be able to read, but reading without critical commentary or understanding accomplishes nothing. It is only by dissecting the reading, i.e. How it relates to society or how it reflects on the author or the reader, that one will gain authentic literacy. This is a crucial concept as literacy is just about the ABC'S, but the continuing development of the individual to his full potential. Friere's emphasis on critical reflection can be found in the theories that emerged to contest the dominant view of literacy as a series of scientifically managed steps. The beliefs of Parker and Dewey certainly encouraged the development of critical thinkers. These theories of critical literacy recognized the need to utilize the wide array of literacy resources, including students themselves, to actively engage students. Only students who are involved on a personal level will take the next step towards critical reflection and thinking. Therefore, the issue is not how to teach literacy but how to gain the student's attention towards reading and writing. Should teachers merely wait for the student to request help, as advocated by Dewey? Should teachers impose a curriculum designed to spark this involvement, or should the teacher work with the students to find topics and texts that will truly engage the entire class? Much has been made of the many methods and theories to developing literacy in the classroom. We have seen the application of scientific management principles to the instruction of reading and writing, as well as countering proposals supporting the development of critical literacy. Regardless of one's personal feelings on the subject, it is clear that there is no one-way to teach reading and writing. Some kids will undoubtedly benefit from the basal readers, while other children will flourish in a classroom that adopts a whole language approach. The reality is that teachers cannot expect to impose a top-down system of literacy; since every child learns differently, it is incumbent upon teachers to adapt their classrooms and instructional styles to met these individual needs. This does not mean that every child should have its own teacher for reading and writing, rather, teachers need to be cognizant of these unique needs and maintain flexibility to incorporate the variety of literacy theories. There are any number of literacy resources available to the teacher, be it the students themselves, state textbooks, or even members of the outside community. Thus, the teacher needs to discover what resources and theories will best stimulate students to actively engage and critically discuss literacy.

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