The pervasive sadness of literacy workers

It's the in-between time. Winter job's over, Summer job's not started yet. I wonder: do I always get so grumbly this time of year?

I left a grumpy comment over on the Literacies Café after reading about a conference. Seems some people met in Halifax to talk or something. I didn't know. Wasn't invited, actually. It wasn't posted on the CALP Adult Literacy Network or group-mailed or anything. Not that I'd have gone, maybe. Still....

People from New Brunswick were there. Barb Martin from Han Martin Associates of the Burnt Church First Nation community was there. Don't know much about Ms. Martin or her work.

Also appearing was Mr. Tim Andrew. He's with our Department of Post-Secondary Education's Commission on Post-Secondary Education. I believe he came to that job from the Maritimes Provinces Higher Education Commission. He may be a very smart and lovely man. He might also know something about basic adult education or community literacy. I mean, it's possible.

Our third representative, among the presenters, was Rick Hutchins who works for PolicyLink. Now, again, this gentleman might be clever and good-hearted. But PolicyLink is a pretty questionable outfit. At least, I have to question their claims to somehow represent or work for me or my learners.

PolicyLink represents itself as a "provincial network of volunteer and non-profit agencies." The blurring of volunteerism and non-profits is everywhere in their largely unreadable documents; e.g., here. A glance at the membership lists suggests it would be more accurate to call it a committee comprised government employees and personal from so-called NGOs (non-governmental organizations) which, amazingly, includes Human Resources Development Canada, the Department of Justice, and the New Brunswick Public Libraries Foundation. By the way, this last organization, according to its own documentation "was established in 1997 by the Province of New Brunswick to receive donations and conduct fundraising activities" and is" a body corporate and an agent of the Crown." PolicyLink is not an agent of the Crown, but it's damn close.

In 2001, PolicyLink scored $347,000 to pay for two staff, "operating costs and in both official languages, specific activities, and for transportation and other related costs to ensure voluntary sector participation." Maybe this is the source of my bitterness? I remember our struggle that year for funds to get literacy programming into NB's largest public housing neighbourhood.

Mr. Hutchins also teaches courses in policy and community issues at UNB’s Renaissance College. That could give him insight into adult education. But literacy?

At the Café, they talk about some of the conferences' positive features, but also list the "less-than-high lights":
  1. The lack of diversity among participants. And along the same lines ~ the reports on projects about work in aboriginal communities not being presented by aboriginal people.

  2. The pervasiveness of a view that sets of numbers and/or tiny boxes can describe learning as a measurable, quantifiable set of skills rather than what it actually is: a process of developing self, community and awareness (see the scottish approach).

  3. The pervasive sadness of literacy workers. This ordinarily innovative and brave group is finding it difficult to envision a future for the field. I think that we all know why.

Anyway, I'll be glad to get back out in the field.

No comments: