Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Literacy and the Politics of Education

In the article, Literacy and the Politics of Education, written by C. H. Knoblauch, it touches on a deeper understanding about the concept of literacy. One important element that Knoblauch points out is that the idea of literacy is much more than what society usually perceives literacy as: which is simply reading and writing. Another strong point that the article gives is that only those in “power” and who are obviously literate have the ability to set literary standards for society as a whole. The problem is that there are many different circumstances pertaining to literacy for every individual or group of people. Therefore, it is inevitable that many people may not even reach those standards of literacy.
Knoblauch points out that there are four notable kinds of literacy that exist in societies. Those are functional literacy, cultural literacy, personal growth literacy, and critical literacy.
Functional literacy is probably the most familiar type of literacy, especially for modern society. It is literacy in the simplest form in which people use as a necessity. It is the literacy used when people process information. It can stems from reading an instruction manual to sending an email. It is the literacy that exists in the very basic everyday functions for people.
Cultural literacy depends more on the individual or particular groups themselves. It is when cultural values are trying to be passed down to further generations. This type of literacy is also known as traditional literacy because it “includes the awareness of the cultural heritage”. The big argument behind cultural literacy is that the rise of technology has weakened people’s abilities to memorize and hold on to tradition. For instance, since all people have cell phones, it is most likely that those people have lost the ability to remember phone numbers.
The third type of literacy is called literacy-for-personal-growth. This type of literacy is connected to the way humans develop cognitive thinking. It thrives on achievement and power. This type of literacy argues for the sake of literacy itself. It wants individuals to embrace literacy and let their minds wander into their own imaginations.
The last type of literacy noted is called critical literacy. This type stems from the Marxist theory, and is also deemed as a negative in our American society. It is the type of literacy that motivates people to urge for change in their current society. It refutes dominant organizations, and urges that all people have equal opportunities.
After Knoblauch describes these four types of literacy, there is a realization that “no definition tells, with ontological or objective reliability, what literacy is.”


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Thanks for the clarification; it was a pretty tough read for me.

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  4. Thank ye for the summary.