chapter  3
25 Pages

RESTRICTED ACCESS TO A PRIVILEGED PRACTICE

Essayist literacy is the privileged literacy practice within Western societies, constituting considerable cultural/linguistic capital; that is, it is a socially valued and valuable practice, conferring prestige on its users (see Bourdieu 1991, 1994). The practice of essayist literacy is enacted and maintained through formal institutions of schooling and in many ways is synonymous with formal schooling: to do schooling successfully means doing essayist literacy successfully. The further up the schooling ladder you go, the closer you are expected and presumed to come to the ideals of essayist literacy. Whilst essayist literacy is the dominant literacy practice within schooling, it becomes the central action of higher education (after Womack 1993): the highest certification is a Ph.D., which is awarded on the basis of a written thesis (and its defence). In order to be successful in HE, students must gain access to, that is, learn the conventions of, essayist literacy.