Legacies of Modernity and Colonialism in Schooling
6 Commodification of Language and Literacy
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6Commodification of Language and Literacy
In schools, language skills and literacy are commodities, objects with a presumed market value that teachers aim to transfer to students. The main task assigned teachers is to provide students with the objective, measurable skills they need to speak, read, and write. Through testing and tracking of individual student progress, teachers quantify language development and literacy. This quantification leads to the taken-for-granted notion that some people “possess” more or less language or literacy than others.
The commodification of language and literacy in schools includes both the quantification of student skills and the reification of language and literacy as objective processes. Language is typically defined in education as a neutral, rule-governed system of symbols that transmits meaning from one person to another. In this modernist framework, language is imagined as being composed of separable components:
• phonology—the way speech-sounds are produced and perceived;
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