Yes, but…

In Knoblauch’s Literacy and the Politics of Education, literacy and its perceived definitions and importance in our world today is discussed. Labels like being “illiterate” and “literate” hold many different definitions and varying perspectives, but hold meaning related to judgment, importance, and power in society. There is an agreement, among the literate (ironically) that there is a necessity for literacy, and that the illiterate cannot successfully participate in human progress. This assumption is due to society’s mediated vision of the way things ought to be.   This claim that the illiterate cannot successfully participate in human progress gives off an impression that illiterate people are barbarians…or are worthless.
While I commend Knoblauch for pointing out the importance of acknowledging that individuals can change the way we know things to be, and that people “measured positively” by their literacy “enjoy their privileges because of their power to choose and apply that instrument on their own behalf”, he follows up with a questioning statement, explaining that the literate’s enjoyed privileges have nothing to do with their development or worthiness.
I agree that opportunities knock for the literate because we apply ourselves, choose to educate ourselves, go to college, to apply for a job, ect. .  It is our ability of being able to speak, read and write that enables us to be in a position of power, and make a choice about whether to take advantage of opportunities, but it is important to consider that the aspect of worthiness contributes to being able to take advantage of these “privileges”.  For example, we are only seen worthy of a job if we have the knowledge and experience that goes along with it.  Creating a hypothetical situation, imagine that you were doing a group interview for a job at a local business firm. In your group of prospective applicants, there were many highly educated people surrounding you and one who had never gone to college, or even a trade school.  If you didn’t get the job because you lost it to someone who was literate, I’m sure you would be disappointed but you would most likely coincide the reason for you not getting the job to be because people had higher qualifications than you, or were more worthy. However, what if it was the person who you deemed as illiterate who got the job? Would you not see yourself as more worthy of the position than them? My guess is that you would; I know that is how I’d perceive it if it was me. It would be expected that the firm would associate education and literacy with worthiness for the job. There is a sense that the illiterate is in an inferior position compared to the superior well educated.  Literacy is intrinsically tied to worth. The illiterate applicant is clearly trying to apply themselves towards some sorts of progression by trying to create an income and increase their lifestyle, however they are denied that opportunity.
Human progression, survival, and success have more to do with than being literate, voicing choices and applying oneself. American culture has been constructed to recognize reading and writing abilities with how worthy you are to receive privileges, and have a say in the construction of our world.


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