More than words: Chris Searle's approach to critical literacy as cultural action

Colin Lankshear, Michele Knobel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


This article discusses what seem to us to be some of the key features of Chris Searle's approach to language and literacy education within school classroom settings in England, as portrayed in his own writings and reflected in work done by his students and published in numerous compilations from Stepney Words (1971) to School of the World (1994). We understand his work as a sustained engagement in critical literacy, underpinned by an unswerving belief that being a literacy educator serving working-class communities is inherently a political, ethical and situated - material and grounded - undertaking. Throughout his school teaching life, Chris Searle took it as axiomatic that working-class children should learn to read, write, spell, punctuate and develop the word as a tool to be used in struggles - their own and those of people like them, wherever they may live - for improvement and liberation. Literacy education for working-class children must proceed from, maintain continuity with and always be accountable to the material life trajectories and prospects of these children. It can only do this by maintaining direct contact with their material lives and their situated being within their material worlds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-78
Number of pages20
JournalRace and Class
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 2009


  • Discourse
  • ESOL
  • English teaching
  • Language learning
  • National curriculum
  • Working-class pedagogy


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