Monday, November 13, 2006

Who Needs Words? Everyone!

I saw an article on this morning that made me a little (OK, a lot) miffed. Here's the link:

The premise of the article is that reading is a skill that will soon become obsolete for the majority of workers, who will rely on audio and video cues instead to do their jobs. The futurist author of this article doesn't insist all writing will go the way of the dodo; he acknowledges that "In 2025, tens of millions of Americans continue to enjoy books and magazines as recreational pursuits, and this happy habit will undoubtedly remain part of the landscape for generations to come." (How he reconciles this with the belief that these Americans will only be able to understand 100-word chunks of text is beyond me; perhaps he thinks all fiction will be of the flash (i.e., very short) variety. I'm a novelist by nature, so that would sink my career.) But he thinks only the leaders of America will need the ability to handle abstract thought.

While he includes scientists among the elite, the whole idea of dividing society into literates and illiterates scares me. In essence, the author is saying most people don't need to learn abstract concepts or critical thinking. After all, how can you teach these concepts without words? And if you have masses of people unable to do these things, how can you expect them to innovate? How do you expect them to elect capable readers and make sound policies about abstract concepts? Are we supposed to regress to the ancient style of Chinese government, relying on scholars who pass certain exams to be our governors? That doesn't sound good for democracy to me. A stable democracy requires middle-class, reasonably educated voters, not worker drones. We all need critical thinking skills, no matter what we do for a living.

Reading. It's not just a skill; it's a precious privilige. Exercise your rights early and often, and do your part to make sure the next generation appreciates it.

Thank you for reading this. Hopefully I'll have a lighter topic for my next blog entry.

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