September 22, 2006

The Many Meanings of Literacy

Literacy is not a word I commonly use. I guess I've never really stopped to think about the many things it can mean. Even though it isn't quite the truth, when I use the word literate it is usually as a part of illiterate. Example: I am usually stating that I am computer illiterate. Here is a prime example of one of the ways we can be illiterate. For the most part, that is not what we are focusing on. It was stated in the selection What is Literacy? that literacy is related to success. While I can still succeed with a slightly lower knowledge than some as far as computers go, for the most part I am still in a position where I can complete tasks. For example, I did write and post this blog. Now I guess what we should really ask ourselves is how can illiteracy prevent us from success? How can is hinder our daily interactions? I was volunteering at my assigned position when a young man asked a director a question. He couldn't read the monitor of his computer, so he was having trouble completing the assigned task. He couldn't operate the computer even if he could have read the monitor. We all have trouble with our homework on occasion, but how often does it come to a point where it becomes difficult to complete our work. How often does the work make a huge impact on our lives? Usually it doesn't. For this young man who couldn't read, it was a big deal. The document he was working on was his FAFSA. I'm assuming most are familiar with it. How important was it to fill out before you came to college? Just imagine what life would be like if you were illiterate....

What Is Literacy?

For me this article meant a lot. I really understood and took to heart what it was talking about. As Robinson says, "We use the word literacy so often, and the related words literate and illiterate so easily, that it is hard for us to think of them as problematic terms-and yet they are." Robinson continues to say that "the words denote either absolute or at least easily identifiable states: one can read or one cannot; one can write or one is left with speech only." To me, these explanations are very simple. It makes sense that either one can read or not and that one can write or not. However, Robinson says that we have to use the terms "carefully and with consequence, as labels for people, the terms must be qualified carefully."

Later on in the article Robinson says, "literacy is precious when it is put to uses that are worth valuing." He also says, "to be reflectively literate in a humanely literate society is to understand that the term illiterate does not name an absence or a disability, but a place in the world in which one's actions have been both limited and limiting." Those quotes mean a lot and I think it is important for us to understand and live our lives by them. Just because someone cannot read, doesn't necessarily mean that they are illiterate. However, it does mean that they have had limits to how they can live their life. I think we need to understand this and use this concept when we go out and do our service learning.

Problems with Literacy in America

I though that the two readings, “What is literacy� and “The Banking Concept of Education�, were very insightful. I think that the first reading can be easier related to the situation of the American literacy problem today, while the second one was more an interpretation of a global literacy problem that I can’t personally relate to as much.

The first reading brought up some good points. The fact that literacy is not a cut and dry definable thing is true. It is very hard to distinguish who is literate and how or why they came to be that way. It reminded me of when the AVID speaker came to present to our class and said that 70% of the St. Paul Schools are minority and 80% have free & reduced lunch. These are the schools where there is no money for an improved program and therefore the gap of poverty, literacy, and the quality of education grows. Subsequently, the majority of people in the St. Paul area who have money and are mostly white send their kids to private schools while the people who cannot afford it are forced to send their children to a public school with a lower chance of success. This is not to say that all public schools are bad or that kids do not succeed in them, but if you look at the facts I’m sure there is a higher drop out rate and lower test score average at these public schools than the private ones. This exemplifies what the article states that the opportunity to become literate and consequently successful is not always presented to many American citizens.
One quote I found interesting was after stating that a literate community was a privileged one, "With privilege should come an obligation to ask questions: Is our community a closed or an open one?" This to me this presents a demand to the people who can read and write, that are considered "literate", to open this privilege and try to extend it to everyone that they can.

As far as the second reading goes, I just would like to touch on a few points. At first when I read it, "The Banking Concept" seemed almost outrageous. If it actually is in true practice, it is a ridiculous form of educating. But as the article continues the suggestions of the "problem-posing" education made much more sense. One quote I thought was good was the following, "... men know themselves to be unfinished; they are aware of their incompletion. In this incompletion and this awareness lie the very roots of education as an exclusively human manifestation." I think this quote symbolizes a state of mind that all humans know they can further themselves. And it is my opinion that a "problem-posing" education is the way to do that.

A View on the "Banking Concept of Education"

After reading the first pages of Paolo Freire’s, “The Banking Concept of Education� I jumped to the same conclusion as Kate; that the beginning points were very similar to the article “Understanding Service.� Just like the volunteer has to understand that he or she is not only servicing them, but that he or she will get something back from those he or she helps, the teacher is not only teaching the student, but also learning from the students.

I am surprised that many people said that they felt their high school education was along the lines of “The Banking Concept of Education.� Maybe it was because I came from a small school, but I felt that my high school experience was anything but that, and that my experience at college so far has been closer along those lines. Teachers were not just depositing me with information. They were preparing my peers and me for going off to college and the real world. Whatever choice you made they supported you in your pursuits, by writing letters of recommendations, talking to you about decisions on whether to join an honors program, or anything else you needed help with. After we took the AP test my calculus teacher said we could study anything we wanted, as long as it was practical and applied to math. The next week he had brought in a bunch of financial documents, and was talking about setting up savings plans and other helpful financial stuff that will come in handy in the future, like getting a black mark on your credit rating and what a credit score is composed of. So far in college, I seem to find myself sitting in a classroom with hundreds of other students watching a power point on meiosis. What is that teaching me about the real world? If anything, those experiences have come from outside the classroom.

