Freirean Cultural Lenses for Promoting Future Teacher Literacy Knowledge: Dominant Literacy Discourses and Majority Interns in a Minority High School

By Agnello, Mary Frances | Journal of Thought, Spring-Summer 2008 | Go to article overview
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Freirean Cultural Lenses for Promoting Future Teacher Literacy Knowledge: Dominant Literacy Discourses and Majority Interns in a Minority High School


Agnello, Mary Frances, Journal of Thought


How is it possible for us to work in a community without feeling the spirit of the culture that has been there for many years, without trying to understand the soul of the culture?"

--Paulo Freire cited in Gadotti, 1994

Introduction

Upon reflection about my teaching practice, I began my first phase of qualitative research in literacy policy research, moving from practice to theory. The result of this part of the project was a history of literacy discourses 1970-1998 (Agnello, 2001). In that history, I traced the development of what Bernstein called official pedagogical discourse, utilizing discourse analytical procedures to frame a critical study of prescriptions for literacy development in landmark educational policies (Bernstein, 1980). Citing official literacy statements as data, I constructed a history of four discourses of literacy including human capital, cultural, critical, and feminist literacies. The time range spans from the publication of Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970) to an effort to unite welfare and literacy in the Workforce Investment Act (1998). Most recently, I have added an analysis of No Child Left Behind in an effort to bring the dominant discourses of literacy study up to date. In sum, discourse analysis of landmark policy texts chronicled archaeological discursive relics that contributed to the development and regulation of a literate citizenry (Freire, 1970; Foucault, 1972; Agnello, 2001). Regulation results from discourses of human capital and cultural literacy and the power exercised in many locations to perpetuate the knowledge arrangements such discourses afford the political economy (Freire, 1970). For those on the bottom of the social hierarchy, oppression often results from implemented literacy policies (Freire, 1970; McNeil, 2000; Valenzuela, 2005).

In the second stage, I moved from theory to practice. The history of literacy discourses became a backdrop against which I approached critical applications of teaching literacy in a language arts methods class. The objective of such teaching was to promote reflective and critical teaching practice. Cochran-Smith (1991, 2001), Darling-Hammond (1990), and Darling-Hammond and Wise (1991) have discussed the possibilities for such critical practice in the turbulent seas of educational restructuring resulting from policy reform. Followers of Freire promote reflection through teacher as researcher and teacher as public intellectual endeavors. In new multicultural times, with new literacy awareness, and upon new epistemological foundations of literacy research, I shared new teaching methods and postformal practices with language arts methods students in order to transform schooling and the world (Kincheloe, 1991, 1993; Giroux, 1988; Kincheloe & Steinberg, 1993; Agnello, 2006).

Responding to Duke and Mallette, who express a paucity of lenses utilized to explore the many facets of national literacy research, I pursued archaeological, genealogical research, employing synthetic and interpretive discourse analysis of both student interns' influences on their literacy development and formal literacy policy articulations. This research is phenomenological and hermeneutical making interpretive connections among future teachers' experiences, national literacy policy, and the educational possibilities afforded a literate citizenry (Agnello, 2001). Such multi-epistemological and multi-methodological endeavors promote change in the way we view knowledge connoted by the "truths" of literacy and the practices implemented to achieve such literacy at large. Revolutions and struggles evidenced in research methodologies, in education, and in literacy studies stem from epistemological questioning of the "inscription of political and social doctrines of progress into science" (Popkewitz, 1997, p. 18; Lankshear, 2001). This revolutionary phenomenon has occurred particularly in the production of knowledge, social sciences, and education that "question[s] the presuppositions of progress and power underlying intellectual work" (Popkewitz, 1997, p.

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