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ERIC Number: EJ759701
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2006
Pages: 32
Abstractor: Author
ISSN: ISSN-0147-1635
Redefining Literacy as a Social Practice
Carter, Shannon
Journal of Basic Writing (CUNY), v25 n2 p94-125 Fall 2006
Despite multiple and persuasive arguments against the validity of doing so, many basic writers continue to be identified by what Brian V. Street calls the "autonomous model of literacy," a model that research tells us is as artificial and inappropriate as it is ubiquitous. This article describes a curricular response to the political, material, and ideological constraints placed on basic writing via this autonomous model and instead treats literacy as a social practice. After a brief description of the local conditions from which our program emerged, I articulate what I call a "pedagogy of rhetorical dexterity," the new model upon which our curriculum is based. Informed by both the New Literacy Studies and activity theory, rhetorical dexterity teaches writers to effectively read, understand, manipulate, and negotiate the cultural and linguistic codes of a new community of practice based on a relatively accurate assessment of another, more familiar one. The final sections of the article describe the assignments included in a recent version of our curriculum, as well as selected student responses to these assignments and readings. Accepting that a curricular solution to the institutionalized oppression implicit in much literacy learning is necessarily partial and temporary, I argue that fostering students' awareness of the ways in which an autonomous model deconstructs itself when applied to real-life literacy contexts empowers them to work against this system. (Contains 8 notes.)
Kingsborough Community College City University of New York. Available from: Boyd Printing Company, Inc. 49 Sheridan Avenue, Albany, NY 12210. Tel: 800-877-2693; Tel: 518-436-9686; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Texas