Everyone agrees literacy is A Good Thing, but I’ve struggled to be able to think clearly about it. I’ve just not been able to think of literacy as an object, a cohesive thing like “science” or “a schema” or even “an ability.” It seems slippery, shape-shifty. Sometimes the discourse seems to be around literacy as a curricular object (“we are all teachers of literacy”); sometimes it’s presented as an instrument of curriculum (“Secondary school teachers should ask not what they can do for literacy, but what literacy can do for them”)(1); sometimes it’s about the subject itself (“How can we support children to write like geographers?”) (2); sometimes it seems to be about generic literacy that students will rely on later for their life chances (“Young people who leave school without good literacy skills are held back at every stage of life”) (3).
One of the most powerful things the philosopher of science Hasok Chang ever said to me was “If something seems to be woolly or to not make sense, then it’s probably worth exploring, for one reason or another.”
I’ve spent a long time reading and thinking about this, and I’ve put down my contributions below. I have found it useful to substitute the word “language” for “literacy” until …
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