Literacy can empower students, but it may also limit their understanding if taught without regard for the context of their lives. Using his encounters with students, in high school, college, and state prison classrooms, as well as his own experience, Robert Yagelski looks at the sometimes ambiguous role of literacy in our lives and examines the mismatch between conventional approaches to teaching literacy and the literacy needs of students in a rapidly changing, increasingly technological world. He asserts that ultimately, the most important job of the English teacher is to reveal to students ways they can participate in the discourse that shapes their lives, and he offers a timely look at how technology has influenced the way we write and read. The scope of this fascinating book reaches beyond the classroom and offers insight about what it means to be "literate" in an economically driven, dynamic society. Addressing earlier works on the subject of literacy, as well as the ideas of theorists such as Foucault, this perceptive work has much to offer educators and anyone seeking to understand the nature of literacy itself.