In discussion with a few people the other day, the subject of literacy came up. Reading and writing have long been of utmost importance to society, ever since humans moved out of oral tradition culture and into the age of the printing press and beyond. Yet in modern society, it seems some of the love affair with literacy is wearing off for some.
Is Literacy Becoming Obsolete?
Literacy is the ability to read and write, and to further oneself intellectually through critical thinking and engaging written materials. In modern society, it seems fewer people are driven to learn and grown intellectually than in previous generations. It’s easier today to type a word while trusting auto-correct to adjust any spelling or grammar errors. Some have said cursive has become obsolete except for signatures, even being removed from the education system. Rather than learn and memorize ideas and facts and definitions, we have access to the ever-present, ever-omniscient Internet. What need do we have of being truly literate anymore?
The Power of Reading and Writing
Many jokes could be made about certain subsets of society in the United States which lack education (and some stereotypes often tell a good bit of truth), but intellectual development is something to be revered and encouraged. Literacy is a powerful tool. Through reading and writing, great movements have started, people’s lives have been changed, nations have transformed, and the world impacted.
It discourages me to hear of people who can’t read, or even worse: those who choose not to read. For those of us with access to read so many different things, it seems terribly irresponsible and unfortunate. Reading opens us up to new ideas, takes us into other worlds which would otherwise require us to travel great distances to experience. Reading offers us chances to engage an issue and learn to wrestle with part of the world we don’t normally think about. Why would we want to forgo that opportunity?
“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”
― Frederick Douglass
Literacy Is A Bridge
I found a great quote about literacy by Kofi Annan. It goes like this:
“Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope…Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realize his or her full potential.”
That’s a beautiful way to look at intellectual pursuits. My point in bringing up literacy isn’t to bash people who have trouble reading or who don’t have easy access to higher education. I think this is a vital part of a person’s life. Education and intellectual growth and study and reading and writing aren’t mandatory to live a good life, but I’d venture to say that a person’s life is more hindered without comprehensive literacy.
The point of literacy isn’t just to be able to read and write. Literacy is about growing. It’s about becoming more than we were before. Through reading and writing and embracing ideas, we learn to consider the world in which we live. We learn to challenge assumptions and “facts.”
Intellectual pursuit is about moving toward the kind of life we are meant to live: engaged in the world of ideas. Because ideas change people and ideas change the world.
Don’t you want to live in that kind of world?
How important is literacy, reading and writing? Do you think it’s essential that every person be able to read and write well?