I’m Allan Luke, University of Queensland
Well, Marvin, I mean critical literacy means a lot of things to a lot of different people.
Critical literacy means a lot of different things to a lot of different people and when I initially began working in the area of literacy education, it pretty much was constituted by the work of Paola Frer (sp?) and others, um, referring to um, the kinds of consciousness raising programs that had been undertaking in Brazil and Mozambique and many third world countries. The task actually begin to change as we moved into the 1980’s and 1990’s in Queensland and Australia. We began to meld Frer’s uh pretty much Neo-Marxist, Neo-Marxist approach that involved attempts to really empower and shift the relationships of capital for those people who had been marginalized through educational disin- disenfranchisement to a model that began to stress as well understanding what text did to you and how text operated in what was becoming a post industrial world a um much more symbiotic based in uh text based economy. So the, the term critical literacy actually again, means different things for political economies and for different cultures. And in each case, in uh third world and developing context in uh in English as a second language context, and in state education systems such as the one we work with in Queensland and Australia it’s come to mean a different set of, uh, symbiotic and cultural tools for engaging with text in various kinds of critical ways and critical dispositions. So, the definition of critical literacy actually has, has, shifted over time. Um, certainly one of the greatest contributions to critical literacy in the last 10-15 years has been the emergence of the work of Michelle Fucoh (sp?) and many, many people that would uh be considered post structuralists. The notion from Fucoh is that, um people don’t just produce texts as classical linguistic arguments would have made, but also that text produced people in position people. So therefore, a critical literacy in a post industrial or post Ford-ist economy such as the United States, Canada or Australia, has to do with understanding what texts are trying to do with you, and coming up with ways of writing back, reading back, and uh, uh re-reconstituting, and reconstructing texts in your particular class based and culturally, uh, culturally located um, contexts.
Well, again, when I first began doing reading research and began doing literacy education in the early 1980’s, it was very much a situation where psychology was the dominant model. And this is really the product of 100 years of reading research where uh mainstream first language uh um English and reading, reading acquisition has been dominated by the field of reading psychology from the early behaviorist work of E.L Florendike and others and teachers college in the 1910’s and 1920’s.
Similarly, we look at the field of English as a second language, we find that um, psycholinguists, uh, cognitive theory, um, and later social- interactional social linguistics tended to dominate how we viewed, um how we viewed language acquisition in language use in the teaching of literacy. I guess the shift that began to be made in the 1980’s and really fanned out across a lot of our work in the 1990’s is the shift to using models of sociology and by um, models of sociology, I don’t refer to the traditional structural functional sociologies of the 1950’s, that many people in language planning and social linguistics began to use. But I also refer to those kinds of critical sociologies. From the Frankfurt school, from the work of Pierre Bordouex and more recently the work of Anthony Giddens and others on globalization. If we situate literacy reading practices and engagement with textual practices, um, in a sociological frame, a lot of things begin to open up for us. If we take literacy out of peoples heads, and begin I guess to de-psychologize it, if we, if we begin to um, assume that literacy is not a bunch of skills or competences that people carry around in their heads, but actually a set of social practices that is done in relationship uh to economies, in relationships of power um in relationship to questions of identity—then in fact, um, it becomes visible. It, it, it actually shifts what we can do in classrooms and what we can do in communities. For example, on of the biggest ramifications of shifting from a psychological to a sociological view of literacy is that um, is that by getting literacy out of people’s heads, we quit seeing uh, we quit seeing deficiencies, we quit seeing deficits in terms of skills, competencies, etc. and we begin to see literacy in terms of the kind of discourse resources, educational provisions, and even social interactions and relations of power that people have access to in societies. (Music and Static in background—is it just on this audio tape or on master video???) So looking at a five year old, entering a mainstream school of a minority background or looking at a second language learner entering a middle school or entering an adult program would begin to look at what skills they lack, and more with the kind, more at the kind of discourse resources that the cultures and social structures have actually made available to them. So in fact, the emergence of what we call a critical sociology of literacy that looks at issues of power, that looks at uh, issues of how literacy is an actual material and discourse resource that’s distributed to different parts of your population differently. We actually can begin to refocus on what educational systems can do. And the emphasis becomes a lot less on fixing the learner and more on making available particular kinds of social relations and enabling access to power.
