Paulo Freire’s Critical Literacy • “From the beginning, we rejected…a purely mechanistic literacy program and considered the problems of teaching adults how to read in relation to the awakening of their consciousness…we wanted a literacy program which would be an introduction to the democratization of culture, a program with human beings as its subjects rather than as patient recipients, a program which itself would be an act of creation, capable of releasing other creative acts, one in which students would develop the impatience and vivacity which characterize search and invention.” (Freire, 1972: 43)
Critical Literacy Pedagogy According to Paulo Freire: • Literacy education should be concerned with raising the critical consciousness of the learner. • Dialogue is the heart of learning and that teachers and students should participate in dialogic discourse if meaningful learning is to occur. • Teaching should recognize students’ prior knowledge and exhorted educators to avoid banking models of education.
Critical Literacy Basics: • All texts are constructions. What is written is the product of many decisions and determining factors. Much of our view of reality is based on messages that have been constructed in this way, with the author’s attitudes, interpretations and conclusions already built into the text. *adapted from Ontario Ministry of Education, 2008, pp. 34–36
Critical Literacy Basics: • All texts contain belief and value messages. Whether oral, print or visual media, texts contain messages which reflect the biases and opinions of their authors/creators; whether intentionally manipulative or not, this means that no text can be neutral or value free. *adapted from Ontario Ministry of Education, 2008, pp. 34–36
Critical Literacy Basics: • Each person interprets messages differently. Demographic factors such as age, culture, gender and socio-economic status as well as prior experience and knowledge play a role in how we interpret a message. *adapted from Ontario Ministry of Education, 2008, pp. 34–36
Critical Literacy Basics: • Texts serve different interests. Most media messages are created for profit or to persuade, but all texts are produced intentionally for a purpose. These interests can be commercial, ideological or political. *adapted from Ontario Ministry of Education, 2008, pp. 34–36
Critical Literacy Basics: • Each medium develops its own “language” in order to position readers/viewers in certain ways. Whether TV program, website or novel, each medium creates meaning differently and each has distinctive techniques, conventions and aesthetics. *adapted from Ontario Ministry of Education, 2008, pp. 34–36
Critical Literacy Pedagogy • "Our job is not to produce ‘readings’ for our students, but to give them the tools for producing their own … Our job is not to intimidate our students with our own superior textual production; it is to show them the codes upon which all textual production depends and to encourage their own textual practice". Scholes, R., (1985)Textual power : literary theory and the teaching of English, New Haven, Conn. ; London : Yale University Press
Engaging with Critical Literacy in the Classroom Types of questions: • What could be the assumptions behind the statements? • How do you think the author understands reality? What could be shaping his/her understanding? • Who decides (what is real, can be known or needs to be done), in whose name and for whose benefit? • What could be the implications of his/her claims (past/present/future: social, environmental, economic, etc…)? • How could these statements be interpreted differently in different contexts? • What are the sanctioned ignorances (blind spots) and contradictions?
Engaging with Critical Literacy in the Classroom • Focus: assumptions, knowledge production, power, representation and implications • Aim: to develop reflexivity (ability to perceive how assumptions are constructed) • Language: is ideological and constructs reality • Reality: Exists, but is inaccessible (in absolute terms) – we have only partial interpretations constructed in language • Knowledge: Always partial, context dependent (contingent), complex and dynamic
Methodology • There is no single or simple or unified approach to critical literacy….And that may be what sets approaches to critical literacy apart—they don’t purport to provide a universal, incontestable, scientific answer about how to teach. Instead, they very deliberately open up a universe of possibilities, of possible critical readings, critical reading positions and practices.” • Luke, Allan (2004). Foreward. in McLaughlin, M. and Devoogd, G. (2004). Critical Literacy: Enhancing students’ comprehension of text. New York, Scholastic.
* Karen Spector and Stephanie Jones. Constructing Anne Frank: Critical Literacy and the Holocaust in Eighth-Grade : Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, Vol. 51, No. 1 (Sep., 2007), pp. 36-48
Michael J. Michell • Teaching for Critical Literacy: An Ongoing Necessity to Look Deeper and Beyond • We can help students investigate the ways in which they are manipulated. They can become critically literate consumers of the media. They can engage with and focus on current issues. We can help them problematize the world so they think about their role in it and what they can do to shape its future directions. Michell, Michael. Teaching for Critical Literacy: An Ongoing Necessity to Look Deeper and Beyond. The English Journal, Vol. 96, No. 2 (Nov., 2006), pp. 41-46
Michael J. Mitchell • We need to be exposed to multiple and alternative perspectives, to sources of information that will help facilitate our questioning and deliberation, and to engage in dialogue about them. Michell, Michael. Teaching for Critical Literacy: An Ongoing Necessity to Look Deeper and Beyond. The English Journal, Vol. 96, No. 2 (Nov., 2006), pp. 41-46
Critical Literacy Implications • “Critical literacy ... points to providing students … with the conceptual tools necessary to critique and engage society along with its inequalities and injustices. Furthermore, critical literacy can stress the need for students to develop a collective vision of what it might be like to live in the best of all societies and how such a vision might be made practical.” (Kretovics, 1985, in Shor, 1999).
Senior English Curriculum • In the context of what is now called “critical literacy”, these skills include the ability to identify perspectives, values, and issues; detect bias; and read for implicit as well as overt meaning. In the English program, students develop the ability to detect negative bias and stereotypes in literary texts and informational materials.
Senior English Curriculum • When using biased informational texts, or literary works containing negative stereotypes, for the express purpose of critical analysis, teachers must take into account the potential negative impact of bias on students and use appropriate strategies to address students’ responses.
Critical Literacy: Ontario Curriculum • The capacity for a particular type of critical thinking that involves looking beyond the literal meaning of texts to observe what is present and what is missing, in order to analyse and evaluate the text’s complete meaning and the author’s intent. Critical literacy goes beyond conventional critical thinking in focusing on issues related to fairness, equity, and social justice. Critically literate students adopt a critical stance, asking what view of the world the text advances and whether they find this view acceptable.
Why Is Critical Literacy Important? • Anstey (2002) argued "the availability of vast amounts of information and the ideologies represented in it will... Require new and sophisticated literacy and social skills in order to examine, accept, or resist the variety of ideas presented“ (p. 446). * Karen Spector and Stephanie Jones. Constructing Anne Frank: Critical Literacy and the Holocaust in Eighth-Grade : Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, Vol. 51, No. 1 (Sep., 2007), pp. 36-48
Critical Literacy Today • Literature studies and media studies also afford both students and teachers a unique opportunity to explore the social and emotional impact of bullying, violence, and discrimination in the form of racism, sexism, or homophobia on individuals and families. Teachers can help students link the understanding they gain in this regard to messages conveyed through the school’s anti-bullying and violence-prevention programming.
Final Notes: • “Before we can teach our students to become critically literate, we must become critically literate ourselves.” (p. 33) McLaughlin, M., & DeVoogd. (2004). Critical literacy: enhancing students’ comprehension of text. New York: Scholastic.