Help! (Not-so-good Materials for Learning to Read)
by Minke S. Venema
The purpose of this article is to illustrate the absurdity of a kind of sexism that deems that if a woman is capable of cognition at all, her intellectual processes are less desirable and less valuable than a man's.
As a female undergraduate student with little if any professional or academic credibility, I can only hope to justify writing this appeal through the authenticity of the experience it recounts and because some of the thinkers, writers and speakers in literacy education that have influenced me feel it's a good thing to write about counterproductive teaching and learning experiences.
Recently, I found myself trapped in a painful ethical dilemma as a literacy tutor. I was confronted with representations of sexist attitudes and practices in primary adult reading material published and distributed by a literacy learning centre in London England. As a practicum requirement for a Certificate in Literacy Instruction course at Simon Fraser University, I was asked by the coordinator of a literacy program at a local college to initiate reading in a retired tradesman. The literacy instructor who performed the student's assessment met with me to sketch out some short and long term learning goals and to talk about ways to get started. She selected some primary adult literature that she felt would appeal to a man of my student's interests and experiences.
All four narratives selected focused on the particular experiences of one or more male characters. With my student's learning needs at heart, I wanted to choose a narrative that related as much as possible to the day to day events of his life, hoping that reading would slip easily into writing. I settled on a narrative about a day on the job, the work experience of four male characters and one female. Two of the males are journeymen bricklayers: one is the older and more experienced owner of the operation and the other a senior tradesman and employee. The third male is an apprentice; the fourth male doubles the work for the two employees by demolishing the same brick wall twice with his car. The female character is the owner's wife.