I’m sorry, but I just don’t see very much “21st century” in this position statement.
Some of the language is downright baffling:
- One literacy or multiple? Which is it?
- “Develop proficiency with the tools of technology”: a single proficiency for multiple tools?
- “The twenty-first century demands”: time period as agent?
- “A wide range of abilities and competencies, many literacies:” abilities, competencies, and literacies are equivalent? Or do many abilities and competencies happen to be literacies, while some are not?
- Joe Williams (RIP) would wince at the committee-speak: the simpering title, the layered prepositions—”Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes”—and the repetitive verbs: “critique, analyze, and evaluate.”
- Where does “environments” come from in the last bullet? And to what does it refer?
But language isn’t the only problem here. There’s just nothing new; all of these “literacies” will be executed by careful readers from, say, 1978. Note that while these “new literacies” are “multiple, dynamic, and malleable,” the examples are traditional: reading and being a student. (As a good student of Ulmer would say, there’s little reason to expect an indictment of institutions which support traditional literacy from one of the organizations supported by those institutions.) Ethics appears in its usual place–last, segregated from other concerns. And I’ve always been ambivalent about scholarship which uses this “literacies” approach. At worst, as Anne and Johndan wrote in “Blinded by the Letter,” it reduces “literacy” to a less vocational-sounding stand-in for “skill.” Stuart Selber’s book Multiliteracies works very hard to avoid this problem, and I have mixed feelings about even its success.
I’m sure the intent here is good, but I just don’t see this advancing us beyond commonplaces about “multi-media” and “information overload.” What would I rather see? Less chanting of NCTE mantras like community, collaboration, and culture. More talk about technology–in much more concrete terms. Acknowledgment of the need to critique the institutional frameworks we’ve grown very comfortable with (all designed with and for high literacy).