In the paper I'm currently writing I argue that the social control of pedagogic practice mitigates against significant innovation, and that new literacy practices tend to be pressed into the service of older ones. I'm reminded of Foucault’s (1997) description of schooling in which the use of space, disciplinary time and the regulation of activity institutionalise conventional approaches to literacy learning and teaching. The dominant discourses of schooled literacy that emphasise particular understandings of particular textual genres tend to inform the views of both teachers and students. Testing regimes, although very different from the examinations described by Foucault, still guarantee ‘the movement of knowledge from the teacher to the pupil’ (Foucault, 1997:187) and secure the identity of pupils in individual performances of ability, rather than in collaborative acts of problem-solving. In this sense learning through partcipation seems doomed to failure without a radical reshaping of the education system. A pessimistic view?