Abstract: Dis-entangling Literacy from neoliberal fusion: creating critical spaces for emancipatory learning and justice

Research output: Contribution to conferenceKeynotepeer-review


Adult literacy has gradually made its way into the heart of policy discourse in general and policy making in particular. Driving its intermittent change is the underlying philosophical perception of what education is in general and what adult literacy is in particular. Evidence from contemporary policy and practice suggests that adult literacy, both in policy and practice, has gradually evolved from being seen as a cause of social malaise to being seen as the cure for such social malaises. In effect, adult literacy policy and practice has assumed an instrumental characteristic which has shaped and constructed the dominant discourse around adult literacy (Ade-Ojo & Duckworth, 2015). This keynote explores potential alternatives to the dominant philosophy, policy and practice. Informed by sociological and critical educational frames that recognise the political, social, and economic factors that conspire to marginalise learners, it offers a transformative approach to adult literacy whilst also locating the model in an underpinning philosophy (Duckworth & Ade-Ojo, 2014). Rich empirical data from practice is probed to offer a justification to the recognition accorded the model. For example, the misrecognition of certain held dispositions that 'legitimatize' classed and gendered inequalities is exposed and redressed arguing that we need to look at issues of violence and trauma, such as the ones exposed in the narratives of the learners in my recent study, not as isolated accounts, but relate them to the structural inequalities in people's lives. It offers an indicator of the relationship of the learners to the state and the social values which uphold this (Duckworth, 2013). The analysis argues that a different value position to the dominant curriculum, could yield a different approach to practice. This is illustrated with transformative and emancipatory literacy, which derives its values from a libertarian, equality and justice base (as against an instrumentalist base). Exposed are how changes to policy and practice could inform and shape the literacy curriculum and indeed pedagogy; a central driver suggested being adult education/literacy dis-entangling itself from neoliberal fusion and creating critical space for contextualised and emancipatory learning. Sources: Learning Trajectories, Violence and Empowerment amongst Adult Basic Skills Learners (Routledge, 2013); Landscapes of Specific Literacies in Contemporary Society: Exploring a social model of literacy (Routledge 2014); Adult Literacy Policy and Practice: From Intrinsic Values to Instrumentalism (Palgrave 2015).
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 9 Apr 2016
EventACAL-ACTA Conference: DIVERSITY: exchanging ways of being - Perth, Australia
Duration: 7 Apr 201611 Apr 2016


ConferenceACAL-ACTA Conference


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