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The relationship between discourse and language in politics is pretty tricky. The, the, the work of Michelle Fuco uh, the great French philospher, really stresses how discourses produce, index, position, people in different relationships of power. So Fuco, Fuco would actually argue in, in, in a hypothetical way, that um, it’s that discourse actually creates human beings. Now, if we, if we take that model, the, the dominant models in second language acquisition from cognitive models to psycholinguistic models to even tungsian sociolinguistic models, place a great stress on trying to explain the utterance or the written text of student by reference to what’s inside of them. Uh, or uh their particular aims or intents or social practices or something like that. The Fuco model actually begins to ask how texts, whether they’re texts of popular culture like newspapers like USA today or CNN or whatnot, or, or other kinds of symbiotic texts like, um Nike text, Popular Culture text, Coca-Cola text, the Simpsons and what not, how these texts actually construct and position people. In this way um, in a commercial society in which um we make our living through our capacity to sign, through our capacity to engage in symbiotics and so forth, the actually construction and production and reception and engagement with text, becomes a crucial part of our economic relationships and of our social relationships. Think of it this way, in 1848, 1849 when Karl Marx or Adam Smith wrote, we had a situation where our Grandparents or our Great-Grandparents principle form of labor was working with their hands to dig stuff out of the ground and as Marx often said to use consciousness of labor to actually produce human artifacts. Um, that was the model of Vagodski worked with, that was the model that Larea Leontev and many soviet psychologists worked with. It seems to me the question now is that in a service and information based economy uh, we’ve shifted from um, our relationships to the means of production as it was in Marx’s time to our relationships to the dominant modes of information. That is, whether it’s the internet, or whether it’s a media or popular culture or for that matter Jackie Collin’s novels or the bus schedule. What we’re doing is we’re using discourse to actually set up our social relationships and our economic relationships in an economy in which if we don’t have the capacity to sign, we’re actually bereft of power and locked out and marginalized and disenfranchised. Now, unfortunately, if talk about the micro-politics of a face to face interaction like taking this course or doing an interview or going to McDonald’s, etc. we can talk about the issues of identity, the issues of power, the issues of differential uh access to wealth, the, the issues of who can speak when with what kinds of force and so forth, as being political relations. So back all the way up, I was talking about Fuco and this, this process in which, in which discourse actually is political. Feminist theories often told us, has told us for the last 20 years, that the, the, the, the personal is political. In this regard, we see these larger macro-political relationships of economies of discourse, of relationships to Ted Turner, to Bill Gates, to uh, the very people who own and control discourse and so forth, being played out in face to face relationships every time that we, we engage in classroom relationship, every time that we engage in, uh, uh service relationship when we go to the workplace and when we go to the University. We’re engage in political relationships of power in which discourse actually uh becomes our stock and trade… becomes our raw material.
Well, it’s a different, it’s uh a little bit of a different question. The, the question of cultural capital has actually become quite a focal one. We first, in the literacy field, we first see the term really brought into play by Jenny Cook-umpers in her 1986 book, “The Social Construction of Literacy”. In uh, I think a piece that’s been neglected which is Cook-Gumpers introduction, she begins using the sociology of Bordeau to talk about culture capital and how literacy is one part of the acquired bodily habitice that children and adults carry with them. Um, with particular kinds of exchange value as they traverse the various kinds of social fields. So as I move from home to school, into the workplace out into the civic institutions, uh, into the political, into political forum and uh, uh, forms and arenas and such… um my capacity to sign as I s—my capacity to deal with literacy, my capacity to deal with written texts in all these forum actually becomes um, a form of cultural capital or habitice in Bordeau’s term, that is um it has exchange value. I think where it gets one dimentionalized, in much of the literacy research is folks want to use the term literacy and talk about it increase kids or adult ESL learner’s cultural capital, but they haven’t spent time really studying the whole, uh, system that Pierre Bordeau describes. And Bordeau, both in his early work with Jean-Claude Passerone and his later work begins to talk about culture capital as but one of the many forms of capital that people actually have mastery of. So if we look at um, uh, if I’m, I’m uh, an aboriginal kid in Queensland and I go back to a community with school acquired or university acquired textual skill, literacy, textual power, um, in fact, it, it, it, it, it has exchange value only in relationship to the kind of economic power that I’ve got—the money in my pocket, the kind of social access or social capital that I’ve got, that is my access to social institutions and so forth – and as um Bordeau often says is that it, it, it is um capital is only capital