Hi there tout la gang,

We don't have much to say about research in practice at the Café right now

but we are talking policy and practice over here now: Literacy Enquirers.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

may day message from the frontlines

I found this comment by Kim Solga in response to Margaret Wente's despicable rant about the Quebec student protestors and thought I should post it here. I am not linking to the Wente column because it is so hateful but you can find it over at the Globe and Mail.

Kim made her comment at 5:01 AM on May 1, 2012. And it seems like a perfect May Day post. Thank you Kim! Happy May Day everybody.

I looked up Kim Solga and found these links - this and this. Not sure if this is the same Kim Solga or not but it looks like a good match.

Update: I emailed Kim and it is the Kim in the links. She sent me a lovely reply. She is a good ally in the Please Wake Up Brigade.

And here are those good words randomly tucked away amongst almost 1200 other comments:
I'm constantly amazed at how easily many who comment miss the larger picture of columns like these. C'mon, everyone - think critically about this story!

Are Quebec's students spoiled brats? I have no idea - I don't know any of them. The media image isn't pretty, but, then, the media isn't a public service - it's a for-profit industry in this country. For-profit industries are not generally kind to those invested in not-for-profit ideals.

Are all these students Arts and Humanities majors? Again, I doubt it - there's no census-taker in the crowd, and Stephen Harper has certainly assured StatsCan will be unavailable for comment - but it's very easy to make blind and frequently wholly inaccurate assumptions about demographics.

Every one of us who has graduated from a Canadian university has benefitted - and rightly so - from subsidized schooling. Whether you are successful or not is a matter of many factors - including how our culture, at any given moment, has chosen (or been pushed, by a mix of government and private interests) to value certain kinds of "knowledge" over others. Right now, we're encouraged to believe that only science and business grads will get jobs later, because that's the "real" knowledge that "matters". In fact, smart students across the disciplinary spectrum will find work, because the industries thriving the most right now are those that are creative and adaptive. Just take a look at Apple, famous not just for great computers but also for hiring a lot of very different kinds of people with a wide variety of skills.

As for the rest of us? Sorry, Ms Wente, but we are in fact victims of neoliberal capital's power to pull the wool over our eyes. We're oddly back to the same aggravated discourse about winners and losers, science and business vs everything else that we were having in 2007-08, before the bottom fell out of the markets. Why have the consequences of that fall-out adversely affected the middle classes, and not those far higher up the food chain? And why are we not angrier about it?

Perhaps we're all too busy trying to blame Quebec's postsecondary students for a much, much larger problem.
Update 2: Erika Shaker has another excellent response to Lady Wente over on Rabble.

Monday, April 30, 2012

all sizzle...

Wendell writes on his blog about another industry-driven approach to adult literacy: "with due respect"
"There's a myth that Business is a vital stakeholder in literacy; that Business supports adult literacy work, though it naturally wants us to spend conservatively. But there is no such thing as Business. There are only business people. Some of them are friends of literacy. Some of them are not."
Food for thought.

Monday, March 19, 2012

menial no more

I am currently attending the Ontario Literacy Coalition Menial No More Webinar.

We start with talk about PIACC and other data to set the scene. And then we are told about how the skills required of even the most low-paying jobs are changing and increasing. The National Occupation Classifications are no longer an accurate reflection of what is happening in workplaces.

The WE below are customers:

Working in a coffee shop as a barista is no longer a job that does not require skills. We are told about an example from Loblaws: new expectations are that all employees are able to ensure product freshness and know where products come from.

What are other jurisdictions doing to meet this challenge?

The US government has spent $1.5 billion in Career Ladders including 3 programs: Shifting Gears, Jobs for the Future and I-Best.

Australia has Skilling Australia.

The UK Skills for Life WAS the gold standard but they are scaling back because results were not meeting expectations. They are now looking at basing training upon industry standards.

What should WE do? (This time the WE means adult educators. I guess.)

The food industry is changing. The Maple Leaf foods layoffs were not just about productivity. They also were about safety.

