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Literacy - Essay Example

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Literacy can be defined narrowly, as the ability to understand and create written language. It is, however, frequently defined in two broader senses, and both are included in the present study. First, the scope can be expanded so that written language becomes written language and graphical or pictorial representation…
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Chapter One - Literature review Definitional and conceptual issues Literacy can be defined narrowly, as the ability to understand and create written language. It is, however, frequently defined in two broader senses, and both are included in the present study. First, the scope can be expanded so that written language becomes written language and graphical or pictorial representation. This type of literacy can be viewed as a functional literacy. Second, the skill can be treated as social, rather than psychological; in this view, literacy is the ability to operate a series of social or cultural representations. This literacy is considered to be called critical literacy.
Functional literacy's popularity, that since formulations by UNESCO in the 1940s is based upon the assumption that it is of great practical importance as it enables access to work and economic security. Functional literacy occupies a place at the low extreme of a literacy continuum on which cultural and critical forms of literacy occupy the high extreme. High forms of literacy are associated with high order cognition (abstraction, logical reasoning, simultaneous consideration of several ideas and wisdom beyond knowledge) but significant ideological differences separate cultural literacy and critical literacy (McLaren, 2001). Cultural literacy is a contemporary version of the classical paradigm in that it focusses upon the transmission of mainstream linguistic and cultural knowledge.
Critical literacy is a refinement and extension of the progressive paradigm and is concerned with 'decoding the ideological dimensions of texts, institutions, social practices and cultural forms such as television and film, in order to reveal their selective interests' (McLaren, 2001: p. 213). Within the critical paradigm, attention is given to reading, writing, spelling, grammar, punctuation, speaking, listening, viewing, etc. only in so far as they enable one to use language critically and intentionally to serve one's own purposes.
The term of 'literacy' has been chosen for a number of reasons: first, to delimit the field of enquiry to reading and writing; second, to distinguish the learning of literacy from the subject English as taught in the National Curriculum for England and as a school subject in other countries; third, because as a term (especially in its pluralistic sense of 'literacies') it is both narrowly definable and open to wider interpretation; and fourth, because it allows us to review research that takes place outside formal education, e.g. in homes and other communities in which young people operate. In the studies that follow, I focus on reading and writing (in the broadest senses of those terms). Such delimiting of the focus of our project does not mean that the results will not be relevant to the teaching of literacy in other countries; nor that the research is limited to undertaken in England. On the contrary, the net is spread wide.
Additional bibliography:
McLaren, P. (2001). Culture or cannon Critical pedagogy and the politics of literacy. Harvard Education Review, 58, 2. pp. 213-34. Read More
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