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The diverse faces of critical literacy: only knowledge or also social action?

; Edmonton Vol. 44, Iss. 2,  (Summer 1998): 120.

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This article arises from work done in a graduate seminar on critical and cultural literacy. The key questions are: What does it mean to be literate? and What (in)justice is done in the name of literacy? They are first explored through two examples that were researched during the course (scientific literacy in schools and technological/information literacy in society) and then expressed in the resulting, and still evolving, conceptualization of literacy and its implications. We begin with the stance that literacy is typically placed somewhere along a continuum ranging from viewing literacy as a set of skills to viewing it as a basis for rational and ethical action. We conclude with the issue of transforming literacy critique into ethical action.

Cet article est issue des discussions d'un seminaire gradue sur l'alphabetisation critique et sur l'alphabetisation culturelle. Les questions cles sont: Quelle est la signification d'etre alphabetise? et, Quelle (in)justice commet-on au nom de l'alphabetisation? Ces deux questions se font sondees dans le contexte de deux exemples recherchees pendant un cours qui traitait de l'alphabetisation scientifique dans les ecoles et de l'alphabetisation en information et en technologie dans la societe. Ces deux questions devoilent toujours des notions approfondies de la conceptualisation de l'alphabetisation et ses implications. Nous debutons l'article en situant l'alphabetisation sur un continuum qui, a un bout, percoit l'alphabetisation comme une serie d'habiletes (surtout cognitives) et, a l'autre extremite, comme etant la fondation de l'action rationnelle et ethique. En conclusion, nous traitons de la notion de la transformation de la critique de l'alphabetisation comme etant une action d'ethique.

Literacy is a two-edged sword. It can be repressive or liberating. (Hoyles, 1977, p. 29)

Educated persons, heavily reliant on literacy skills in daily life, usually unquestioningly assume that literacy is both necessary and desirable. It is hard to imagine life without...