“Often, the failure of urban students to develop ‘academic’ literacy stems not from a lack of intelligence, but from the inaccessibility of the school curriculum to students who are not in the ‘dominant’ or ‘mainstream’ culture” (72).

Are Our Struggling Students Illiterate?

  • “Students are literate, but their literacies have little connection with the dominant literacies promoted in public schools” (72).

Critical Literacy

  • “Critical literacy is defined as the ability not only to read and write, but also to assess texts in order to understand the relationship between power and domination that underlie and inform those texts” (73).
  • “Any pedagogy of popular culture has to be a critical pedagogy where students and teachers learn from and with one another while engaging in authentic dialogue that is centered on the experiences of Urban youth as participants in and creators of popular culture” (74).

Teaching with Alternative Texts

Hip Hop

  • “It can be argued that hip hop music is the representative voice of urban youth because the genre was created by and for urban youth” (75).
  • Ex: Poetry and music, connect with historical and literary periods

Popular films

  • “Recent developments point to the legitimacy of popular films as academic texts worthy of critical interrogation by urban educators and their students” (76).
  • Watch films WHILE reading texts (ex: Godfather and the Odyssey)
  • “By combining popular film with canonical texts, the students were able to hone their critical and analytical skills and use them in interpretations. They were also able to understand the connection between literature, popular culture, and their everyday lives” (76).

TV and Media

  • “Motivated and empowered by the prospect of addressing a real problem in their communities, the students learned the tools of research, read difficult texts, and produced their own text of high academic merit” (78).
  • “Critical literary educators… should not avoid standards debates or apologize to colleagues and parents about innovative curricula and pedagogies that can teach the skills students need to be successful in schools… critical teachers can use classroom-based research to prove that there are ways to meet the challenges the new century offers and turn them into opportunities to connect to the worlds of students, to promote academic achievement and to prepare students for critical citizenship in a multicultural democracy” (79).