Saturday, September 8, 2012

A Furture Serpent?

For thousands of years learning the letters and words of reading and writing was the province of spiritual leaders. Often even the ruling classes in the secular world were illiterate, and rest of ordinary riffraff of humankind remained ignorant. Literacy meant power over what others knew and that power needed protecting. For a while this changed during the Greek and Roman epochs, but when the empire diminished, learning fell back into the hands of the priests. Even among the clerics, those who wrote the letters often couldn't read, merely copied letters from the manuscript they reproduced. When the greater masses grabbed the power of literacy, the world changed. Beginning in the mid 18th century governments began mandating education

With our electronic advances, is it possible the power of literacy could again fall into the hands of a select few? Yes, we text, upload, and download documents, but now photos and videos are much easier and cheaper to produce, and as the saying goes: a picture is worth a thousand words. And yes, there has always been a certain percentage of illiteracy due to one reason or another. However, that percentage is changing: "The NAAL (National Assessment of Adult Literacy) administered tests which revealed that an estimated 14% of US residents would have extreme difficulty with reading and written comprehension." The illiterate population is increasing, not decreasing.

Learning to read and write is difficult and requires long tedious hours of work, but acquiring the skill offers great benefits. Not only does an individual learn to decipher the symbols of written language which allows access into thousands of years of written records, and it also lets them develop the associated benefit of critical thinking. Yet, if an increasing number of ordinary people choose the easy route of face to face chatter over an electronic device, chose not to read, and don't need to write, are we not allowing the power of literacy to return to a small segment of the population? Many of our public schools are in crisis putting education in an endangered state. During a history of over 20,000 years of mankind's drive to learn to write, to leave a message using tools on a surface, can only a few centuries of education for the average person be at risk? Can our technologies be as great a serpent as found in the Garden of Eden?

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Julie Eberhart Painter said...

I shiver. Might we now be entering the Dark Ages again?

Texting has certainly had an impact on our spelling.

Rhobin Lee Courtright said...

Julie, I think we all have to be vigilant about what our children are learning.

January Bain said...

Rhobin, very worrisome information. Yes, we have to be ever vigilant, about what our children are learning, and especially, what they are not.