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governments have failed in their drive to develop literacy and numeracy provision in this country. The Skills for Life field has impressive statistics for the number of qualifications obtained since its inception, but this has been mostly an exercise in providing people with certificates to validate their levels. Ever-declining budgets, and a result-obsessed culture have resulted in a perverse state whereby those who really need education are not given it, and those who do not need it may be provided with it. For example, in my current place of employment if a student is judged unlikely to pass their exam a second time they will most likely not be offered a place to repeat the course. However, the elephant in the room, and the root cause – namely structural inequality - is rarely addressed.

In this learning economy, teachers are seen not as creative or knowledgeable but as transmitters of skills, of proscribed curricula, and not as "transformative intellectuals" (Giroux, 1988) who develop critically thinking citizens; instead teachers reproduce the ideologies of the hegemonic culture. The present skills-based agenda has less to do with mastery of the subject and more to do with economic 'functionality'. In case of ESOL learners, we provide them with the English that will help them to function as economic units as soon as possible, ignoring their pre-existing knowledge and experience. This aligns with the American pedagogue E.D. Hirsch's belief (1987) in the teaching of 'cultural literacy' - 'core knowledge' of facts, figures and phrases about historical events. A prime example of this would be the Citizenship Test which has become more a memory test of facts and figures than about the culture and values of this country. Hirsch's method perpetuates current hegemonic views of history and does not ask the student to be critical of facts and figures.

Education as Empowerment CDA, and the writings of Foucault, and Gramsci, which heavily influenced CDA, have been instrumental in me becoming a more political teacher. Through Foucault one comes to recognise how the '[dominant] discourse constructs the topic, defining and producing the objects of our knowledge (cited in Hall 1997, p.72). Knowledge is power and assumes the authority of 'the truth' (cited ibid p.76). This aligns with Gramsci's idea that the hegemonic class project their thinking upon the subordinated - who come to believe this thinking as 'common sense' and 'natural'.

In both writers I found hope, because this hegemonic discourse can be contested. As Gramsci stated, such 'common sense is not … rigid and immobile but is continually transforming itself' (cited ibid p.73) (the changes in lifelong policies attest to this fact), and as such, affords opportunities for it to be resisted. But before that can take place, it is important, to recognise and question social norms – 'of detaching the power of truth from the forms of hegemony, social, economic, and cultural, within which it operates at the present time' (Foucault (1980) cited in Rabinow 1991, p.75).

A New Beginning The Masters helped me understand that the role of Education/Literacy 'should be regarded as a way of preparing man for a social, civic and economic role that goes beyond the limits of rudimentary literacy training consisting merely in the teaching of reading and writing' (UNESCO (1965) cited in Eldred et al. 2007 p.7)

And now, as I embark on my PhD in the Philosophy of Education at the age of 44, it almost feels like a new beginning for me both as a person and as a teacher. I see all education now, not simply in terms of skills but in the Platonic/Aristotelian idea of fulfilment: in the forming of the body, mind and soul of a valued citizen, and that such learning should take place throughout one's life - all this I impress upon my learners. As for me, going back to education has rejuvenated and revitalized my being – mind, body and soul - I feel nourished, and as I enrol for yet another “qualification”, positively gruntled!


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