Talk:Critical literacy

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There wasn't an entry for "Critical Literacy" in Wikipedia. I thought since many Australian schools teach this stuff, it should be. I'm not saying I agree with it, I just thought it would be a good idea to at least have an entry for it. I just cut and paste from a handout my school gives to the kids when they hit year 9. I'm really interested to hear any comments.

It is interesting, but for copyright reasons: to satisfy Wikipedia's licensing requirements, you would need your school to license the handout under the GNU Free Documentation License to include so much content from it, see the notice at the very bottom of every page you clicked save on while editing a document: "DO NOT SUBMIT COPYRIGHTED WORK WITHOUT PERMISSION!". --Mysidia 14:35, 10 July 2005 (UTC)


Playing around and adding citations[edit]

Hey there. I'm just mucking around with this page in my spare time. It obviously needs some quotes from reputable sources. I'll get around to deleting the lame adds for the crit lit chick's page when I get to that paragraph..

Any help would be appreciated.

I'm not afraid. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 12:30, 16 March 2007 (UTC).

Deleted the advertising and tried to tidy some more[edit]

I'm amazed at how time consuming this is. And for some bizarre reason I want to continue to work on it! As I work out how to do things I'm trying desperately to make this article a little less embarrassing than it was to start out with. I fear I've made it worse. I deleted the links to the person's site about crit lit. I doubt they were making a profit. But it didn't help in a basic understanding of the concept being explored.

I gave the part which looks at concepts associated with critical literacy a title.. It doesn't really suit.. But it's better than how it joined originally.

Considering the power this approach to teaching English has in contemporary society, I'm surprised more people haven't tried to fix it up.. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 12:53, 16 March 2007 (UTC).

Section Headings[edit]

The history section is very short. It either needs to be developed and expanded, or, if it's not a logical heading for this subject, the content needs to be combined with another section. The Details section needs a better title. The Details section also needs references. There are a lot of ideas there (discursive background, intertextuality, dominant reading... to name a few) for which no sources are cited. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Jlwelsh (talkcontribs) 21:33, 18 September 2007 (UTC)

I think this article needs a good overall organizational structure. I'm looking for a well-organized article about a similar topic so that I can borrow the structure. I keep finding more poorly organized articles on related topics. This kind of topic seems much more difficult to organize than articles on things like bridges or species or cities.

Jlwelsh 23:44, 18 September 2007 (UTC)

Related Articles[edit]

The "See Also" section of this article lists a number of articles that are closely related and in some cases overlapping. For instance, there are separate articles (with very different approaches) for Critical literacy, Critical pedagogy, Media Literacy, and Multimedia literacy. I'm not saying that these should or shouldn't be separate topics, but there should be some acknowledgment of the relatedness of the concepts, if only to make the scope of each topic more clear.

Jlwelsh 12:28, 25 September 2007 (UTC)

Well, one good option is to create an infobox and then place this box into the relevant pages. What is the whole topic called? Pedagogy? I'm sure that's too big, but what are these different items that you list above a part of? Hires an editor 12:15, 26 September 2007 (UTC)
So in doing some checking, it seems that the overarching topic is Literacy. So we should create not an infobox, but a template for the bottom of each page dealing with literacy topics. Hires an editor 12:34, 26 September 2007 (UTC)
Whew! After doing more research, there is a Reading Template which includes Literacy, but I'm thinking that Literacy deserves its own template. I will be creating one soon. I also should get some consensus from the community about this, too, since there will be a literacy template on lots of pages. I don't really see that as a problem, though.
That's also something that deserves consideration: where should the template go? The Reading Template is on the side to the right, whereas I'm considering the template be a footer at the bottom of pages. I'll ask that question as well. What do you think? Hires an editor 13:26, 26 September 2007 (UTC)
There is some disagreement within the research community over the use of the term literacy for things other than reading and writing. However, some would say that reading is a form of literacy, one among many, and so the literacy template would make sense overall. I suppose the main question is about usability. What grouping will help people access the informaiton that they need? Reading is a broad enough field to need its own structure and organizational aid. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Jlwelsh (talkcontribs) 01:47, 28 September 2007 (UTC)

Template Created[edit]

So, following Wikipedia's guidelines, I decided to Be Bold!, and created the Literacy Template. I realize that in doing this, I've gone a bit afield of the intended scope, but I'm not exactly sure where. I'm still not sure of the scope, but hopefully this is a good start in any case. Hires an editor 15:43, 26 September 2007 (UTC)

