Print literacy as oppression: Cases of bureaucratic, colonial, and totalitarian literacies and their implications for schooling

EUGENE MATUSOV, JOHN ST. JULIEN
2004 Text - Interdisciplinary Journal for the Study of Discourse  
Although there have been many claims made about iiberatitzg, progressive, and advanced functions of print literacy, little attentiorz has been paid to its oppressive functions. Here we argue that from its earliest days, print literacy has also served oppressive political regimes. Print literacy is neither essentially liberating nor oppressive-it can support drflerent regimes and practices. The purpose of this article is to examine some of the oppressive functions of print literacy and to show
more » ... eracy and to show how they are embedded within particular oppressive regimes. We consider the oppressive functions of print literacy under bureaucratic, colonial, and totalitarian regimes and discuss their consequences for teaching literacy in schools. W e analyze the following three issues for each regime: how a given regime oppresses people, how prkt literacy facilitrrt~ opprc?ssior?, and how the oppressive regime shapes print literacy. We conclude that in order to promote the liberating functions of print literacy, a sociocultural analysis of the pedagogical and institutional regimes established by schools is needed. This should involve an examination of the relations, constraints, goals, and values of school participants as they mani/'esi ikemseives in uciiiitites practices, iiiid dtscoiirses as well as exploration of how schoois might foster the diaiogic possibilities of print. t Abstract After 1945, a broad post-war consensus' developed in the West. There was general agreement that the state had an important role to play in such areas as macroeconomic management, environmental protection, and social provision for health, education, and welfare. But since the late 1970s, aspart of the neo-liberal project to extend the market into every aspect of social life, there has been a backlash against 'ineflcient', 'bureaucratic', 'unwieldy', and 'inflexible' state provision. In this article, I examine the discursive dimension of one facet of the 'new capitalism': the marketization of education in the UK. Using frameworks derived from critical discourse analysis, I analyze texts from three election manifestos: the Labour and Conservative rnanifstos from the 1987 election ( a turning point in U K education policy), and the Labour 1997 manifesto. I show how aspects of textual organization, such as patterns of transitivity, the representation of social actors, semantic prosody, and coherence, have a central role to play in the construction of 'comprehensive' and 'market' conceptualizations of the domain.
doi:10.1515/text.2004.008 fatcat:pj3z4hs4irei5phed5cyetr4pu