is, is, if-I if it’s recognized as such. What Bordeau means by that I can have all the literate skills in the world, but if nobody recognizes them as being mine or as being real or authentic, they don’t really mean spit in the ocean. So, um, I’ll give you an example or a story that actually illustrates this question of cultural capital. It’s often assumed, then, by literacy educators and by people who are teaching literacy that if I just vamp up or actually increase this kids cultural capital or this adults cultural capital that they’ll become necessarily more powerful person as they enter various social fields across their lives. That, that, that just simply ain’t the case. Um, my father was uh, uh Chinese man in the 1930’s – he had a university degree which was pretty unusual and I think he was a superb writer and a very articulate man. Uh, he went to work as a union printer and uh a type-typeographer and and he never was able to cash in that capacity to write into professional occupation. Why, because being Chinese in the 1930’s he had no access to economic capital—he couldn’t get any money in his pocket um in a pretty discriminatory work environment. He had no social capital—that is because of the color of his skin he couldn’t even get in certain buildings much less join trade unions, much less um get access to professional job. And then even though he had a University of Washington degree in 1932 or 33, um, half the employers didn’t believe that it was really his. Because, uh, so there was no symbolic capital associated with it. Um, Bordeau talks about cultural capital being tied up with both embodied capital—your skills, um, your um, credential capital, that is the actual credentials. And then a kind of portfolio based artifactual capital which is the actual products—your musical scores, your writings, your work, and so forth. What we have control over in schools and educational institutions is we set up rules within schools for the conversion of embodied capital into portfolio based capital into actually credentials. Ok? And we for social justice and equity purposes, have to make sure within schools those are fair and justifiable rules. And we know plenty of kids um, who turn in the homework and you look at the portfolio and you say “You could have never done that.” Assuming they didn’t have the actual embodied capital to actually produce the portfolio. Or we know plenty of people who have degrees and you think they don’t have a brain in their head. And so you wonder about the conversion rules within the educational institution. But the difficulty in what we’re finding out with a lot of aboriginal education in Queensland and in my father’s case that I just described to you, is a historical case, is that no matter, no matter what we do within educational institutions to vamp up people’s cultural capital we also have to um, address the issue on a much more broader social and political front in terms of non-discriminatory institutions that enable people social capital, um in terms of proper economic distribution of wealth, that is, equal access to economic capital and also uh working with employers, with other educational institutions, with government and so forth, so that they recognize capital when they see it. So the Bordeau system of, uh, suggests that what we do is we take different kinds of capital and different social fields whether it’s the village, the indigenous community, the uh, the uh, “dot-com” workplace, all require of us different combinations of capital in various ways. There are no guarantees to capital.
Well… as I just said, um, what, what, literacy acquisition is about, I mean let’s not talk about literacy acquisition. Because literacy acquisition I think as James Gee’s work quite rightly argues occurs within context of community, within context of broader pedagogy, etc. Um, our principle concern as educators is how we manage and I do mean manage the distribution of resources and discourse within classrooms, within schools, within adult programs within universities so that we’re actually dealing with a formal process of literacy instruct teaching and learning. In that case what we’re doing, is we’re in fact taking up the uh enabling cultural capital dispositions, knowledges, etc. that people bring into our institutions. And setting up, as I said, I Bordeau’s terms, rules of transformation so that people can actually convert the capital that they bring into our educational institutions into broader expansive, technically complex, um, advanced, uh higher order uh forms of literate practices that subsequently will have conversion value and power um as they traverse across their lives into other institutions. In that regard, um, we are engaged in the actual uh, in the actual production of a stratified workforce, of a stratified society and in stratified, uh, stratified, um, versions of knowledge and capital. Uh, what this means is that our role as teachers and educators, as much as we argue over whether we have control over 20% or 30% of the variance etc, means that we are actually crucially placed that um, that the quality and the focus of our pedagogy actually can make a difference in, in people’s long term’s life trajectories in both the identity, uh, the identity papers, the kinds of capital that they take out into various work forces and subsequent educational uh, educational encounters. So what this means is that we’re actually engaged in not just the production of capital, um, as educators which is a highly political act, and the production of power, but we’re actually engaged in trying to recognize and not mis-recognized the goods that people bring into our classrooms and in, and set up enabling conditions that these things can actually get used and converted.
