A Simple Look at Literacy

The linked article provides a quick look at literacy rates around the world, and highlights the areas that need more work to bring their population closer to a 100% literacy rate. Another chart, embedded in the article, shows worldwide progress towards 100% literacy since 1800. We are still making progress, but the rate of improvement is slowing and taking on an asymptotic approach. A few observations are in order:

The article defines literacy simply as the ability to read and write, presumably in a person’s native language. But we can define different kinds of literacy. For example, literacy might involve familiarity with classic writings, such as the Bible or the works of Shakespeare. Language and culture go hand in hand, to some extent, so it might include experience with different aspects of culture, or even with multiple languages or cultures. Literacy relates to communication skills and thinking skills, since how can you share an idea or evaluate a thought if you can’t put it into words? And, if you compare the maps in the article above with maps of economic activity or prosperity, you might even conclude that literacy is part of the foundation for economic success. All of this is food for thought, particularly since we have framed some observations and questions with our words.

One more idea: it might be worth exploring how to strengthen literacy, but we should also beware of factors that could corrode literacy. Communicating in soundbites rather than complete sentences? Neglecting classic writings? Teaching politicized history rather than complete accounts, warts and all? Neglecting our critical thinking skills? All of this ties together in our individual and collective learning experiences. We are blessed with the greatest easy access to information the world has ever seen. Let’s not hesitate to invest the time and energy to use it! More musings as food for thought.

2 thoughts on “A Simple Look at Literacy

  1. “We are blessed with the greatest, easy access to information the world has ever seen”, is a statement of fact that easily flows into words. But, when one considers the volumes of information with which we are blessed, one quickly realizes the need to delineate what is and what is not significant to one’s life. Otherwise, we end up going down many rabbit holes and miss a few more meaningful gold mines. Man will never be as completely literate as is the God of Creation. But, we can seek literacy in the limited universe of our lives ( don’t seek absolute literacy in your personal universe because the infinite is achievable only by God).


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