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ERIC Number: ED259232
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1984-Nov
Pages: 48
Abstractor: N/A
Reference Count: N/A
Functional Illiteracy in the United States: Issues, Experiences, and Dilemmas.
Harman, David
The elimination of adult functional illiteracy has been declared a national priority. More than the ability to decipher a given text, functional literacy means the practical application of literacy skills to life in a particular society or group. But this in turn demands that the individual have enough prior knowledge of the surrounding culture and social processes to be able to glean meaning from the text. Functional literacy is both culture-specific and situation-specific, enabling individuals to apply the knowledge gained for purposes of their own choosing; it is also an expansive tool, permitting people to broaden their social and cultural horizons and to participate more fully in the wider context of American life. In order to measure literacy, however, a shared cultural backdrop is needed, and the U.S. high incidence of functional illiteracy probably reflects more the nation's high degree of cultural pluralism than the failure of the schools. In a pluralistic society there are many different contexts and groups, which necessitate different sets of skills and knowledge. Among contexts in which functional illiteracy is a particularly serious problem are immigrant populations, the military, the workplace, and prisons. In such settings, reading levels--being context dependent--cannot be changed independently of the context; however, when the context evolves, demanding more of its members, the chances that literacy levels will improve increase. The most promising approaches to literacy education now focus on the use of adult learning principles building upon the sociocultural characteristics of specific groups of learners. These strategies recognize the need to organize learning experiences in distinct units relating to the immediate concerns, perceptions, and motivations of adults, that is, to be of direct relevance to their contexts. (SK)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: National Inst. of Education (ED), Washington, DC.
Authoring Institution: Far West Lab. for Educational Research and Development, San Francisco, CA.; NETWORK, Inc., Andover, MA.