"Thoughts on Literacy"

Literacy is, in simple terms, the ability to read and write. However, this article has many different definitions of literacy. To me, literacy would be the ability to communicate through all means(writing, speaking, reading) in a specific community. Therefore, literacy would have slightly different meaning depending on the community. For example, lets take the city of Miami(Little Havana). A large percentage of the population is Cuban and many do not speak perfect English. Our government would look at this population as illiterate. Although, I don't think this is fair because it isn't necessary to speak perfect English in a community such as this. A Spanish-speaking resident could communicate just fine in Miami without even knowing any English.
Literacy has been a very important issue as of late and the media has portrayed it as a major problem that must be fixed. In response, President Bush has tried to gain support for this issue through his "No Child Left Behind" campaign. Campaigns like these have been pushing the idea that it isn't possible to have a good future if a child isn't well educated. Although literacy is always a positive thing, it isn't necessary in every society. Not every illiterate child has become a failure similar to what these campaigns have demonstrated.
My main point in this argument is that literacy is important and it's a good thing that the media and government are encouraging improvement. However, I believe that the media's view on literacy isn't quite correct. Literacy is important, but isn't vital to success in every part of our country.

September 21, 2006

What is Literacy?

by Kathryn Grayson
When I learned about literacy in my early years, it never seemed this complex. I always just thought you were literate if you could read or write. Now our society has added so much more to the meaning. You can be computer illiterate or other differnt kinds of iliterate. There are alot of things I read and have no idea what i just read and wouldnt be able to explain it to someone else, so does that make me iliterate? I wouldnt be able to "effectively function" in a conversation about that topic. I just cant believe how the world has changed so much since the seventeen hundreds. Our criteria for being literate keeps rising and rising. There is alot that we are expected to live up to now and so the literacy rates, which links to poverty rates, crime, ect. are also going to keep rising.
I agree alot with the second article The Banking Concept of Eductaion. In grade school and highschool we go to school and memorize all day. Its not all the teachers fault, we had to go to school because we were forced. We we there to "get" a education and not to "recieve" one. This concept i believe doesnt agree with college students. College students are here to pursue an education because they want to succeed in our work force. We no longer can just make it if we memorize the material. We have to analaze and get involved with the material to really understand what were doing and to succeed. I believe in the early years of school there should be more problem posing questions like Paolo says. That way we are learning how to expand our minds at a young age and be able to hold even more knowledge through discovery rather than memorization.

literacy and learning

After I read the first reading, "What is Literacy", I realized that I had never thought of how far we have come in terms of how we as a society view people as literate or not. Today's schools are pushing kids further than ever before. Even preschoolers are being pushed to learn how to read and write even before kindergarten. In a way its good, but I almost think we are pushing our little ones too much. What happened to just playing? Now almost every toy has something to "teach" them. It might be good that we have the brains to learn at such a young age, but we might be going a little too far. Some children don't develop as fast as others and it probably scares parents when some kids are so advanced while others are struggling to catch up. nd the thing we forget is that it's ok to learn slower.
On the opposite end, it's funny how we push our children yet we accept far less for ourselves. I heard in school recently that anything you see published to the general public is written at the fifth grade level. Anything higher could be too hard for the average American to understand. To me, that's really sad. I understand that immigrants might have a hard time and thus it could be justified, but this is also for the people who have lived here and spoke English their entire lives. We expect so much of our kids but we fail to educate ourselves enough to even help our children when the have homework questions.
The second reading was very interesting to me. I definitely recognized that I was taught that way for most of my life. I was fortunate enought to have a few teachers at my school who did try to teach throught the question-posing way. However, there was still a superiority complex amoung all of them where they probably never expected to learn anything from us. I do agree with the author when he says that the banking style is a form of oppression. When students are discouraged from questioning their education, they aren't a threat for change in the future. And in turn, the teacher's competence is not questioned either. In order for the next generation to make the world better, they must be given a good place to question the knowledge we have because otherwise, social change would never come. I guess this relates to our recent definition of literacy because we must be able to read and think about the information we have in order to better ourselves and the world.

What is literacy?

After reading the two artciles there were a couple of things that really stuck out to me. The first was in the article What is Literacy? The part where they said that in the seventeenth century one was considered literate if they could read aloud and answer certain questions about what they read and also if they could sign their own name. Also, the one main form of literacy was the Bible. How times have changed! Now in order to be considered literate or even just a good reader you have to be able to whip through pages at lightning speed. Back in the old days the requirements were so much easier but at the time they seemed really hard.

In the second article I could really relate. All my highschool career I felt like I was just supposed to memorize the entire text book, every bolded word and italicized phrase. College is kind of a refresher, you get a lot more time to just take things in and learn. (Except when you're taking notes so fast you think you're going to die.) It's also a lot more hands on. I still feel like I'm memorizing tons of information but from the lectures I feel like it's being explained a little more.

