Sunday, December 28, 2003

Poverty, Racism and Literacy. ERIC Digest.

Poverty, Racism and Literacy. ERIC Digest. This ERIC Digest looks at how racism and poverty impact literacy skills. It is reasonable to assume these factors also impact information literacy skills.

From the site:

"In the prevailing and traditional definition, literacy is regarded as central to helping people obtain and retain employment, which is the key to moving them from dependency toward greater self-sufficiency. This functionalist definition, espoused by many policymakers, funders, and employers, is based on the assumption that there are jobs for the poor who are able to improve their literacy skills (Hornbeck and Salamon 1991). However, the U.S. economy currently does not produce enough jobs that pay sufficiently well to create pathways out of poverty (Wilson 1996). Job loss and low wages are unequally distributed across races/ethnicities, with Blacks and Hispanics more likely to lose employment than Whites and more likely to be hired for service work than for better-paying jobs (Bureau of Labor Statistics 2002)."

"Auerbach (1992) suggests that there exists a 'literacy myth' in which economic mobility is touted as the result of literacy acquisition when, in reality, race and gender play a greater role in shaping an individual's economic prospects. Without the availability of jobs that pay a living wage, literacy education loses its value and appeal. Literacy alone cannot overcome the effects of class and race on access to educational and employment opportunities (D'Amico 1999)."

"Another perspective cited in the literature with increasing frequency suggests that literacy is more than the acquisition of reading and writing skills; it is also a social practice or social currency, and, as such, a key to social mobility (Gee 1991). Learning the hidden rules and cultural codes of the dominant culture, according to this perspective, facilitates upward mobility. To be successful in accessing educational and employment opportunities, members of minority groups must become bicultural, i.e., they must be able to function both in the culture of their identity group and in the dominant culture." Full article at