"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.).

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Mass Literacy Campaign

A friend shared this "text" with me on Facebook, and I thought I would take a stab at some critical  discourse analysis.  I'm not really sure how to begin, or if I'm on the right track.  Your thoughts and feedback are welcomed and appreciated!  For the sake of transparency, I am pro-immigration/ pro-citizenship.

On the surface, this text is part of a mass media campaign for an April 10th march for immigration reform in Washington, D.C.  The purpose is social change, social justice.  I see a family and the English words "all in for immigration reform."  The march seems to be a wholesome, worthy cause.  The text initially appears to be a grassroots, community level effort, rather than a top down, government sponsored campaign.  I wondered about the date, April 10th, and whether there was some significance to it.  Other than being the 100th day of the year,  I could not make a connection. 

The black and white drawing seems race-neutral, although I immediately thought it to be a Latino family. I think there is  a stereotype that immigration is about Latinos.  I need to remind myself that not all immigrants are from Latin America.  

Then again, we heard so much about the "Latino vote" after the last election.  What stakeholders are pursuing the Latino vote?   I visited the website listed on the text and found a long list of sponsors, including  Casa de Maryland, and labor unions 32BJ and SEIU.  32BJ is a local affiliate of SEIU, a union with, according to its website,  2.1 million members.  Wow, that's a stakeholder with a lot to gain from the resulting legalized workforce of "11 million for citizenship." What other stakeholders are involved in the A10 event? 

 I read this paragraph on the Casa de Maryland website:

On April 10th, we will make our voices heard loud and clear that we expect Congress to fix our broken immigration system in 2013. We will educate, march, rally, pray and knock on the doors of Congress until President Obama signs commonsense immigration reform that includes a realistic path to citizenship. 

For too long, our communities have suffered under a defective and outdated immigration system that stifles our economic growth, makes political scapegoats out of immigrants, and tears families apart. The time is now for justice. The time is now for citizenship!

Does the "commonsense" referred to in this paragraph imply that immigration reform is an issue involving all Americans?  For it or against it, each one of us is affected?   Going back to our class discussion, and use of the words common sense in discourse analysis,  I'm not sure who is excluded.  Who is not part of the immigration discussion?  Then again, I guess the purpose of a mass literacy campaign is to get everyone involved, one way or another.  

The web site asks people to register for the event by providing name, address, and email.  I wonder what kind of marketing and solicitation organizations that data will be sold to. 

This is my final opinion:  I think there are big stakeholders on both sides of the issue who have a lot to gain from a huge turnout on April 10. SEIU has a lot to gain.  It's not that I think labor unions are bad.  I think the local 32BJ would have "Maria's" best interests at heart, but, with 2.1 million members, I think SEIU's stakehold is much larger than the individual's welfare.  Both Republicans and Democrats have a lot to gain;  the Latino vote changed the course of the 2012 election.  Each party wants to win votes and blame the other for not fixing immigration.

Everyone seems to be courting the Latino vote.  When I look back at the text, I'm not sure anyone  has that family's best interest in mind.  I think this immigrant population is being exploited by both sides of the reform issue.  I think there are stakeholders who benefit from the status quo: a good controversy makes good publicity for groups pro and con.   I also wonder who is looking out for the non-Latino folks.   Maybe Asian and African immigrant populations aren't large enough to warrant a mass literacy campaign by labor unions and politicians.  Maybe I have it all wrong.  I hope I do.  I want the A10 march to help that family.

Thanks and let me know how you read it!  Susan



  1. I agree, Susan, that the union has a large stake in immigration reform. Union membership in general has declined over the last twenty years, and union power is great power indeed. I have a concern, though. Immigration reform is a very general term. Going back to "Coming Apart", the book I read, the author talks about bringing America back together to be the great country it can be. Simply giving citizenship to people does not make them good citizens. I think if immigration reform is going to be successful, both citizenship requirements and responsibilities need to be addressed. Sometimes it seems that so many people are afraid to speak out about their beliefs that only those with loud voices get heard. And the loud voice isn't always the one that has thought it all through.

  2. Hi Joyce, I'm continuing our discussion from your "Learning to read and write" post over here. You got me thinking about how important a historical perspective can be when we critically analyze a text. In the example here, which is about immigration and citizenship, I pause to consider its historical context in our country. Obviously we are a country of immigrants. After processing thru Ellis Island in 1897, my Polish ancestors walked away citizens, free to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. They did not have to take a history test, English test, and pay a huge fee. Was it FDR who reformed immigration, set limits, etc? Anyway, in our times, citizenship/naturalization has become a complex, expensive process. Are current immigrants "victims" of the times? In other words, what has changed about inalienable rights and being an American citizen that now we require people to learn English, take a test, pay a big fee, etc.? My people didn't need to do any of that in 1897. I think the basic premise of our American way of life,the "inalienable" rights we base it on, imply it is something a person is born with. So, why do we need to put immigrants through a test, cost, etc? It seems paradoxical. But oh yeah, there are big stakeholders who stand to benefit from creating a class of "victims." As I have previously said, I see stakeholders on both sides of the issue. There is plenty of blame to go around in this mess. Whew! Thanks for listening. Susan

  3. Susan, your analysis is right on target. I might want to add that a history of Casa de Maryland would be a good next step, since they are the primary sponsors. What I know about them is they are a grass roots org near Langly Park MD that has been one of the best organized community based advocates for DREAM ACT reform in the US (the state of MD has come so close to passing it, yet still falls short!) Casa does work for bipartisan support. I think you may be "foregrounding" the political divide a little bit, which could lead to a " false dualism" if we chased the two party thing too assiduously. Still, you've made a great start! And I love the way you've helped us see who is "represented" as immigrants and who is not. Bravo!!!


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