Um, well, good question. I think, I think, um, in, in Frer’s, in, in, in Frer’s wisdom, literacy is always about reading the world and writing the world. So I think um, critical reading, um actually has to do with being able to um to uh navigate a very complex sea of texts that people have to engage with in an every day, an every day life… in every day life. So if I get up in the morning and I watch- I turn on the TV and I’ve got the newspaper next to me and I walk in and my boss is yelling at me, I’ve already got three texts that I’ve got to deal with full of intertextual references, full of ideological um, ideological values, um, um, loaded with uh, with uh social relations um, uh, trying to position me and uh, and situate my identity uh, in in a range of different ways, um, if I can’t critically read the social fields with these texts actually uh, uh, emerge from, I’m in big trouble. So if I can’t see through the that uh the CNN broadcast, try to understand the kind of interests and the kind of economies that are producing that broadcast and the world view that’s in that broadcast, I’m in a little bit of trouble. I’m you know, potentially, potentially just going to believe whatever, whatever Oprah or whatever uh, you know um, whatever, whatever, um, Bernie King puts on the air. Um, similarly when I’m engaged with my boss or when I walk into a classroom or an environment. Actually if I can’t read the social field, read past the text and read the social field and understand that this might be a raciest environment, there might be other things at play here, other than just the value of my work and what not, um, I’m going to be in a little bit of trouble. So we live in a textually loaded uh culture and society. A culture and society in which identity formation, becoming someone is actually navigating this sea of text and stitching together an identity out of these range of different texts. Now that’s tricky stuff. And if I can’t critically read those texts, I’m in, I’m in big trouble. However, I mean, when we talk, you’ve asked the question about critical reading and critical writing—um what we are increasingly working in is a, is a,a universe in which reading a range of different texts, visual, face to face, interpersonal, um, actual audio and oral, um musical, um, uh occurs simultaneously with print texts. It’s only in these uh silly institutions called schools that we actually tell people well quit processing visual information and just pay attention to these graphnyms(sp?)and phonyms.(sp?) Or quit processing visual information and just uh, just learn to decode these digraphs. Now that’s quite silly. Uh, all of us who have children know that they’re, that children grow up able to do things with their feet as much as with their hands and we spend a lot of time domesticating them that you aren’t supposed to be kicking when you’re, when you’re, when you’re using hands, or this the way you use your feet and this is the way you use your hands. Children grow up, I think, in multi-literate synastesia type environments in which they can process visual information, audio information, print information all at once. What happens is put them in schools. And whether we do it through shared book experience or whether we used to do it in the 50’s with Dick and Jane, we almost de-skill them by refocusing them solely on print and on the reading of print. So you a- uh, when you, when you hypothetically ask the question, “What’s the relationship between critical reading and critical writing?” the real question is what’s the relationship between critical reading and an expanded critical multi-literacies that it takes just to walk down the street in one of these post-industrial societies. And then similarly, how can you critically read without continually, on a continual basis whether that’s through your inner speech and your inner voice, or whether actually, whether you’re doing it on the internet or in handwriting, without continually rewriting these texts. Without continually wondering “what if?” in attempting to recompose them and reconstruct them in different ways. So I don’t think we’re talking about anything politically radical here, I think we’re talking about the politics of every day life. We are talking about being able to get up out of bed and deal with uh, with 36 texts before you’ve even left the apartment.
Well it’s a good question. The, critical discourse analysis is really something which has emerged in the last 10 –15 years um it’s uh a funny, uh, a funny mixture that we have that we’ve developed, many of us in Australia, using the work of Michael—Michael Halliday, Systemic Functional Linguistics of Michael Halliday. Using some of the insights of Michelle Fuco and Pierre Bordeau uh, some post structuralist thinking um, it comes together really most strongly in the work of uh critical linguist likes Guntercrest, Norman Faircluv, Yaka Mae, uh Ruth Wodack, and many others. The idea of critical discourse analysis is that um, the things that people say, the things that people write that that that written language actually is not neutral, but actually is uh a political act. Now what does it mean? It mean’s that um, that, in, in at least 2 ways, text operate politically. First of all they represent the world and to quote the famous Russian linguist Vol-Volishinov, um “texts don’t operate as clear windows on the world, they operate as prisms. They have a refac-refractive kind of uh effect.” What this means is that uh, for children one of the hardest things to learn that we are working in Australia in critical literacy cirriculum to teach them, even at ages 6 and 