Critical literacy: do textbooks practise what they preach?

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Whether it be a raindrop (a raindrop that was about to fall but froze, giving birth to a beautiful icicle), be it a bird that sings, a bus that runs, a violent person on the street, be it a sentence in a newspaper, a political speech, a lover’s rejection, be it anything, we must adopt a critical view, that of the person who questions, who doubts, who investigates, and who wants to illuminate the very life we live. (Freire, 1985, cited in Fairclough, 1992, 7) Language, through its various modes, can be used to define, control and change the world in which we live. This powerful potential of language does not only include the large political happenings of society, but possibly more importantly, also the little, taken-for-granted occurrences that we live through everyday. This is what Janks (2010, 186-188) dubs both “Politics with a capital P” and “Little p politics.” A critical consciousness of the subtle, everyday workings of language (politics) as a tool of power has the potential to illuminate our actual social and personal conditions (Politics). Exhibiting the critical in Critical Literacy, then, means developing the skills to analyse and critique (Luke, Comber and O’Brien, 1996, 35, cited in Knobel, 1998, 91). Also important to develop is an understanding ofhow language functions socially, in order that we may disrupt the conventions that marginalise diverse ways of being.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-83
Number of pages27
JournalEnglish Quarterly Canada (Online)
Issue number3/4
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sep 2011


  • critical literacy
  • textbooks
  • critical discourse analysis

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