Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Rise and Fall of Literacy

"I'd like to teach the world to read ..."

It's been going on for some time now, this push toward a literate world. Programs specifically designed to help young and old read, to work with written language, are found everywhere: among the disadvantaged in the developed world as well as the unlettered in the developing world. The order has rung out around the globe that the whole world shall read.

And when we learn to read, what happens? We move away from the simple magic so swiftly to embrace a technology that requires minimal effort. We translate knowledge, we transmit information, we experience our environment, through video screens. We move away from written language; wilfully we become 'a-literate.'

Some people travel by cruise ship to Alaska and watch the glaciers calve from the comfort of a bar/lounge on closed circuit TV. Only a meter or so away they could see it with the naked eye.

Why read newspapers? TV brings it quicker, adds motion and commentary, requires less thought and time. Why read books? The good ones will be out in a screen version soon. Magazines? Those are information shows on TV, aren't they?
And words transmitted on screens become abreviations, compressions, symbols. A new language that is non-language.

From unliterate to illiterate to literate to a-literate. And the world goes round and round.

1 comment:

annaken said...

Good Morning, Jefferson,

Just to chear you up a little, I sat next to a dear little girl whose nose was buried in a real book! She was not more then 8 or 9 years of age and she read for the full 50 minutes it takes to get from Toronto to Hamilton.

Hope that gives you hope!

The world is changing and certainly the young people are! It was a real delight to see this little girl engrossed in her book.