Does Literacy Divide?

JBacchus's picture

A little cliché to find meaning and thus struggle in the first sentence of a class reading (and I find I am not alone in this based on two notecards in my Ghana study), but in Literacy and Diversity Lemke explains that “the forms of literacy should be as diverse as are the interests and purposes of people in our society”. This idea first began my thought process of the many different types of literacies that can exist: “cultural” literacy, literacy regarding a certain academics (such as being literate in physics), literacy for a language (fluent in English), and even literacy for certain abilities. My second thought actually came from my friend, who on her notecard wrote the thought that if literacy should be diverse, then literacies would possibly separate people. I did not give much thought to this until I read numerous tweets regarding how some people were struggling with Twitter because they did not understand the “literacy” of it (the character limit, remembering how to respond to someone or more than one someone, attempting to follow a conversation). As only a few people in our class had a Twitter before the course started, and were thus not as “literate” with Twitter as Alice or the few others who already had accounts, would this not separate our class? If the purpose of the Twitter hashtag was to generate thoughtful discussion amongst all students, if half the students were literate at Twitter and the other half were not, would the second half not be left behind in confusion and lack of understanding? Perhaps, a lack of learning and making meaning? The same can possibly be said for any form of literacy – if literacy is a way to effectively communicate, then having multiple literacies could potentially hinder this communication.

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alesnick's picture

does literacy separate people?

This post sets us up well to consider Gee's "What is Literacy" tomorrow.  Gee defines literacy as inherently ideological and oriented to power struggles between people and groups of people.  So one answer to your question about whether literacy divides is yes!  On the other hand, can we grow stronger in handling multiple literacies so that we help people (including ourselves) to negotiate among them rather than to accept some and invalidate others? To explore!

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