Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Literacy: Shifts Over Time

Comparing how we use information and reading today versus how they used in the 1600s and on had a sad reflection. Did anyone else feel instantly lazier for seeing such statistics (which are debatable, I suppose) of how literate the colonial community was back then? Now our generation has been pressured to go to school, get an education, learn these skills in order to prosper in the workforce. But wait! That was a phrase my mother would say. In her time as a student, as a young lady she had those expectations drilled into her head. Naturally, she started puncturing me with those tid bits of advice/aggressive parenting over the last few decades. They did have different inclinations, but soon it became a value among the whole culture. It wasn't just a fear by some religious entity anymore. My question here that I'm curious to see some response to is what are the expectations of our student community? What does our parents want us the accomplish and how we achieve those goals? Is being educated, having the ability to read and write well still a strong overcast from when we could walk or has it faded? Do we still appreciate literary content in the same way or differently? I look forward to these rather vague questions. Thank you!


  1. I think that the pressure on our generation is not so much to be literate or to read and write but to get a job and make money. So, I suppose being literate is implied in that, but that does seem to be the mantra of society. Colleges want us to know what we want to do for the rest of our lives right away - leaving minimal room for academic exploration. Parents/students are paying crazy tuition costs in order to attend college.

    All of this (and more) combines to create a pressure for workers.

    As for our expectations, I personally desire and expect to learn. As a former art (and now creative writing) major, my intention wasn't necessarily to get a degree that would automatically get me a job, but to take different courses and learn. That's not to say I don't take finding a job seriously - I do!! - but my expectations for college were to learn and to grow as a person.

  2. We touched on this subject in class today. The contemporary education system in America makes test scores their first priority because our culture is obsessed with international rankings. Therefore students are being educated to score well on a math and science based test, and crucial areas of study and development like reading and writing are being overlooked. I don't blame the schools because they are forced in between a rock and a hard place. The schools have to raise their test scores or they will be labeled a failing school. On top of that, many school systems are now transitioning to merit pay and a teachers employment and salary is largely based off their student's test scores. It is only natural then, for the teachers to put a great amount of focus on test scores and overlook reading and writing. An argument that I am in agreement with Postman, is his claim that reading and writing encourages rationality and the "analytical management of knowledge." I realize that other subjects like science encourages rationality, but one cannot master the scientific method without a firm grasp of language.

  3. I mean, they ARE pretty vague questions and I'm not sure if they can be answered. I feel that most of the topics brought up in class and on this blog are focused toward igniting discussion, but I just don't see the end. How can I speak for millions of parents who want varying outcomes for their children? I'm not about to approach why our generation's parents want us to go to college, especially when I can't agree that all parents DO want their kids to go to college. Maybe that's a bigger issue? Why don't we discuss that? But then, what conclusion can you possibly come to? Varying situations. As far as looking at literary content is concerned, I would assume you mean "we" as in a society and not a generation. Regardless, I don't know who would argue that literary content isn't always changing, so why wouldn't we develop different appreciations for it? I'm just not sure why such topics weigh so heavy on our society.

  4. I'm not sure if this answers your question or not, but I can tell you my experience with my parents and their expectations.

    When I first told my mother and father that I wanted to be a Creative Writing major, my mom said one thing, "You have to want it. If you want it bad enough, you'll find a way to make a living."

    My parents have always been real big in encouraging us to pursue education and careers that made us most happy. They believe that if we love what we do enough, we'll find a way to get by. My sister, for example, loved to knit in college. It started as a thing she just enjoyed to do, but now she's a custom fiber artist. She spins custom yarn, and travels all over the country teaching workshops and seminars on knitting and spinning.

    After seeing how my sister got by with what she loved to do, I believe that I can do the same thing. I think it really comes down to the self. If you value and care enough about what you do, no matter what that is, you'll find a way to make it work.

  5. My mother especially has always challenged me to do well in school so I can "get a great job and make tons of money." And I think I've always challenged myself as well, but perhaps more for reasons of self-actualization. Either way, I don't think our culture has had any less pressure to do "well" in the eyes of society. In Derek's comment, he stated that we live in a test-obsessed culture, and that these tests may have become more important than reading and writing. I think there may be some truth to this, and I would argue that the pressure students face today may not be fully reflected in literacy statistics, but rather through testing statistics.

  6. I think that the reason that literacy is stressed so much today is not because we are supposed to be cultured and able to carry on a good conversation, but because it will help us get a good job and make money. Being successful financially is much more important than being a cultured person nowadays. Not that being cultured isn't valued, but the reason I'm really attending college is not so I can be more educated, but so I can get a better job. This sounds bad, but it is what we value.

    I don't think that we view and appreciate literary content in the same way anymore. It seems that it is much more of a means to an end rather than something to be appreciated.

  7. I've heard the same lectures down to the subject of a "good spouse to marry would be...". So I understand pressure. I think back in the day people were excited about education because it wasn't something that was forced. If someone had the passion to be a writer,lawyer, doctor - go to school ! They had some time to figure all that out. If they didn't want to go to school they learned a trade that interested them. No problem. They made their own success. Now I think society has become so narrow minded on what is and is not success that we have forgotten that their are other jobs out their than the lawyers, doctors etc. Also, with technology many "trade" jobs are becoming obsolete. Why pay a human when a robot can do it for free? So where does that leave us? A bunch of stressed kids trying to find a permeant place in the world within four years - while simultaneously being successful. It's tough.