This report is a critical review of current popular notions about workplace literacy, including claims that much of the American workforce is deficient in "basic" and "higher order" literacy skills; that there are links between this illiteracy and poor job performance; and that there is a need for school-based, skill-driven literacy programs tied to workplaces. By drawing on sociocognitive and historical research on literacy and work, the author complicates and challenges some of these views and argues that different voices and alternative viewpoints need to be heard in the debate, especially those of students and workers. In this way, it may be possible to discover the incentives and disincentives that people perceive and experience while acquiring and exercising literate skills, as well as to examine the ways in which literacy can play a role in promoting economic productivity or in contributing to personal empowerment.
MDS-154 / November 1991
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