Dr. Monica Taylor’s Speech at the CATALP Launch

LAUNCH of the Caribbean Association of Tertiary-level Academic Literacies Practitioners

University of Technology, 2018

Excerpts from Guest Speaker Dr. Monica Taylor’s Address

Coming of age in 2018’

Yours is the strange phenomenon of coming of age at birth – after an unusually long gestation period of almost 18 years! 900 weeks…far exceeding the elephant’s 95 weeks! Therefore, you do not have the luxury of creeping or crawling, or the frolicking of childhood. 

Firstof all,  CATALP is ‘coming of age’- as I call it – in an interesting world of technological advances that form part of the backdrop against which you operate wireless and mobile technologies, flipped classrooms, remote learning, digital textbooks, big data and social media; self-driving cars and blockchain technology that underpins marvels such as Bitcoin cryptocurrency.

So you have to make strategic choices about what to note, what to use and importantly, what to ignore.  But it is also an interesting age in which leaders call each other ‘Rocket Man’ and ‘Moron’ putting an entirely new spin on the analysis of language use in the public domain.

So that’s part of your backdrop as you come of age today.  That said, I would like to admonish you to do two things:

First, understand Who/What You Are and What You Hope to Do:

  • Have a clear understanding of what the ‘Caribbean’ in your name means;
  • Understand what informs your definition of self – issues of epistemology (who controls knowledge and how, who has the right to give voice) [Brian Street 1999 p. 198.]

Lillis and Scott (2007) remind us that

“Teacher-researchers who drive much academic literacy/cies research are usually grappling with the worlds of knowledge-making on the one hand, and pedagogy, course design and institutional policy-making on the other, and often from marginal institutional positions.”

So you have to leverage those marginal positions to establish some kind of locus of legitimacy freed of what my colleague Milson-Whyte (2015) calls ‘alarmist rhetoric’ and the ‘discourses of crisis’.

Sometimes, however, the ‘discourse of crisis’ from the outside is useful for building awareness; for example, my work on writing in the Jamaican workplace responds to senior managers’ lament over the level of the communicative competence of university graduates.  This is a reminder of the important work-school interface highlighted in such important templates as Jamaica’s Vision 2030, where 3 of the 82 Related National Strategies seek to:

– ensure secondary education equips school leavers to access further education, training or decent work

– ensure adequate high quality tertiary education with emphasis on the interface with work and school and

– strengthen mechanisms to align training with the demands of the labour market.

Secondly, Form Strategic Alliances to Help You Do What You Need To Do:

First of these alliances is partnership with industry that will help to make visible (explicit) practices across disciplines and industries, and provide resources to promote these practices;

Another alliance – for sharing ideas – is with the Ministry of Education in Jamaica; for example, whatever became of the TORCH publication?

Alliance #3 is to become an affiliate of organizations such as the National Association of Teachers of English (Jamaica).

Above all, set yourself small achievable goals!