September 20, 2006


To me, the definition of literacy has always been pretty simple. The ability to read. But after reading the assigned articles, I realize that there is such a wider definition. I never really knew how many people couldn’t read, but that is because no one talks about it, the general public doesn’t know all the facts, which contributes to many of our prejudices. The word “illiterate� has a huge impact on me, because I cannot even imagine what it would be like to be unable to read. To me, literacy has formed a huge part of who I am. (Also, in the beginning of the article “What is Literacy?� I think the second definition of the word really cheapened it.) The fact that urban schools don’t have the same level of education that suburban schools have is no surprise, America has always afforded the rich with more opportunities, even in a “neutral� setting.

“The Banking Concept of Education� was also very mind opening in several ways. I completely agree with Paolo Freire’s description of how the teacher “narrates� and the student is the “container�. Throughout my elementary, middle and high school experience, I definitely felt as if my only role was to temporary memorize information and then forget it to make room for the next week’s lesson. A quote from this article that seems to have definite scholarly weight is “Yet only through communication can human life hold meaning. The teacher’s thinking is authenticated only by the authenticity of the student’s thinking. The teacher cannot think for his student, nor can his impose his thoughts on them. Authentic thinking, thinking that is concerned with reality, does not take place in ivory tower isolation, but only in communication�. This ties in with our society not talking about the problems with literacy and education. In all, communication is what ultimately decides the outcome of a civilization.

Questions for both readings

Some food for thought, think about all of them but it’s not necessary to answer them all, we’ll be discussing the most popular ones in class…
What is Literacy?
When you first saw the title of the article “What is Literacy�, what was your initial impression of what literacy meant?

What effects do the labels of ‘literate’ and ‘illiterate’ have on members of our society and society in general?

How is it conceivable for our nation to exist when one-third of the population can be considered illiterate?

In your opinion, do you think schools have failed, and what constitutes a successful school?

After finishing the reading, how do you think illiteracy compares to poverty, crime, and other issues that prevent our nation from being unified?

The Banking Concept of Education

Have you ever heard of this concept before and can you say you completely agree or disagree on all the points made?

In the beginning of his argument, Freire uses the example of a teacher drilling “Four times four is sixteen� into a student’s head instead of attempting to make the student understand what this really means…in this instance do you think teachers need to change, and do you have other instances of when students should or shouldn’t be ‘receptacles’??

What is your take on the teacher-student, student-teacher equivalency relationship, do you think it should or can be achieved?

In terms of the previous article, if illiteracy is such a concern, would teachers do more detriment than good if they continued teaching in terms of ‘the banking concept of education’?

Finally, what are ways teachers can use the problem-posing method over the banking concept and have you yourself witnessed an effective teaching technique by a former teacher?

Summary of: What is Literacy?

Continue reading "Summary of: What is Literacy?" »

"The Pedagogy of the Oppressed" by Paulo Freire

Paulo Freire shares a very interesting point of view in Chapter 2 of his
work “The Pedagogy of the Oppressed.� He discusses the oppressive nature of
the banking concept in education. The banking concept includes the idea
that “Narration (with the teacher as narrator) leads the students to
memorize mechanically the narrated account. Worse yet, it turns them into
"containers," into "receptacles" to be "filled" by the teachers. The more
completely she fills the receptacles, the better a teachers she is. The
more meekly the receptacles permit themselves to be filled, the better
students they are.� In more simple terms, the teacher is merely filling the
minds of students with information. The more they fill their minds, the
better a teacher they are. Students are better students if they can let
their minds be filled with more information.

The problem with this, Freire says, is that it brings a lack of creativity
and free-thinking to young people. This carries over to a society of adults
that lacks the ability to think for themselves or question anything. He
reinforces that the banking concept leads to an oppressive society as a
whole. Some of the practices of the banking concepts, he says, are “The
teacher teaches and the students are taught. The teacher knows everything
and the students know nothing. The teacher thinks and the students are
thought about. The teacher talks and the students listen- meekly. The
teacher disciplines and the students are disciplined. The teacher chooses
and enforces his choice, and the students comply. The teacher acts and the
students have the illusion of acting through the action of the teacher. The
teacher chooses the program content, and the students (who were not
consulted) adapt to it. The teacher confuses the authority of knowledge
with his or her own professional authority, which she and he sets in
opposition to the freedom of the students. The teacher is the Subject of
the learning process, while the pupils are mere objects.� All these ideas,
he says, lead to the lack of creativity of individuals in an oppressive

Freire states that a better, alternative form of education is
problem-posing education. This means that “through dialogue, the
teacher-of-the-students and the students-of-the-teacher cease to exist and
a new term emerges: teacher-student with students-teachers. The teacher is
no longer merely the-one-who-teaches, but one who is himself taught in
dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught also teach. They
become jointly responsible for a process in which all grow.� In other
words, education is not just a one-way street. Teachers learn from students
just as much as students learn from teachers. This, to a certain extent,
corresponds with the first article we read: “Understanding Service.� In
that article, we discussed the idea of service benefiting both the server
and the person being served. Basically, Freire says, it should be that way
in education as well.