This is a great discussion piece! It’s thought-provoking, challenging us to think about how we use literacy to front our own agendas, and how we can use it to transform the world.
Many of my favorite authors and educators believe literacy has the power to change the world. Paulo Freire, in particular, drew on his literacy work with the marginalized Brazil for his magnum opus “Pedagogy of the Oppressed.”
So imagine my disequilibrium when I came across a writer who challenged the idea that literacy can lead to a better world—based on the fact that, well, it still hasn’t.
Derek Rasmussen* writes: “It is interesting to note that although we prescribe literacy to the oppressed, literacy has not necessarily cured the oppressor… We say to the supposedly lesser-developed: Literacy will help you build a just society, although it has not done that for us.”
I had to reread that line a few times to make sure I understood what he was saying (go ahead, I had to). And… he makes a good point. Many of us assume that literacy = access to knowledge = better…
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