Literacy in a new town school : a critical ethnography of the reading and writing of secondary school pupils in Milton Keynes
This thesis sets out to answer the question: what is literacy in a new town and how do children in schools come to learn it? My concern is not only with official literate activities but also subversive ones. To begin with, I tell the story of the thesis from the point of view of a teacher-researcher. I argue that the starting point must be the relative histories of literacy of observer and observed. I thus narrate my own history of literacy. Then, in order to begin to look at the history of the observed, I recount the history of literacy and education in Milton Keynes and district from I 800. Within this, I locate literacy in the present culture of Milton Keynes as a new town. This brings me to a refined hypothesis about literacy and culture, which leads me to consider theories of literacy now current in order to find an adequate model of what literacy is. I conclude that literacies are contextually and therefore culturally located. I then discuss theories of culture and psychology in order to find an adequate way to make comparisons with pupil literacies in Milton Keynes. The empirical examination of these hypothetical engagements is best done by an ethnographic method. Case studies of literacy learners in Milton Keynes in a thick description of their school and the uses of literacy current in its cultures are presented. In my conclusion, I suggest a mismatch between the official literacy offered as part of the 'newness' of Milton Keynes and the cultural literate practices of its inhabitants.