In retail, the Apple Store is becoming the model for customer service. This sector is wondering where their next generation of employees are going to come from. This is the the fastest growing sector. They traditionally hire recent high school and university graduates and this group is shrinking.

For non-regulated health care (nursing homes) there is no data.

The logistics and supply chain sector is growing fast. Most of the jobs in this sector are manual labour but one mistake can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Sixty percent of these jobs currently do not require a high school diploma.

Mining is thinking in a very progressive manner about how to involve under-utilized segments of our labour market in their industry.

Hospitality and tourism has set up career ladder programs using Canada Language Benchmarks. This is a good model for us to look at. They are using it in ESL (English as a Second Language) programs but not in literacy programs.

Manufacturing is starting to rebound and looking for employees. They are investing in training. They have the highest median age in employee group. This article describes the current situation.

Social Service recipients were consulted about what they want. Their number one desire was a job. Most people do not participate in something just for the sake of participating. They want to see a clear route to employment.

Fast Track in Minnesota is very successful because it has this plus required involvement of employers in developing curriculum or providing space.

Training must be Further, Faster, Better, especially for the most vulnerable.

We shouldn't be mapping, we should be creating clear sight lines to employment.

Our system is very supply oriented. We look at programs, creating learners, learners leave programs.

We rarely talk to demand side. They do this in the US. It has to be done regionally and with industry clusters.

Traditional LES education uses LES as a foundation that leads to doing. Learners Learn to Do.

In the more effective models, learners Do to Learn.

I (John MacLaughlin) like to think of myself as a thinker rather than a knower.

These models are not geared for people who would be successful anyway. They are geared for people who are under-represented in the labour force.

People say to me, this is not possible. This IS possible because it is happening elsewhere in jurisdictions that are spending less money than we are.

Getting industry involved is NOT getting them involved in committees. We need authentic relationships with employers. They need to be involved in curriculum development and teaching. Classes need to take place in potential workplaces.

The OALCF (Ontario Adult Literacy Curriculum Framework) is a remarkable step forward in creating goal paths but we still have not broken down the barriers between training and work. Certificates should revolve around an industry instead of around funding.

Why are WE (adult educators) training people the way industry should be training people? Because we cannot leave the training of the most vulnerable to industry. The great thing is that employers are saying this too.


Well. I am sure we all have lots to say about this.

But for now, I am just going to say that, for some of us, the sight line to this has been clear for quite a while now:
However, "[a]s concerns about the skills of the workforce grew, preparation for employment became ever more explicitly the primary (emphasis added) purpose of education" (Merrifield, 1998, p. 5) at all levels. As Merrifield put it, "[t]he customers of adult education began to be defined as employers, interested in the ‘product’ of skilled employees"

An ideological shift occurred between 1990 and 1996. During 1990, International Literacy Year, adult literacy thinking was still characterized by reformist social ambition, and agendas in adult literacy were influenced by lingering Freirean ideologies, or by second-chance rights thinking, or by ideals about overcoming disparities between developing and rich countries’ education. Significantly, however, 1990 had the kind of impact most International Years tend to have -- specialist and fleeting and therefore marginal. By the time the International Adult Literacy Survey was conducted by the OECD and its Canadian partners, the various participating countries engaged with substantially more commitment, and more mainstream policy attention. They typically replaced social transformation ideologies with prevailing ideas about labour market reforms, efficiency, and enhanced competitiveness in globalizing markets. ... In recent years, the global literacy agenda has, however, been set by international organizations concerned with relative international competitiveness of rich countries with post-industrial knowledge-based economies. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) whose members are the world’s most economically advanced democracies has been especially prominent; in their calculations ‘relative literacy levels’ have been established as part of a discourse of human capital and economic competitiveness (1992; 1995; 1996 and 1997).
Processes of policy making and theories of public policy: Relating power, policy and professional knowledge in literacy agendas by Joseph Lo Bianco, Summer 2004
(This article used to be on the Centre for Literacy of Quebec site on the 2004 Summer institute page. They have taken it down so I put it here. I hope that is okay with everybody. Let me know if not.)