When prompted by the course instructor to define literacy, I, like many others in the class, defined it as the ability to read and write. This seemed to be the main concensus throughout the class. What Jerrie Cobb Scott is suggesting though, is that this is a "narrow definition" that encourages teachers to only look at the problems presented by non-mainstream groups whose literacies may differ (207). While I truly liked her definition of literacy -"ways of knowing, accessing, creating and using information", I am not sure I agree with the fact that to be truly literate one must be able to interpret verbal texts and create a social, personal and academic meaning from it. I still hear or see print advertisements that I just don't get. I'm sure there are many allusions in movies I see that I miss, or if I know it's an allusion to something I don't have the knowledge to comprehend it's meaning. I'm not sure this means that I lack literacy. I think it could point to a lack of cultural knowledge but no more. Ane no, I don't think that thourough cultural knowledge is essential for true literacy. I think that the ability to articulately express ideas and concerns (in whatever language you are operating) on paper or verbally in a manner that is not so egocentric, and the ability to interpret other's attempts to do the same, is literacy. I agree with Cob Scott that the "bottom line is that both knowledge and the care we take in delivering knowledge are important." (212) The more tools an individual has at their disposal to gain and share knowledge can be called the tools of literacy.
Ed. Halasek and Highberg. Landmark Essays. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2001.