According to critical race theorists, legal rights in this country have been compromised by the recognition of White identity as having property value. In this article,drawing on these analyses as well as the observations of literacy scholars questioning the outcomes of literacy and education, Catherine Prendergast argues that the designation of literacy and education as "rights" is more rhetorical than real. Prendergast pays close attention to the arguments and court proceedings of three U.S. Supreme Court cases in which the value of literacy and the reality of racial discrimination have both been contested. Through an analysis of these landmark cases —Brown v. Board of Education, Washington v. Davis, and Regents of the University of California v. Bakke—the author deconstructs "the lofty prose equating education with equal opportunity" to uncover the ideologies of literacy that informed these cases. According to Prendergast, "this rhetoric has laid the foundation for the recent legal challenges to affirmative action." She concludes by suggesting that these crucial court decisions have stalled the civil rights movement by perpetuating the economy of literacy as White property.

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