How did you choose the people to include in the "Major contributors to literacy" section? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Jlwelsh (talkcontribs) 01:37, 28 September 2007 (UTC)
I used the "See Also" section of the main Literacy article as the basis for the template. I'm hoping that others will add on to this base. There were only two to start with, and their articles are short, and I added a third after looking around a bit, but the third person's article is short, too. I'm copying this discussion to the template's discussion page. Hires an editor 14:27, 28 September 2007 (UTC)

Major Divisions Proposed[edit]

There are multiple perspectives on Critical Literacy and part of the ambiguity between this article and other similar articles lies in this ambiguity. I'd like to propose that we reorganize this article to reflect the major schools of thought around the topic.

The text currently under the heading "Details" seems to describe specifics of work by Allan Luke, Michele Anstey, Geoff Bull, J. Elkins, Peter Freebody, and the New London Group, among others. This represents major work being done in this field in Australia in recent years. The bulk of that text was posted by someone working in an Australian school in 2005.

Another approach to Crit Lit is Frierian, springing from the works of Brazillian Paulo Freire. This could also be described as neo-Marxist, and this perspective is reflected in the works of Peter McLaren and Jean Anyon, among many others. (This is also the perspective most strongly represented in the current version of the Wikipedia article on Critical Pedagogy.)

A third perspective could be headed Critical Utopianism, as described by Henry Jenkins and others.

Acknowledging that there is still considerable overlap between these three perspectives, I think it is useful and accurate to describe Australian, Neo-Marxist/Freirean, and Critical Utopianism as three major schools of thought within the field of Critical Literacy.

Jlwelsh 02:30, 28 September 2007 (UTC)

I think that by rearranging the text into these perspectives, it will take away the dry text/list feeling, and contribute to the discussion that makes an encyclopedia so useful and accessible. Hires an editor 15:14, 28 September 2007 (UTC)
I haven't found enough published about Critical Utopianism yet, so I haven't included it in the revisions to the article. I think that at least one more major division of thought could be added, possibly Critical Utopianism, but I need more references to make the argument convincingly.

Jlwelsh 18:26, 20 October 2007 (UTC)

I'm somewhat uncomfortable with the section title "Australian". While it is true that many major authors and theorists are working there, there are also major authors working elsewhere, and this kind of critical literacy is practiced in many places. Canada is particularly notable. In fact, this article definitely needs to include a discussion of what's going on in Canada. Jlwelsh 19:31, 20 October 2007 (UTC)

Observations pertaining to changes[edit]

Hey all,

Things are looking good here at the moment. The article still needs a lot of work but it's much better as it currently stands.

I'd like to give my support to the person who provided an "Australian" section. I think that's a valid idea as the version of Crit Lit taught in High Schools in English in Australia is a version unto itself. In fact it varies from state to state.

A comment: Ultimately Critical Literacy isn't about "books" it can also refer to pictures, movies buildings.. Anything.

Of interest is the fact that it's currently being phased out in Australia as schools put greater emphasis upon grammar.

Thanks for the comments, particularly supporting the "Australian" section. I have found more support for the idea, so I think it might be appropriate. It's interesting that Australia is phasing out crit lit, though. I wonder what the reasoning is there. Jlwelsh 01:02, 29 October 2007 (UTC)

References missing[edit]

The article is referring to "Moon 1992" without any further description or link to the source. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Lawrence Heap (talkcontribs) 19:08, 4 June 2012 (UTC)

Section removed[edit]

I removed the section on "Australian". There are a number of problems, not least of which is the absence of evidence of a distinct Australian school of literacy. I would invite you to review the actual text, for example the section on "gaps and silences" and ponder the legitimacy of this content. At the very least it needs massive copyediting and proper sources. Basically, it's an essay. Guy (Help!) 11:40, 31 March 2014 (UTC)

Australian researchers and educators (including Allan Luke, Michele Anstey, Geoff Bull, J. Elkins, Peter Freebody, and the New London Group, among others) have made major contributions in recent years to the field of critical literacy. While Neo-Marxist/Freirean critical literacy proceeds from a desire to remedy social inequities, this body of work begins with an analysis of text and proceeds from there. This school of thought is not necessarily opposed to the use of critical literacy to address issues of social justice, but its enactment does not proceed from an assumption of exploitation and abuse of power. "Australian" critical literacy is researched and practiced in many countries. The philosophical underpinnings do not necessarily originate in Australia, but many researchers currently associated with the work are based in that country and Australia has incorporated many of the practices into its national curriculum.

