ERIC Number: ED257115
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1984-Nov-17
Formal and Functional Notions of Literacy in the History of American Education.
Documents produced for three separate conferences that were convened to discuss the aims and methods of English instruction in the past century demonstrate the pedagogical shift from a "formal" concept of literacy to a more functional one. An 1896 conference at Harvard University reviewed secondary school and college English instruction during the preceding two decades, and the resulting reports aptly demonstrate the belletristic definitions of literacy which prevailed in academic circles. In 1916 twenty universities from across the country, convening for a second conference, subscribed to a formal definition of literacy similar to Harvard's 20 years earlier. At an ACT conference in 1977, participants generally agreed that formal criteria still prevailed in the teaching and evaluation of literacy skills and advocated educational reform, calling for schools to adopt a set of functional criteria that took into account the social use of language as defined by the students' own needs. Further indications of the ways in which the concept of functional literacy has influenced the teaching and evaluation of language arts skills can be seen in recent developments in writing assessment programs. In fostering literacy skills, the language arts teachers must not only be aware of the students' own perceived language needs, as advocated by the functionalist school, but also be prepared to guide students' perceptions of those needs, in keeping with formalist thinking. This paper includes a substantive bibliography of books and articles dealing with literacy. (HTH)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: Teachers; Practitioners
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Council of Teachers of English (74th, Detroit, MI, November 16-21, 1984). For related documents, see CS 208 959-961.