If You Choose Literacy Work

I am not telling you this to get sympathy, but to explain that this is how you will live if you choose to become involved in literacy work, even if you work for a labour organization. You must get used to periods of layoff, whether you have the option to return to your original job or choose to keep working for nothing. There are times when the layoff will be a long one and if you can’t go back to your original job, you must go on Employment Insurance benefits. ... It’s also hard to tell unions that I can support them until our funding runs out and then they will have to cope on their own. Most times I tell them to call me at home.
Linda Wentzel, Doing Literacy
Fall 2007

Like you, I've seen and heard the news reports about the CCL, the Canadian Council on Learning, being cut off from future federal funding. It's reminiscent of the cuts in September 2006.

I've been staying off this topic because... well, it's adequately covered elsewhere.

And, I confess, I'm not quite sure what they do. I'm forever getting them confused with the CLL (Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network). Probably because I'm not sure what they do either.

And which one is it that's associated with recently the de-funded Centres of Excellence? Or is it both of them?

I do know what ABC Canada does in terms of promotion and, well, other promotion. The Movement for Canadian Literacy - MCL - puts out a newsletter and... I'm guessing they host conferences. Well, hell. Who doesn't host a conference these days. And research. Everybody's doing research. I guess. And news releases.

(Do you remember back in July of last year, when the B.C. government cut funding to community adult literacy programs and their regional literacy coordinators? That was pretty bad. Or maybe you don't remember. There wasn't quite so much press on that one.

Oh, hey! Do you remember the Literacies Journal, and how that lost funds and so we lost our only national print forum for practitioners who wanted to write about adult learning and research and reflection?

The quote above comes from the Fall 2007 issue Working In Adult Literacy. Here's another bit from the same issue. It one of the "snapshots" Jenny Horsman and Helen Woodrow pulled together for their Focused on Practice book:
The bulk of literacy programs are provided by community –based organizations that may or may not receive funding for the literacy work they do. These programs are of ten run by volunteers and some have a minimal core staff person who is paid far less than their professionally recognized counterparts at colleges and school boards.
Newfoundland and Labrador
That's kind of the way things are in BC right now. And people say we don't have a pan-Canadian strategy... ha!)

Anyway, like you, I've heard the news about the CCL cuts. I haven't said much about it. It's reminiscent of the cuts in September 2006, or maybe it's all of a piece - I forget. It's rough on the organization, but they say they plan to carry on. That's good. That's what we all do when the money stops. We carry on. Me, you, Linda Wentzel, some good folks in Newfoundland.

They could probably get free space in a church basement. Or the public library might help them out. There's some PGI money around. Maybe they could work with the TD Bank, who appear to want to help organize us. The trick is to cut the fat, avoid duplication, become more accountable.

I did read CCL's President and CEO Dr. Paul Cappon's message. He talks about their successes. Boy, they sure write a lot of reports. They must be really accountable.

They get some discussion going as well. Last year, Dr. Cappon "chatted with host Rex Murphy" (that's how the CCL website puts it) about the pros and cons of homework in Canada’s schools. Rex is from Newfoundland, but he doesn't work in literacy, so he makes pretty good money.

The chat was based on a "Lesson in Learning" that, in turn, summarized CCL's "systematic review of 18 studies published from 2003 to 2007." The Lesson concludes: "Homework will likely produce different results in different student groups" with Grade Eight and above "most likely to benefit." Interesting. Not exactly rigorous, since all but one of the studies "were conducted on older students" and the sole study "examining young students revealed a negative correlation between homework and achievement"... Anyway, they also say lower "achieving students also appear to have the most to gain from homework." They also say poor people's schools "low-performing schools benefit more from homework than" rich folk's schools "high-performing schools."

They say the "homework debate is complex and research examining homework’s effect on student achievement is varied."

Oh, and they say homework should be "engaging, relevant and meaningful."

K. That's research. Yep. Don't know what Rex thought of it.

Anyway, I've been staying off this topic. I figure anything I say about the funding of our several national super-groups will just sound petty and rude.

Update: Visit the Cafe for another take on the ambivalence of literacy workers to some of the work of CCL.

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