Part critique of existing policy and practice, part call-to-action, this work explores the complex linkage between technology and literacy that has come to characterize American culture and its public educational system at the end of the 20th century. To provide a specific case study of this complex cultural formation, Cynthia L. Selfe discusses the Technology Literacy Challenge, an official, federally sponsored literacy project begun in 1996 that has changed - at fundamentally important levels - the definition of literacy and the practices recognized as constituting literate behaviour in America. Selfe tries to identify the effects of this new literacy agenda, focusing on what she calls ""serious and shameful"" inequalities it fosters in American culture and in the public educational system: among them, the continuing presence of racism, poverty and illiteracy. She describes how the national project to expand technological literacy came about, what effects it has yielded, why the American public has supported this project, and how teachers of English, language arts, and composition have contributed to this project, despite their best intentions. A primary goal of the study is to make teachers of English and composition increasingly aware of the new literacy agenda and to suggest how they might positively influence its shape and future direction, both in the classroom and community. This awareness is an integral part of educators' larger professional responsibility to understand the way in which American culture thinks about and values literacy.
Cynthia L. Selfe is a professor of composition and communication at Michigan Technological University. She is the coeditor (with Gail E. Hawisher) of "Literacy, Technology, and Society: Confronting the Issues."