“So, no surprise that when we incarcerate teenagers of today in traditional classroom settings, they react with predictable disinterest and flunk their literacy tests. They are skilled in making sense not of a body of known content, but of contexts that are continually changing.
Teachers must recognise that our pedagogical tools are inconsistent with the skills needed to survive in a world where people are always connected to everyone and everything. In such a world, learning to think for oneself could well be more important than simply learning to read and write.”
These are the final couple of paragraphs from an Economist article entitled: From Literacy to Digiracy. The piece points to Mark Federman, of the McLuhan Programme in Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto, who has argued that the telegraph was the first to “undo” the effects of the written word. As the article notes:
“If the telegraph was the starting point, Mr Federman reckons we are probably half way through a 300-year transition out of the world of mass literacy. That world began when Johannes Gutenberg introduced the printing press in 1455, and gave birth along the way to the Reformation, the Age of Reason, the Enlightenment, the Scientific Method, and finally the Industrial Revolutionâ€”not to mention the modern era of newspapers, universal education and, yes, mass literacy.”
The message here chimes with Ron Burnett when he writes about Anthony’s Tale in The Transformation of Culture.
“….what Anthony is doing is building and creating a new language that combines many of the features of conventional languages but is more of a hybrid of many different modes of expression. Just as we don”t really talk about language as a phenomenon, (because it is inherent to everything that we do) we can”t deal with this explosion of new languages as if they are simply a phase or a cultural anomaly.”
An interesting juxtaposition, however, can be seen in Simon Jenkins’ piece in today’s Guardian on the longevity and continued strength of the book: How we love them…...
“…..we should never lose touch with the centrality of the book. Prospero’s “magic” remains his library, “a dukedom large enough”. Books are the one sure record of history, as capable of generating wars as of inspiring peace. They set up religions and they knock them down.
Long after emails have been wiped, tapes have decayed, CDs have rusted and computers have crashed, dusty books will remain as silent witnesses on the shelf. Power lies in their simplicity and indestructibility. They are a habit we will never kick. We love them because we know they are for ever.”
There’s no reason to think, of course, that they cannot all be right!