A Critical Discourse Analysis of Family Literacy Practices: Power in and out of Print

By Rebecca Rogers | Go to book overview

Chapter 8

The Paradox of Literacy

Literacy in the Treaders' lives is paradoxical. Simply stated, literacy is not what it seems or promises to be. In this final chapter, I draw together why the interpretation and analysis I have presented thus far may be considered a trustworthy reading of the Treaders' literate lives. I use the CSE meeting presented in chapter 6 as a frame of reference to draw together the points made thus far. I have chosen this formal meeting as a reference point because many of the issues running through this book—literate subjectivities, discursive practices, and social structures—intersect during this meeting. June's participation in this meeting illustrates the complexity of her social and literate lives and how these positions influenced Vicky's participation within the same institutions.


CRITICAL DISCOURSE THEORY

The claims and foundations on which critical discourse theory and analysis are based are an important starting point for this discussion. Critical discourse theory, the theoretical anchor of this research, assumes that language is both a reflection and a construction of the social world, riddled with relations of power and privilege. Critical theorists often ask how dominant power relations are understood, transmitted, and reproduced in the social world. Often, these relations are seen as natural and common sense. Indeed, in chapter 1, I asked the following question: What are the processes through which literate practices lead to (or thwart) the attainment of social resources?

Throughout the book, I have presented analyses that reveal these processes. For example, recall the interactions in the CSE meeting room presented in chapter 6. Remember the precision of the turn taking, the objectivity of the language, and the careful orchestration of CSE membership. Also, remember June's almost complete silence and then her consent to put Vicky in a special-education classroom. Bear in mind also my questions to the committee, but also my ultimate consent to Vicky's placement. Similarly, in chapter 6 I noted the contradictions embedded in my role in the meeting. Each of these interactions point to the significance of subjectivities trapped within institutional webs of discourse.

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