“Social Linguistics And Literacy” by James Paul Gee Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 22 June 2016

“Social Linguistics And Literacy” by James Paul Gee

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In this report James Paul Gee (1996) from his book Social Linguistics And Literacy has given the idea that literacy is not just the ability to read and write but it is mush more than that. It is the knowledge of different “discourses” which are part of our personalities and the knowledge of the beliefs and values connected to these discourses. He also gives the idea of a liberating literacy which “can be used as a meta-language or a meta- discourse ( a set of meta-words, meta-values, meta-beliefs) for the critique of other literacy and the way they constitute us as persons and situate us in society.”

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POSITION PAPER ON FREERE’S PADAGOGY OF THE OPPRESSED

James Paul Gee (1996) in his book Social Linguistics And Literacy has given the idea that literacy is not just the ability to read and write but it is mush more than that. It is the knowledge of different “discourses” which are part of our personalities and the knowledge of the beliefs and values connected to these discourses. He also gives the idea of a liberating literacy which “can be used as a meta-language or a meta- discourse ( a set of meta-words, meta-values, meta-beliefs) for the critique of other literacy and the way they constitute us as persons and situate us in society.”(p.144). This liberating literacy, according to Gee along with one’s knowledge of failing to master fully the mainstream or the dominant culture is a strong “theory of the society and one’s position in it, that is, a base for resistance to oppression and inequality.”(p.147)

Friere (1970) in Pedagogy of the Oppressed is making the same assertion as Gee that to remove oppression in any social context the oppressed and those who truly feel one with the oppressed are the only people who can change the situation. They can change the social condition only by acquiring the knowledge of their own degraded situation in society. This consciousness of the oppressed is the only instrument that can bring the revolutionary transformation in a dehumanizing society.

These days the modern psychology of learning and the constructivist approach to education gives us the idea of a pedagogy that has “the task of recreating that knowledge”(p.69) as its main objective. It deals with knowledge as the understanding of oneself as part of the world and the understanding of the world as a whole in which one is a part. This pedagogy enables students to “develop their power to perceive critically the way they exist in the world with which and in which they find themselves.”(p.83) In this modern approach to education the meanings and understandings of the learners are emphasized and the curriculum has to be changed according to the needs of the learners.

John Dewey (1938) in Experience and Education tried to evaluate this progressive education on rational grounds. He tried to rationalize the need for a progressive education based on “experience”. Friere, on the other hand, in his book tried to give this new approach of re-construction of knowledge a moral, humanistic ground. For him education, which is humanizing, unifying, liberating and revolutionary, is by nature” dialogical”(p.86). This means that communication between students and teacher and their mutual involvement for the quest for realization of reality is the starting point for an effective pedagogy (p.85) which leads to humanization and equality in society.

The oppressed, who under the domination of the oppressors have internalized their lowly status, by dialogical and problem-posing education can regain their trust in themselves and transform their unjust existence in society. For Friere such a liberating education, which is inevitable for equality, harmony and justice in society, has love, humility, hope and faith in mankind as its fundamentals.(p.91) The teachers needed for this type of pedagogy are also special people who do not consider themselves as superior beings but who while teaching are “taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught also teach”(p.80).The students “no longer docile listeners – are now critical co-investigators in dialogue with the teacher.”(p.81)

In this type of empowering pedagogy the learner is given humanistic value and therefore while formulating the curriculum the educator has to make sure that it is an ” organized, systematized, and developed “representation” to individuals of the things about which they want to know more.”(p.93) Friere find curriculum which is “bits of information to be deposited in the students”(p.93) as dehumanizing and calls it the “banking education”(p.83). “Banking education” treats learners as passive containers to be filled. It views them as objects and not as thinkers. It takes away their human identity and therefore projects “oppression – overwhelming control – is necrophilic; it is nourished by love of death, not life.”(p.77)

Through out the book just like Dewey (1938), Friere tried to view human pedagogy in dialectical terms and not in terms of dichotomy (either-or) of things. He tried to bring harmony between subjectivity and objectivity; oppressor and the oppressed; teacher and students; human being and the world; reflection and action; thought and language; limits and freedom; leaders and people. On the other hand, with the help of the dichotomy between the oppression and liberation; love of life and love of death; conquest and cooperation; division and unity; manipulation and organization; cultural invasion and cultural synthesis; he manages to show us the destructive and violent aspects of the banking concept of education. We have to agree with him as he makes us feel the importance of the pedagogy of the oppressed which is needed for the transformation of an unjust reality but which eventually “becomes a pedagogy of all people in the process of permanent liberation.”(p.54).

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