Yet another view.

The use of the term "remedial", as in to remedy some malady, emerges
from a medical model. The usefulness of such an approach to the study
of literacy has been challenged at a conceptual or theoretical level
as well. "Developmental" appears to be a more appropriate term on the
surface. But I've noticed that it gets used in ways that suggest a
deficit approach, which also comes from a medical model.  That is,
the term "developmental" just replaces "remedial"  in much the way
some people use "disabled" as a euphemism for "retarded" without
really getting the conceptual shift the term suggests. In fact, I've
heard a developmental/remedial educator in a leadership position say
(under her breath) that the two terms are synonymous. They are most
definitely not synonymous; they bring with them (or emerge from) very
different ways of thinking about learning and education. I think,
unfortunately, the use of "developmental" in place of "remedial"
occurs for reasons of political correctness much more frequently than
because educators have adopted a point of view on learning and
literacy where the IDEA associated with  the term "developmental"
makes more sense.

Irrespective of the term used, I think it's important to communicate
to  less-informed faculty that literacy is not a unitary entity that
one "gets" or "has" after gaining some certain level of skill. All of
us have continued to develop our literacies over our entire lives.
(No less a scholar than Goethe said, "I have spent a lifetime
learning to read.")  If faculty doubt this, have them each bring in a
professional journal article from their respective disciplines and
exchange them. They will not be able to comprehend these texts
adequately, but I'm sure they will not want to be dubbed "remedial"
or even "developmental" as a result. Alternatively, bring in some
other unfamiliar genre of text, from koan to comic book, and give
them a little test on it. The point is, being literate in one genre
does not ensure literateness in another. Similarly, being considered
literate in one context (e.g. High school, or community college) does
not  mean you will be counted as literate in another (e.g. a
university, or a disciplinary discourse community).

Another point: What counts as an acceptable "level" of literacy or
reading ability is not an objective fact. For instance, I was
"literate" as an undergrad--according to my grades--in an institution
very similar to the one I am now in. But, what I found out when I
became a graduate student was that I was not (maybe still am  not)
literate in the forms of the professional community. I would argue
that this does not mean I have something wrong with me that needed to
be fixed or remediated, but rather I didn't (don't ?) communicate in
the ways valued among this community.

My message is that there are lots of literacies, not a single one.
What counts as being literate  is socially determined and
context-specific. From this socio-cultural point of view on literacy,
the term remedial is basically non-sensical, and, I think, the term
developmental may  simply  be redundant.


>Aside from the baggage that "remedial" carries, it also is a very limiting
>term because it focuses only on the student and what needs to be fixed in
>the student.   A developmental framework is an enabling one rather than a
>limiting one  in that it allows for us, even requires us to look at the
>context of development.  This includes the student's world and the
>teacher's world and the point where they intersect, the Institution.  It is
>a more scholarly framework and thus invites the academic community to
>critique it, refine it, and build theory as well as practice.  It is a more
>timely framework in that life-long learning implies a life-long
>developmental process, beyond the freshman year where remediation currently
>resides.  Finally, it is a more financially defensible framework in that
>remediation is in more danger of being cut when budgets get tight.  I hope
>this helps.  Ultimately, this is a political process and we must identify
>which faculty/administrators need convincing and which we can ignore.
>Miguel Angel Acosta
>College Enrichment Program
>University of New Mexico
>--On Monday, September 23, 2002 1:43 PM -0400 "Boone, Steven"
><[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>  Mary Catherine
>>  In graduate school, we were given the categories below. Categories were
>>  used for selecting reading curriculum to facilitate individualized
>>  intervention. Once a student enters post-secondary, I am inclined to use
>>  Developmental.
>>  For the program here at Towson, the question is not "can a student read
>>  or is a student at a particular level?" The question is "can a student
>>  manage the reading demands in higher education? " Students have met the
>>  criteria for admittance. Their academic profile suggests they may be at
>>  risk. The reading program is designed to minimize risk and facilitate
>>  retention.
>>  Probably the most important information from students comes from our
>>  Reading Inventory. Two of the questions are: (1) Do you like to read? (2)
>>  When you do read, what do you read? As you might suspect the answer to
>>  (1) is almost always "no". And, the answer to (2) is almost always "junk
>>  novels and magazines", easy reads. This is where the "Developmental"
>>  process begins.
>>          Developmental   At or above grade level
>>          Corrective      Between 1 and 3 years below grade level
>>  Remedial        Greater than 3 years below grade level
>>   -----Original Message-----
>>  From:   Mary Catherine Denmark [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
>>  Sent:   Monday, September 23, 2002 11:58 AM
>>  To:     [log in to unmask]
>>  Subject:             Remedial vs. Developmental
>>  My college is in discussion about using the term remedial verses using the
>>  term developmental.  I am trying to convince my school that we should be
>>  using the developmental, but am having a very difficult time convincing a
>>  few faculty.  Is there anyone out there who would be willing to explain
>>  the difference between the two and why we should use one verses the
>>  other.  Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.
>>  MC Denmark
>>  Director, Student Resource Center
>>  Washington & Jefferson College
>>  Washington, PA  15301
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Dominic J. Voge
UC Berkeley Graduate School of Education
Language, Literacy and Culture
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"What we seek to know is our knowledge of reality, not Reality."--
Anne E. Berthoff

"The best educated human being is the one who understands most about
the life in which he is placed."--Helen Keller

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