Along the Road to Social Justice: A Literacy of Promise
Traditionally, literacy has been a part of the “cultural capital” of the privilegedthe capital of those who have the power to own knowledge and to present that knowledge as significant, as “that which is important to know.” Power grants certain groups the privilege to write the rules, to change them, and to apply them in ways that perpetuate their status. Thus, historically, becoming “literate” meant that one had to acquire that capital, i.e., the knowledge, the perspectives, the cultural and linguistic forms, the literary traditions of privileged groups. For some, the acquisition of literacy offered exclusive access to citizenry and the bestowal of power, reward and recognition. A “literacy of promise,” as we are defining it here, gives ownership to the oppressed, validating their linguistic and literary heritage, giving them a voice. A literacy of promise is inclusive and advocates for collective ownership rather than elite proprietary rights. This kind of literacy invites marginalized groups to affirm their past, to critique the present, and to re-envision their future. A literacy of promise intentionally presents a challenge to the status quo.