When the writings of Paula Friere became generally available in the early 19701's, they were eagerly received by these and other Canadian adult basic educators who chafed at the limitations of methods and approaches based on the liberal perspective. Freire forged a crucial new link for many adult educators between leftist beliefs and educational practice. There followed a "honeymoon" period, in which there developed a veritable "cult" around the Brazilian born literacy educator and his radical pedagogy. 8 Many attempts were made to mechanically apply his ideas and methods without sufficient regard for the significant differences in context between Canada and the 3rd World areas he wrote about. However, after much of the fad aspect had died away, some progressive adult basic educators began to make use of Freire's ideas and examples in creative ways which showed due regard for the need to "reinvent" them in the Canadian context.9 Since that time, a perspective on illiteracy has been emerging in Canada which reflects their thoughts and experiences, as inspired by Freire but not limited to his example. We can term. it the critical perspective, after his concept of "critical consciousness", an idea with roots in socialist and Marxist thought.


As yet there is no definitive, comprehensive statement of this emerging critical perspective in Canada. However, a tentative synthesis is presented here which is, as any interpretation of so, diverse and fragmentary a body of controversial opinion must be, a biased one. In this case, the bias is toward contributions by those who have considered the larger political economic implications of adult literacy education as opposed to those who primarily dwell on the philosophical and humanistic assumptions of Freire's writings. This does not imply a rejection of the latter here, just a belief that when these assumptions are divorced from a rigorous analysis of the political economic context, their meaning is often ambiguous and can be shaped to fit politically reformist or even conservative conclusions.

Furthermore, I have especially relied on the contributions of those who adhere to a socialist or Marxist orientation, both because I believe that such an orientation provides the most- adequate alternative to the liberal and conservative perspectives, but also because I believe that it accords with the revolutionary socialist stance which has become increasingly explicit in Freire's later writings. 10

Finally, with the exception of Freire, I have only made reference to the views and approaches of those working in Canada. I believe that there is a sufficiently large and growing critical literature on adult literacy and basic education in this country to warrant this narrow focus.

A Critical Perspective

As we have seen, both the liberal and conservative perspectives see deficiencies and shortcomings of the poor as a primary cause of poverty and unemployment. According to this "deficiency model", labour markets and the economy in Canada distribute success and failure more or less 'fairly' based on effort, abilities and qualifications. Therefore, the difficulties experienced by individuals in achieving adequate employment and income can in large measure be attributed to their personal shortcomings, which in the view of liberals mainly consist of lack of basic education, life skills and job skills ("human capital"), and in the view of orthodox conservatives consist of more fundamental deficiencies which cannot be easily or efficiently corrected, if at all.

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