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Critical Consumer Education: Empowering the Low-Literate Consumer

Critical Consumer Education: Empowering the Low-Literate Consumer

Abstract

Consumer education programs assume that consumers have the right to full product information, and well-informed consumers will be able to get their needs met in the marketplace. Adults with limited literacy abilities, however, enter the marketplace without the literacy resources of other consumers and are potentially more vulnerable. Many adult literacy programs assume adult literacy students lack both literacy and consumer skills. The results from an interpretative study suggest adult literacy learners combine a range of social skills and resources and an ability to manage the shame of the low-literacy stigma to get their needs met in the marketplace. Four consumer literacy profiles are discussed, and an alternative form of consumer education tailored to each profile is proposed. We discuss the role of a more critical consumer educational approach in literacy assistance programs and its impact on adult learners’ feelings of self-esteem, empowerment, and agency.
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