12 February 2008

Untimely meditations.

I wonder about the future of literacy.

Democracy assumes both equal access to all and an informed electorate -- for instance, theoretically one should know about the candidates in a given race prior to voting, or be somewhat apprised of the issues of a referendum that might be on the ballot. Obviously, equal access is a bit easier to enforce than informed electorate.

For some strange reason, I feel that literacy is tied to an informed electorate. Maybe I'm being idealistic, but I'd like to think that being able to read Hegel or Emerson or Dewey should be a skill more wide-spread through our society. For one thing, it would knock morons like Thomas Friedman and George Will off the editorial pages, because a populace that could make sense of Emerson's "The American Scholar" (for instance) wouldn't stand for two minutes the sort of mushy thinking those two goons spout.

Literacy isn't simply the ability to read. Most first graders can read words on a page and figure out simple directives like "Employees must wash hands before returning to work." (and here again, literacy doesn't necessarily have anything to do with following those directives...) Literacy involves critical thinking skills because it requires us to make meaning of the words we've read -- an always imperfect task, but one which even Derrida argues is a necessary task.

I suppose much of my worrying is due to the reach of technology into our leisure time: just as recorded music more or less killed family musical recitals as a form of popular entertainment, so too will Guitar Hero, Nintendo DS, and Virtual Worlds kill what little time remains to our thoughts after cable television carved out its chunk.

Am I sounding too Frankfurt School?

Maybe I'm just getting old.

1 comment:

m.a. said...

I think that someone needs to worry about these things. And I know that you'll raise your kids to read well and often. :)