Clarity and Cacophony in Canadian Literacy Discourse: New Directions for a National Literacy Policy

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Di Gangi, Carissa
policy , Canada , education , Cultural Studies , literacy
This thesis explores the varied and often conflicting ways in which literacy is addressed in Canadian discourse in order to propose a progressive way forward for Canadian literacy policy. The historically conventional meaning of literacy, that of the ability to read and write, is increasingly falling out of favour among theorists, educators and policymakers alike. It remains, however, a dominant influence in how literacy is written about today, and more progressive theories, such as notions of critical literacy, multiliteracies, and literacy as communication across difference, rest in the peripheries. This thesis examines the ways in which current organizations in Canada are negotiating between literacy’s conventional meaning and the myriad of progressive literacy theories that have been developed in academia. The conceptual framework that informs the research is influenced by cultural theorists Stuart Hall, Paulo Freire, Henry A. Giroux, Edward Said and Michel Foucault, and work that they have done relating to communication, education, difference and power. This thesis gathers data from the websites of three national literacy organizations, Frontier College, World Literacy Canada, and ABC Life Literacy, as well as from Bill C-401, “An Act to establish a national literacy policy.” Taken together, they allow for generalized conclusions about what literacy theories have been incorporated into contemporary Canadian discourse, and what further work and challenges lie ahead for a progressive national literacy policy.
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