7, we’re trying to teach them that that text produce different representations or representations of the world. Whether it’s the Toyota ad or whether it’s the TV Guide or whether it’s the Simpsons. It produces a particular version of gender relations a particular version of a consumer society. Um, this isn’t just a question of political correctness. We can take 6 year olds as Jennifer O’Brien has done in South Australia, and get them cutting out and pasting uh Mother’s day cards from K-Marts, from K-Mart flyers and asking who’s mother’s here and who’s mother isn’t here. And what’s this text trying to do to me. The notion that a 6 year old can gauge in critical discourse analysis is quite silly and it means that if you take that position it would men you haven’t sat around and watch the Simpsons or South Park with 6 year olds. They are fully able to deconstruct text, tell you what they like, when Lisa’s being a ‘sook’, when they would do it differently and so forth. In some ways then, we’re trying to teach kids from a very early age that language actually constructs the world in different ways. Um, simple activities uh, two different newspaper uh descriptions of the same event, um two different auto insurance repots on a a car accident. Anybody can begin to see that text construct different worlds. Um, and that’s a, that’s a real insight that I think that children and adults can actually begin to , to engage with when they are taught critical discourse analysis. So very typically in most teacher education programs in Australia and in Queensland schools, most primary and secondary schools, will teach kids that lexical choice, that transitivity, that actually how you, whether you say um, uh, whether you say, um, uh, ‘Jane hit Dick’ or whether you say ‘Dick was hit’ or whether you say ‘There was a fight’, that these forms of transitivity actually construct three different worlds…three different versions of the world. So we’re teaching kids about the politics of representation. We’re teaching kids that text both the text that are given to them and the text that they write actually construct different versions of the world and that these versions of the world actually serve different peoples interests and perhaps their own, perhaps other people’s interest. At the same time, critical discourse analysis in the work of Halliday, Crest and Faircluv and many others begins to teach us that one of the, the most interesting things is that texts also set up social relationships, that is, for instance if I use interrogatives or imperatives or declaratives um or I use the pronoun we or I, what I’m doing is I’m actually setting up different kinds of social relationships um, or or what Halladay calls relationships of tenor. So uh for instance I’ve just finished working with my student teachers and we’ll go through indirect speech acts and go through 4 or 5 different ways in which I can lexically grammatically ask you to take out the garbage. The garbage hasn’t been taken out. Please take out the garbage. Take the bloody garbage out. In each case, declarative, interrogative, and imperative, is a different social relationship of power that’s developing between me and the person that I’m trying to get to take the garbage out. So, what we’re getting to, what we’re getting our students to do is to begin to analyze texts in Queensland schools right from the earliest, the earliest, uh engagement with text and analyze text grammars, text structures, etc to develop a meda-language for talking about texts that actually begins to give them the tools to see what texts are trying to do to them. That’s a very interesting approach to critical literacy and parents, we’ve found, are quite receptive to it because their kids are learning more technical grammar and more aspects of, of uh language and perhaps the even the even they work. So we’ve made critical discourse analysis focal to our approach to the teaching of critical literacy right across Australian schools. And we’ve just finished in in uh, in our state literacy strategy “literate futures”, building the notion of critical literacy and critical multi-literacies as uh, uh into a mandated component for all Queensland schools.
Well, what, uh, what it what it works, what it’s doing is we’re getting things like increased meda-linguistic awareness uh, uh more sophisticated language for talking about texts etc and and kids can begin to see and parents can begin to see visible, visible capacity with language, uh, um increasing. Shirely Heath in “Ways with Words” once put it this way, she said in part two way with words she was working towards teaching kids to be linguistic detectives, she talked about tuning up children’s eyes and ears so that they actually, um, can begin to see how language works in the world around them. In the case of African-American kids that Heath was working about—working with, it meant um learning about ‘em and becoming quite conscience of the code shifting that they actually had to engage in as they shifted from uh, from uh non standard African-American English forms to Standard English Forms and so forth and back and forth. Um, in the case of, in the case of actual empowerment what critical discourse analysis does is we think it increases people’s linguistic awareness except it gives them something that is quite different. Critical linguistic awareness—it isn’t just about understanding how they and others use language and shift codes, but also understanding how they and others use language for purposes of power and how they can actually manipulate that in their own interests and in the interests of their communities.
