Definition of Literacy

Definition of Literacy

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There are many complications that arise when seeking a single definition of literacy. The debate over what is literacy and what isn’t is one that is of critical importance to the education of our country’s students. When originally asked at the beginning of this course about what literacy is, my initial response was the ability to read and write. While I suppose my answer wasn’t wrong, it certainly wasn’t entirely right either. Reading and writing are certainly important aspects of any persons literacy and are therefore one of the reasons why schools test in these areas frequently. However, as the course progressed I came to understand that there maybe more to what I originally thought about what literacy is. I came to realize that coming up with a single definition would prove to be a tedious task since there now appeared to be so many things that can be considered literacy. Through reading articles pertaining to literacy and observing various settings where literacy is used, I have been able to come to a better understanding of what literacy is.
     Elliot Eisner, in his book Cognition and Curriculum Reconsidered, talks about forms of representation. He defines forms of representation as “the devices that humans use to make public conceptions that are privately held.” (Eisner, p. 39) He says that these can take multiple forms ranging from oral speech to music to images. Eisner gives the example of a painter who comes across a small mid-west town. Eisner suggests that if the painter were to want to express his private conceptions about the town to the public, he would most likely do so through the form of a painting. This is important because how a person expresses their selves is founded in their own personal literacy. What if the painter was asked to tell someone about the town and he was not allowed to use painting as a form of representation? How would the painter then be able to do so to the best of his ability? What this proves is that multiple forms of representation are needed because every person is different in their literary preferences. Indeed, Eisner states that to be refrained from using a form of representation “would eventually not only limit expression, but put the brakes on conception as well.

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” (Eisner, p. 42)
     Eisner makes an important point when he states that “Every form of representation neglects some aspect of the world…Not everything can be said through anything.” (Eisner, p. 41) This is an important point because a form of representation that might succeed in describing one thing could be insufficient in describing another. Eisner makes an interesting assertion that “the forms of representation children have access to or are encouraged to use will shape the mental skills or forms of intelligence they will be able to
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