Rarely is an individual satisfied with just being literate — if they were, LAS would be bankrupt, and lit majors would become painters to slosh as much ink on paper.
Having just begun my tutoring sessions in WRD 378, Teaching English to ESL Students in Chicago, the idea of literacy, literacies, and its benchmarks resonates (sort of) with my teaching experience. ESL students at Heartland Alliance are mostly literate — assuming the low standard definition — but just being baseline literate doesn’t cut it in a society where bills, official documents, medical notifications swarm in waves larger than a college student’s debt notices; not to mention most documents require at least high school-level reading and comprehension.
In Pan-African Society, another service center, a respectable amount of students have no knowledge of English, and need to be taught from the basics of the alphabet upwards. Surely even if they become literate by international standards, it won’t be enough as a citizen of Chicago?
Literacies needs an expansion. Not just the notion of being literate, but the idea of literacies and its surrounding contexts (as Street mentioned, the contrast between an autonomous and ideological model, and English becoming a multilingual, social language). Not to put the wagon before the horse, since promoting literacy is valuable, but perhaps we need to redefine the term?