Well, you know, I think the, one of the great fallacies of the of the literature on reading has been the claim that there, that reading is natural organic or that there are natural ways to read. Ok? When we say that literacy is a malleable social practice or is, the people uh, the different anthropologists and linguists working in what’s been called the new literacy studies argue that literacy is social practice. Uh, what we can begin to see is the different cultures and different historical periods actually have taken literacy and the technology of writing um, and actually shaped it to different social, political, and cultural ends. What this means is that we can actually reshape and reform literacy in a range of different ways. Um, if we look at uh Korranic literacy, uh, the kind of tradition literacy in uh, Arabic, uh, by which, uh, a huge significant proportion of the nat—of the world’s population actually learns to read, uh, learns to read um, the Koran. In that case, what we begin to see is we begin to see memorization rote recall actually becoming a focal part of literacy. If we look at uh, literacy among medieval monks in uh, in the , the 13th or 14th century we can begin to see that literacy was principally shaped by that culture into the art of copy-- Uh, into the art of actually manuscript transmission and copying. It wasn’t about spontaneous overflows of powerful emotion, and Korranic literacy isn’t necessarily about critically reading and second guessing the text, it’s about rote recall and memorization. What this means is that, um, in absolute terms, just as linguists have always told us that there is no, that no language is actually superior to any other language linguistically, in absolute terms, no literacy, no form of reading is necessarily better than the other. Ok? But what it means is that, different cultures and different communities shape reading as a social practice uh, for particular cultural and economic and political ends and we can make it copying, we could make it word barking, we could make it critically second guessing texts and so forth. The question then becomes, it’s a very interesting question for media researchers and teachers, the question then shifts away from this damned great debate that goes on in the U.S. about what the right way to teach reading is, which seems to me to be quite a waste of time, the question actually becomes not what’s the right way to teach reading, but the question becomes what kinds of texts and practices do I want to introduce to children and adults for what particular cultural and social purposes. Um, and it may mean, that we want to have a strong focus on memorization. It may mean you want to have a strong focus on, um, affective responses to literature, it may mean that you want to um have a strong focus on work barking and sounding out and decoding. It may mean that you want to have a strong focus on critical second guessing texts and rewriting them. But these are ultimately cultural choices and not simply a question of some kind of science or psychology of literacy.
Well, I think one of the great myths that came out of the early to mid 20th century is that um teaching little kids to read or teaching adults to read was simply a matter of finding a proper scientific technique um, masquerading that technique or placing it into a pure set of methods that could be embodied in a teacher proof textbook, sticking it into the text book whether it’s “Disdar” or “Dick and Jane” or any basal reader series or first steps or whatever, and that uh, it’s just a question of the child acquiring skills and competences of reading. Well, it’s never been that way in the history of literacy. Uh, when I learned to read the Koran, I learned to engage with the values and beliefs of the Koran. Uh, when I learned to read the Bible, and there have been entire wars fought as you know over who’s got the proper reading of the bible, I’m engaging with particular analysis, particular reading positions, particular values and ideologies. When, uh, if I’m Martin Luther and Phillip Malathon students in the 14th or 15th century and I go into read Malathon’s primers in the first state schools of Germany in uh, in the 14th or 15th century, what’s happening there is I’m gauging—engaging in the values, not just of the Lutheran church, but I’m engaging in the values of the German Burgers put forth as the values of the German state. Um, if I go to read in uh, Ache, in an island, one of the island states of Indonesia and I learn to read there, I’m learning the uh, the ideology of Pansacilla and some of the different ideologies that have been tied up in the Indonesia state since uh, since it’s foundation. Now, how, how on earth, in that kind of historically, cross-cultural perspective could you somehow assume that learning to read is not tied up with an engagement of values and ideologies. And it seems to me that that’s the most naïve aspect of contemporary reading assumption—instruction, the assumption that somehow it’s about skills and competencies and it’s not about values and ideologies. Now we could debate all night whether Marx’s version or or or um, uh, the student Detracies version or whomever’s version of ideology uh, definition of ideology, is the most significant one. But Marx defined ideology simply in terms of uh, the values of a particular class and most cases the ruling class and so forth. Now if I look at any text book, I can find that there are always historical debates about uh, about what should be in the text books and the different ideologies in text books. The Japanese Diets been having a debate for 60 years now or 50 years now about which version of WWII should go into Japanese text books. Uh, American’s fight over whether Christopher Columbus was an invader or a discoverer. Um, so text books are always full of problematic ideologies, it’s just somehow that we believe whether it’s “Dick and Jane” or “Possum Magic” or the “Paperback Princess” that some—that these texts are neutral or non-ideological or that we’re just giving kids skills. Seems to me to be an extremely, extremely naïve position. So, by definition, when we teach people to read and write, we’re always teaching them to read and write something. We’re always engaging them in a particular cultures, values, political ideologies, belief structures and so forth. For teachers, what this means is that you pay your money and you take your chances. None of us in teacher education, none of us who are academics or researchers can tell you what the right values are, etc. These are, these are communities, these are community, cultural and political decisions that uh, that no science can actually answer for you. But, it, it, it re—it, it, it, re- instates, it underlines once again, that literacy education is a profoundly cultural and ideological practice—it can’t be any other way.
