New times talk always makes me a little wary. I wonder about the baby and the bathwater. Colin Lankshear and James Gee have written extensively on new literacies and new times. Both of them advocated for schools and educators responding to the changing literacy environment and both of them caution against schools as a tool for ‘equipping workers’.
When reading articles on information literacy and the importantance of educational reform, I am cautious when the reform is touted as a response to the ‘critical literacy skills required of the Canadian workforce’ particularly if the refomr involves a move towards ‘curriculum standardization’ as mentioned in Christina Doyle’s monograph, which I must admit I have not read extensively.
I have talked about the dangers of standardization before or at least the only way I can see them being useful. It’s one thing to have standards and another to use them as a sword.
Schools are so easily turned from institutions which support and empower to institutions which tear down and hinder. When we advocate for the critical thinking and the inclusion of information literacy, we need to be cautious that we don’t use the language and rhetoric of capitalism and the business model which has already run amok, for an incredibly depressing and compelling portrait read “Voltaire’s Bastard’s” by John Ralston Saul.
As educators, it is important to construct our arguments with care and to use the language and rhetoric which supports a fully free society. I believe that schools need to provide a relevant and dynamic education to all children and youth. I believe that that education is not to be designed to create ‘workers’ but to empower citizens. These functions need not be antithetical. Critical literacy, information literacy and technological literacy can be used to equip workers and to empower citizens. I see a society which is open to the participation of all, valuing the contribution of each member. This model of society is not well reflected in our current capitalist structure. I hope the education that our schools provide can enable students to envision a different structure and give them the skills to work towards it.
Big dreams perhaps.