From this philosophical perspective, critical literacy is the belief that interpreting literature is more than simply decoding the words of a text. It is necessary to understand that language is a social construct and that it is never neutral. It is used to inform, entertain, persuade and manipulate. The philosophy behind critical literacy is that it is necessary to learn how language works in order to be a more skilled user of language in terms of both comprehending and composing.

The use and relevance of critical literacy has been disputed. Some believe it to be innapropriate, and feel that texts are constantly deconstructed and over analysed to destruction.[citation needed]

Portions of the following sections are from a document distributed to secondary school students in Australia detailing the basic tenets of critical literacy.


  • Multiple Readings: Texts, of themselves, do not have any central integrity. There is no one indisputable way a text can be read. It may be read in different ways by different people. The different readings will be determined by factors such as the context and the reader's discursive background. A reading of Jane Austen's Emma, from the point of view of a member of the upper class English, could be quite different from that of a servant at that time. Again, a reading made in 1820 could be quite different from one made in 2000. Readings may be broken down into categories:
  • Dominant reading: The readings of texts are not totally chaotic and usually most people construct more or less the same meaning of a given text. A slight variation on this dominant reading is the preferred meaning which refers to the meaning that the composer of the text had in mind for the readers. This of course is usually applicable to advertising texts.
  • Alternative readings: These refer to readings made of a text that differ from the dominant reading but nevertheless are not markedly different and could still be supported by a number of readers. Parents, for example, might read Looking for Alibrandi in a different way to its intended teenage audience.
  • Resistant reading: This is reading 'against the grain'. a minority reading that is not in accord with the majority of readers or the intentions of the composer. Many feminist readings of traditional texts, for example, could fit into this category.


This is not merely its setting in time and place. "Context refers to the multitude of factors which shape the meaning of a text within the social framework of its reading. This framework may include particular ideas about the text's history, but is also powerfully shaped by competing beliefs and practices in the present. (Moon,1992). This means that the context is constantly shifting and that the nature of the reader, and the time that it is read, are significant.

This suggests that the 'meaning' or reading of a text is determined by a huge range of social, cultural, time, composer, reader factors.

An example of context may be considered in terms of the movie Dead Poet's Society. This is set in the USA in the early 1960s, a time when teenagers had little individual freedom and the will of the parents was very strong. But not all American teenagers were in this category and not all parents exerted power. In turn this was all influenced by class, politics, religion etc. Furthermore this was the view as presented by the film's director and this needs to be examined. And again, the particular understanding of the viewer might 'vary' the context.


This refers to all the language associated with a particular life experience or identity construct (e.g. race, social class, gender, sexuality, age, etc.). Hence one can have the discourse of school or the family or childhood that are closely related to the related sociocultural identities. Discourses overlap and constantly change. One can belong to a wide and ever changing number of discourses and they all can affect the way one makes meaning of texts. The language features can include the words (lexicons I of the discourse ego for school - timetable, parade, etc.,. the way words are expressed, the exclusive jargon, the operating power structures in the language etc.).

Discursive background[edit]

Each person has a unique personal and discursive background. This is shaped by the discourses that one has been involved in and have operated on us. Thus it could include one's upbringing (family, social class, traditions, religion etc.), one's friends, one's school, education, experiences one has had, ones gender, hobbies and interests and so on.


As a result of one's discursive background, their view of the world and how they read texts are shaped by a multiplicity of previous experiences and readings. Whenever one looks at something they shift through all of their knowledge to make meanings. One combines texts to create a complete picture. This combination of texts is referred to as intertextuality. If, for example, one is watching a movie which includes a villain one of the ways that they assume that he or she is a villain is through the knowledge that they bring to this current text from previous texts -.i.e. clothes, facial expression, gestures etc. In this way, a reading can become richer. It can also explain why some people sometimes have difficulty making meaning of some texts; they may have limited intertextual experiences to draw on.

View of the world[edit]

Refers to the way the author chooses to show/paint the world. This view might be political, economic or social or a combination of these. Sometimes this is known as ideology.

A text's view of the world is also influenced by the author's discursive background. Ergo if an author likes a place, they write about it in a positive way; if they hate it they say negative things. They try to sway ones opinion.

Often the view of the world in a text does not agree with ones own view - it contradicts it, but, as a reader, one still reads the text and understands the author's message or viewpoint.

