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CSLC 20306 - Language, Literacy/ies, and Power in 21st Century Schooling and Society

As a field of study, literacy entangles some of the most difficult problems in social analysis--among them the question of text, that is, of language, situation, and meaning--yet it is also a very familiar topic, the source of many proclaimed crises and the subject of many slogans and sound-bites about how to live, raise children, and prepare for the rigors and excitements of the new century"" (Collins & Blot, 2009, p.1). Literacy, as Collins and Blot, note, is a familiar topic--one so ingrained in our everyday practices, exchanges, and identities that we might take it for granted. This course, relevant not only to aspiring educators but to anyone interested in the politics of language, seeks to nuance both the concept and practice of literacy. Adopting a critical socio-cultural perspective on literacy, and with a focus on works from the New Literacy Studies and beyond, we will come to see reading and writing as pluralistic cultural practices shaped by (and giving shape to) larger contexts--social, political, historical, and always ideological. Beginning with a brief historical overview of literacy studies, we will investigate the larger economic, religious, and social forces that influence or ""sponsor"" literate practices. From there, we will more critically examine the relationship between language and power, unpacking the standards by which a person is deemed ""literate"" or ""illiterate"" in U.S. society, and better understanding how literacy, more than a cognitive ""skill,"" has implications for a person's identity and place within social structures. The second half of the semester will focus on assessing the implications of a more nuanced and critical conceptualization of language and literacies on literacy teaching and learning in U.S. school contexts. We will explore the language and literacy practices of youth culture, and ask how they might become a source of curriculum and pedagogy that honors students' plural identities. And, finally, we will ask what the purpose of language and literacy education might be--especially in a global, multilingual, multiethnic society? Assignments will include a short literacy autobiography, a presentation, and a project that will explore literacy practices in a traditional (e.g., shools) or nontraditional (e.g., a Bible study a group, a Spoken Word poetry club, an online special interest group, etc.) literacy education space.
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Fall 2020, Spring 2018
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