Beyond language—well, that’s that’s—the question of secondary, secondary ESL teachers and so forth is that, (sighs) having been a secondary ESL teacher, there’s a fine line between um, between being a teacher, between being a pedagogue and being a social worker, being a jack of all trades, um, being a political activist and so forth. And um, that’s one of the most – extremely liberating things about teaching English as a second language, it’s it’s where your perks, and where your endorphins and where your job satisfaction comes from, but it’s also, uh, a treacherous and dangerous territory and ground to walk. What, what I think it means is that um, is that second language speakers, uh, whether they’re migrants, sit in, or not, sit in various positions of power, often in very hazardous and pretty problematic positions in relationship to economies and in relationship to access to civic resources in relationship to community cultures and so forth. What that means is that um, is that the teaching of language per say, particularly as, as uh, as, as when we describe the teaching of language as tied up as values the formation of identity, the establishment of sociocultural power, means that uh, we’ve got our hands dirty from day one. What it means is when we teach kids how to do a job interview or how to get on a bus, or the pragmatic of that and we go beyond reading comprehension or writing but we’re actually teaching the pragmatics of every day life, we’re teaching them how to engage with social fields. These social fields can be pretty mean and nasty places. So it means creating classrooms where, we, where we’re having dialogues either with secondary ESL teachers, students, or with adult learners. Where we’re having dialogues about the relationships of power in those social fields where literacy is used and where language is used. That might mean, in the case when I was teaching ESL in, in 1980’s in Canada, is might mean, uh very explicitly talking about what racism is, how it works, um, how they can get screwed through racism, um, how they can combat it, how they can um, actually kind of twist it around and and and argue with it and fight with it and so forth. It means understanding the positions that they sit within a particular um, within cultures and within communities and giving them tools to actually strategize their way forward. Um, as I said, that’s begins to cross over the line into, uh, into social work and social activism, etc. And that’s where we can get in trouble uh, because we can wind up tampering and messing as kind of do-good-ers with areas and forms of life uh where our understanding is limited. Um, it, it, it is a fact that the uh balance of the ESL teacher working force remains uh feminized, uh, principally anglo uh, and uh principally English as a First Language and what that means is there are domains and forms of life that migrants go through that second language uh learners go through when they engage with these post-industrial cultures that we are only second guessing-- that we aren’t fully familiar with within our own domains of experience and what not. And uh, um, it gets treacherous and its pretty easy to mess up.
That’s a mouthful! Bob Dillon used to uh, one of Bob Dillon’s early songs in the 1960’s was “I pity the poor immigrant” and I think it reflected um, I don’t know whether it was a Woody Guthrey song or a Dillon song, probably a Dillon song, but I think it reflected the um, the dominant um situation of migrants and second language speakers in the 1950’s and 60’s uh, economically marginal um low resess, from Ellis Island on straight through to the waves of post-Vietnam migration, post-World War II Migration to countries like Canada, Australia, and the U.S. movement of Eastern European people after World Ward II , um, subsequently even up to today, Yugoslavian and Eastern European people migrating um, large people moving to from an Asia diasflora (sp?). It turned out that um, in the 1950-s and 60’s that uh that migrants were actually on, were positioned pretty much in lower socio-economic conditions within dominant white cultures. I think what this means when we talk about the specificity of place and we talk about the specificity of cultures is that um, the situation of the migrant is different than when Dillon sang “Pity the Poor Immigrant”. Um, uh what happens now is that uh, um, because globalization, and we could define globalization simply as uh the borderless flows of bodies and discourse and information and capital, because globalization is uh, is become uh this kind of moveable feast, we probably have more people crossing borders at this time in human history per capita than at any time during the crusades. What this means is the different kinds and groups of people are moving across borders and are positioned differentially within economies as they arrive. So if I look at the Australian economy or if I look at the Canadian economy, what I begin to find is some, some groups come from rural economies, from Laos, from Vietnam, etc and are positioned in a particular way um as um as marginal, as marginal um as entry level service workers within the economy. And they um, within particular places and particular cultures, they struggle economically. And the demand and challenges for language as cultural capital become uh quite complex. It becomes a demand for power and a demand for mobility even in that culture. In other instances and cases, the politics of race and the politics of being migrant uh may be very different. Where we have um, um the emergence of uh a new wealthy classes of Asians, etc moving across um an Asia diasphora (sp?) and across and into uh predominantly white and English speaking economies but often as business migrants, uh, with fairly large stocks of capital, economic capital behind them. In this case what it means is that the migrant no longer is um, is actually in a marginalized position. But we’ve got migrants that have actually stepped in reasonable positions of power. So, uh, I guess the politics of who gets included, who gets excluded on the basis of race, on the basis of linguistic markers, on the basis of language fluency, actually have become very, very