For most people, literacy has a nonpolitical function. It is there supposedly to help form the intellectual character of a person and to provide paths to upward mobility. Yet, the process of both defining what counts as literacy and how it should be gained has always had links to particular regimes of morality as well. Literacy was often there to produce economic skills and a shared system of beliefs and values, to help create a “national culture.” As the author of a recent volume on newly emerging redefinitions of literacy in education has put it, it served as something of a “moral technology of the soul.” 2