Literacy and schooling

Another mind-opening read:

Jenny Cook-Gumperz: Literacy and Schooling: an unchanging equation in ed.  Cook-Gumperz: The Social Construction of Literacy, 1986, CUP

The author questions the assumption in Western societies that there is a necessary connection between literacy and schooling. In other times and places the mass of the people have been literate without going to school. (The Vai people in Liberia were literate in Vai and Arabic before going to school to become literate in English, for example.)

When the Education Act of 1870 in England made schooling compulsory, 75% of the population were already literate. What children learned at school was not so much literacy as obedience, cleanliness, punctuality, deference and other behaviours essential to employers in the factories of the period.

This must make one re-assess the current hysteria about “standards”. No-one with an interest in education over the last fifty years can doubt that the majority of the population in this country is incomparably better educated than they were in the nineteen-fifties. They are also a lot cleaner. However, they fall distinctly short on deference and obedience.

Whether this is a good or bad thing is another matter. It would be a positive step if this were discussed honestly instead of under the disguise of “standards”.

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