place specific. There are communities um in Australia and New Zealand where uh being Singaporian and Chinese, where being a second or tri-lingual, etc, actually is no longer a, a place of discrimination and a place of disadvantage, but actually is a position of power. So what it means, is that the politics of race, of who you are, and the politics of language, of what you speak and how many languages you speak, etc., are actually shifting with a fair amount of dyna-- dynanism within the economic conditions of globalization, from the old post-war situation where it was very much marginalized people, guest workers, etc., moving from host countries—moving into host country economies and being in a marginalized situation. Further, the other thing I think has changed since the post World War II situation is that the degree in which cultural identity um, and and visual racial phetotype have become blended, have become much more complex , this, this process accelerating. For instance, in a study that we just completed uh, uh a year or two ago, um, about 1/4th of Australian marriages are inter-ethnic and interracial and what this means is that the process of actually uh, uh of multi-culturalism or of cultural hybridity and cultural blending has accelerated now um, to the point where both language loss is accelerated but also different forms of identity, different forms of multiple ethnic and cultural identity become very commonplace. So, what this means I think in general, is that the complexities of place, the complexities of race, actually have, have multiplied in the last few years. I’ll give you an example of this. The politics of multi-culturalism—the old multicultural argument that you’re, that children who are migrant have somehow caught between two languages and two cultures um, when I was a child growing up in the 50’s the stereotype would have been that we were caught between some kind of migrant Cantonese culture and some kind of Anglo-American culture, um, is in fact probably over simplistic at this time. If we look at um, at Greek, Greek migrants to Australia or uh recent Chinese migrants to Australia, what we begin to find is we begin to find the kinds not just caught between Australian culture and Chinese Culture, but caught between Michael Jordan, between being World Kids, being—between being Nintendo kids, uh, um, engagements with Aboriginal culture, a range of popular cultures , um, trying to construct an identity out of all of these things. But not simply trying to blend some kind of essentialized Chinese culture and Australian culture. So I think, one of the, the, the uh, the issues that’s unresolved in literature and multiculturalism is the tendency to get stuck into what I call a binary mode of the between two cultures metaphor. And, and uh, a failure to see that in post modern childhood for whether you’re migrant or non-migrant that in fact the um, the, the process of identity construction is, is, is stitching together an identity from a host of different popular cultures, ethnic cultures, community cultures, uh stitching together an identity that may be part Cantonese, Hong Kong Cantonese, uh, uh part Jackie Chan and part Michael Jordan. Um, so I think that um, that the the issues that have been raised in post colonial theory and post structuralist about cultural hybridity, about cultural blending, have meant that the politics of identity, the question of who you are, actually has become far more complex than just professing uh, I’m an Asian-American, or I’m a Greek-Australian. Um, they’ve become far more complex uh because of the emergence of world cultures, world kids, and identity blending of that formation.
I guess, look I’ve given you guys, there’s so much on this tape, let me give you a little soap box routine, uh, I’ve had an interesting experience which is I grew up Chinese-American in, in California, I did most of my, my post graduate study and my school teaching in Canada, and then I was fortunate enough to move to Australia in 1983 and 1984 and I’ve uh, you know been blessed with the opportunity to I think, uh live across three or four post industrial predominately English speaking cultures. Uh, what I’ve, what I’ve noticed and what I’ve seen is that one of the biggest problems um, in both the second language field and the educational field has been the tendency to um, to engage in kind of a cultural myopia where we only can see the world through the particular social issues through the particular um, through the particular pedagogic lenses that we’ve acquired in our own cultures. Now, by definition that has to be, which is we only see and know through the selective traditions of our own cultures, but increasingly under the auspices of globalization, there is a push-pull effect. There is, what Mike Featherstone and many others call a globalization effect. It seems to me that it’s increasingly difficult for uh, for Americans and for people studying in the United States and understanding the world from United States lenses, to actually, uh, understand that um, that there are local effects, local uptakes that are quite idiosyncratic out there in the rest of the world. Um, but the world is not either a hapless victim or dupe of CNN, Nike, and Coca-Cola, um, nor is it a hapless victim or dupe of uh, of um, of, uh American mass media and mass culture. Uh, what this means is uh, similarly we move to the educational field is that different areas of the world different cultures, different educational communities by definition have to invent and develop and localize their own educational solutions to the very shared problems of globalized economizes and new forms of disenfranchisement and disempowerment that we are seeing emerge. Uh, the one thing that I think on my soapbox, that I find most irritating, is the proliferation from educational researchers of universal methods, whether it’s phonics or functional communicative this or critical literacy that or bandwagons and panaceas that uh can be dropped uh um as part of a cargo cult off of a plane through a conference presentation or through a package or through a multinational publisher and dropped on……
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