“New Literacy”

I’m in a political mood today since today is Primary Day in R.I. Therefore, I have been thinking about the way that politicians work with educators to affect change. Hence, I decided to pull-up something I wrote (last year) as a response to reading chapter 12 of Patrick Finn’s Literacy with an Attitude: Educating Working-Class Children in Their Own Self-Interest. I’m only including the first two paragraphs here since the rest of it talks about issues of funding and professional development. However, these two paragraphs give me hope to think that it is possible for educators and politicians to work together to bring about change for children.

I remember listening to NYC Schools’ Chancellor Joel Klein speak during the Summer of 2005. He was at the TCRWP Institute talking with teachers about the work of Lucy Calkins and how the curriculum (units of study) she put together has helped to change the way that literacy is taught in NYC. Chancellor Klein stated that he felt all kids in the City, regardless of which side of the (Central) Park they lived on should have access to quality literature and meaningful reading and writing experiences.

Due to Chancellor Klein’s efforts, NYC took the necessary steps to bring “powerful literacy,” which Finn asserts is the fourth and highest level of literacy (i.e., involves creativity and reason — the ability to evaluate, analyze and synthesize what is read — pg. 124), to NYC Public School Children. I feel that it’s extremely significant that this be noted since most of NYC’s public schools fall under Anyon’s lable of “working class schools.” Klein and Bloomberg took the necessary steps to say “Yes, every NYC school child deserves access to a powerful, literate education.” The City of NY made it so all NYC school kids could move beyond the “functional literacy” that many working class kids stay at when they’re not exposed to higher level kinds of instruction.

BTW: If you haven’t read it, then DO get your hands on a copy of Patrick Finn’s Literacy with an Attitude. It is definitely up there on my list of professional must-reads. (Granted I’ve never created a “Professional Must-Reads” List, but if I had an actual list, this book would surely be on it!)