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'Against the belief that literacy does not itself determine the uses to which it is put and is not itself shaped by the uses made of it, I argue that literacy is the uses to which it is put and the conceptions which shape and reflect its actual use' (L...

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Introduction

'Against the belief that literacy does not itself determine the uses to which it is put and is not itself shaped by the uses made of it, I argue that literacy is the uses to which it is put and the conceptions which shape and reflect its actual use' (Lankshear 1987 p50). What are the misconceptions about literacy that he identifies to arrive at this conclusion? Discuss the implications of his argument for the way we think about literacy, about how children become literate and the uses of popular culture in educational contexts. Let us attempt to understand Lankshear's argument. My interpretation of Lankshear's position is that he supports the idea of literacy as being best understood as a concept which comes into affect by its application in day to day life. I further assess his statement as literacy being also considered as the formation of ideas which forms the uses of literacy as well as creating an image to convey its use (Lankshear, 1987, p.50). The uses of literacy may be to communicate with one another or to participate in society by working, or to help others in need. Without the idea one can not put literacy into use. Such ideas must make known their use, they do so by reflecting this use to the recipient. To understand the implicatioins of this argument I will explore the misconceptions which he refers to with comments and gradually progress to his argument in the context of children's literacy. ...read more.

Middle

In Labov's studies on young Blacks in the ghettos of New York, U.S.A it showed that cognitive 'deprivation' was based on the misinterpretation of the true meanings of the statements and actions of the Black youths (Street, 1987, p.26). Labov argues that the labelling of this particular form of speech used by the young Blacks as being ungrammatical and using this as evidence of cognitive deprivation is actually forms of dialect (Street, 1984, p.26). He supports his argument by indicating that when linguists listen to Black children speaking and saying "He crazy" they hear highly structured systems with many grammatical categories which are important parts of any logical system coming from a non standard dialect (Street, 1984, p.26). Labov in his tests also revealed much better results for clever youths who were labelled ESN (Educationally Sub Normal) and he demonstrated that the tests that were being used were mostly social conventions of a dominant class as opposed to universal logic (Street, 1984, p.27). Street simplifies his ideological model by revealing his research in Mashad, a holy city in the province of NE Iran. He explains by providing a model that came out of the religious schools called 'Maktabs'. The leading 'tajers' (middlemen) in the villages who arranged the fruit trade learnt as youngsters in these 'maktabs' a specified type of literacy, they used and adapted these skills to the needs of their new commercial position. This adaptation is what Street refers to as upholding the ideological nature of literacy practice (Street, 1984, p.12). ...read more.

Conclusion

Kress comments that today's children who are absorbed in fast paced programmes on TV, the electronic fun parlour, video and computer games are being taught a new kind of 'training' which is in this day and age most likely to be the most important and useful kind of training that children will receive (Kress, 1997, p.5). I would argue though that without supervision and guidance this 'training' will not contribute to developing children's literacy skills. I would however support Kate Pahl's understanding that boys' interest in cartoon characters, if valued could allow development of stories such that it would bring about more specific meaning making. She supports this statement by introducing Elaine Millard's arguments and her suggestions that boys could develop their work by using popular TV characters (E.Millard, 1997, p.173). The use of popular culture in children's literacy can be similarly compared to the learning in the 'maktab' schools in NE Iran. Lankshear's argument has great implications towards our understanding and progress in literacy. Today's understanding of literacy is in debate, there are various thoughts on how we should impose literacy on the society. Whereas Lankshear's arguments support the masses, the misconceptions he states supports the best few. Lankshear gives a good argument for his conclusions, he is convincing in his approach and supports his argument well with the help of Street and Graff. Jackie Marsh makes a competent effort in exploring the potential of popular culture in motivating children towards literacy and the acquisition of literacy skills through this medium. Word Count: 2,464. ...read more.

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