"The whole movement of life is learning" (Krishnamurti). "To be an act of knowing, then, the adult literacy process must engage the learners in the constant problematizing of their existential situations" (Freire). "Once you learn to read, you will be forever free" (Douglass). "I can learn anything I have the desire to learn" (White, S.G.).

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Jim Crow Adult Literacy Policy?


Thank you Susan Watson for setting up this blog. This NPR piece seems like a nice introductory post, since it involves undocumented adult literacy learners, state policies designed to suppress their learning, and one university's attempt to undermine (literally) this policy. It helps put a face on the state of adult literacy policy in the US and the systematic undermining of structures that legitimize our field: a career field (paid positions), rigorous teacher preparation (formal and non formal), and curriculum that recognizes and supports the dignity of learners. 

I recently was told  by an unnamed influential literacy bureaucrat in our state that the problem with the regional budget  proposals submitted last summer was that they are written by "literacy types" rather than business types. So I guess even the few remaining full time adult literacy jobs in the state are off limits to adult liteacy educators. What's going on? Are we a profession, or a charity?  


  1. First, if there is one time that I would like to have a lawyer around, it would be now. These young people need legal advocacy in order to get their deferred deportment papers/visa under the act passed by the Obama administration last June. In my limited experience with the Deferred Childhood Deportment Act, I can agree with the author of this piece that is does not solve the "dream" issues, or do much more than give the person a work visa. How does that help these young people who want to go to school? Was it just a ploy for votes?

    It is very hard not to become jaded with our system of adult education. I often feel looked down upon as not being a "real" teacher or for not changing our community in a meaningful way because the students I serve are not valued. Our way of life depends on everyone being able to thrive. I must agree that literacy and learning are rights that should not be denied to anyone. That being said, the cost of higher education is a struggle for many people; how do we make the system fair to everyone?

    On a different note, I am always a bit skeptical of articles such as this one from NPR. I am not sure it is completely "fair and balanced." There are many versions of the truth. I think I am the lone "fair and balanced" leaning person from our group (smile).

    What does VA do? Do we allow in-state tuition for undocumented students?

  2. You raise honest, valid concerns about professional identity, Susan. The devaluaing of adult literacy affects every level of the field -- learners, society and practitioners. Could one purpose for this blog be to work though jadedness thruogh peer affirmation and support and action?

  3. Hi Dr. Muth, Sonja, & Kristin - yes I think this blog could be a place to seek affirmation, support, and action.

    A related thought - I hope I didn't offend with my lame political jab above (referencing the slogan of the news channel I watch as being conservative). If we surround ourselves with like-minded people we will never learn anything, right? We need affirmation and support, but we need to keep it edgy and make each other think and reflect....at least that's what I seek. Thank you! Susan

  4. I was deeply offended. (haha). But I am still confused about your critique of NPR--too left leaning or too right leaning?
    PS My blog name is "Bill" not Dr. Muth, OK :)


Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this post. Diverse opinions are welcomed.