The view of the world often emerges from a reading of the text as a whole. Sometimes it emerges through one (or more) characters and sometimes the views of characters differ and therefore create conflict. A view of the world can sometimes be called a Version of Reality.

Gaps and silences[edit]

A gap of silence is when it is really quiet in a gap. These occur frequently in texts. They are created when the author, intentionally or unintentionally, chooses to include some pieces of information and omit others. The gap has been specifically placed to develop reader positioning further. An example of this could be an ad for shampoo would tell you the many benefits of the product however, fail to release to the public that animal testing has been used in the creation of this product.

A difference is generally seen between gaps and silences.

  • A gap is a place in a text where something is left out and it is up to the reader to fill in (or maybe not fill in) the blank. When one reads a text one generally does this without thinking. A movie, for example, usually has enormous gaps to be filled or meaning will be restricted. This filling in process is helped by one's discursive background.
  • A silence is when the viewpoints/voices of a certain person or group is left out or never heard. Frequently, for example, the view of a minority group is silenced in a text. On occasions they may be present but they are not given a role to enable their voice to be heard.


When constructing a text, an author inherently frames the content or character of the text using a certain attitude or point of view. This is called positioning. One may read the text in the way it is intended (which would be a preferred reading) or one may interpret it differently. For example, a woman may read a text on a rape differently from a man. One might also reject the reading or skew; for example, an advertisement may attempt to construct one as a certain archetype who desires a certain product when in fact one may resist this positioning. Positioning need not be static and could change as the text develops.


A character in a text may be granted (or denied) empowerment. This can be called agency. For example a member of a marginalised group may be very well aware of his or her deprivation but is unable to do anything about it - lack of agency.


Texts are considered social/cultural constructions. This means that they are assembled from a wide range of varied and possibly contradictory elements. Deconstruction is a critical practice which focuses on contradictions and" slippages" of meanings in order to remind one that meanings one makes when one reads are neither obvious or neutral. Deconstruction does not point out contradictions in order to 'destroy' texts but to improve ones reading of them (Moon, 1992)

Other language practices[edit]

  • Naturalisation - This refers to a process by which, over time, an attitude or belief develops, not through its essential truth but, because it is repeated over and over again and is not challenged. The marginalisation of some racial groups is an example of this.
  • Marginalisation - There is where, through language practices (including positioning and gaps and silences) a person or group is denied mainstream status and is literally pushed to the margins".
  • Valorisation - This refers to the situation where a person, belief or subject is accorded enhanced status greater than that which would be normally accorded to it. For example, some boys' football teams are valorised in schools.
  • Nominalisation - This is when the responsibility is shifted away from the actual cause. It becomes less threatening or anonymous (or almost natural or expected). For example "the oil tanker disaster has killed millions of birds" is more direct than "millions of birds were killed after the oil spill".
  • Privilege - Sometimes in a text a particular character, or ideology, is given greater moral standing or worth over another. This position or person or ideology is privileged.
  • Personalisation - This is when an author of a text (frequently a speech) introduces a personal note to increase empathy between speaker and audience, e.g. through the use of personal pronouns such as I, we, you, and me.
  • Denotation/connotation - Denotation is the practice that allows a meaning to be made. A connotation is an understanding of the significance of the meaning ego a uniform denotes the rank of say, captain. The assumed power of this rank is the connotation.
  • Collectivisation - This refers to the language practice of broadening the base from the singular to the plural It increases the power of the position. ego 'we' or 'us' instead of 'I' or 'me'.
  • Foregrounding - Frequently, in a text, a particular aspect stands out in relation to all other aspects. This feature (person or thing) has been foregrounded, usually with a purpose, for example the romance between the boy and girl in Titanic.
  • Binary Opposition - This is an organising principle suggesting that things are opposite or do not have much in common - i.e., black/white, man/woman, best/worst. It supports the tendency to look at things in terms of simple contradictions and also has implications of power and conflict. . Rationalisation. This refers to the process where a perceived problem/issue may be 'explained away' or minimised by a subject. The explanation, however, may not always be convincing to the audience.
  • Representation - Texts do not mirror or reflect transparently the real world. Rather they represent or construct versions of reality mediated by the ideologies or values or worldview of the composer (and indeed the reader/viewer/listener, Representations are textual constructions.

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Criticisms of Critical Literacy?[edit]

Are there established criticisms of the critical literacy method? I think the article would be strengthened by identifying opposing perspectives and critics of this approach. thanks. mgaved (talk) 14:26, 16 August 2017 (UTC)