Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Literacy issues in the USA

Earlier I was listening to a WMA version of a book from the 1980s, Cultural Literacy by E.D. Hirsch Jr about the low levels of literacy in the US among the young and what we as citizens need to know and what we should do about it. By now, those high schoolers and college kids alluded to are in their late 40s to early 50s. It is no surprise to me. The same could be said of this generation, my generation. I was born in the late 80s, but the characterization is still relevant for me. And it is even worse for the kids born after me until 1995, so up to the kids who are about 15 years old right now.

I have only just started listening to it, but I have already heard how bad it was then. When a teacher asked a kid what Homer wrote one kid said: "the Alamo." That made me laugh. But it's not funny if you think about the bigger picture. What is the bigger picture? It's that Americans are not literate enough to communicate on a level comparable to the rest of the world. In the book, the author mentioned how in interviews with business managers, the managers felt that their middle men (young people working for them) were not communicating well enough to be adequately understood by others. And that is a major problem.

It is also a problem if most people can't pick up a newspaper, and be able to relate what the paper says to things they already know about the subject. Further, they probably won't be able to consider what the news will mean for the future. They won't be that easily able to "connect the dots" and realize how it will affect the world and them.

For awhile, I have thought about how my education is lacking. I was born and raised in the USA. I am taking small steps to remedy the problem. It won't happen fast. It is a gradual process.

Currently, I am trying to read about the Vietnam War. I also want to start memorizing the dates of when all the US Presidents were in office. I have a plastic ruler with all their faces and dates in office. Learning about the Vietnam War is a start. Five presidents were in office during the duration of the US involvement in Vietnam. The Vietnam War for dummies book said that maybe even seven presidents were involved in the war, and it started with FDR.

Why FDR? He had the belief that the practice of colonization should be done away with. Truman was of the same mind, but his hand was forced into it. At that time, the French claimed that if we didn't help them, Russia and Communism would spread to Vietnam. France was our ally. The fear of communism was very real back then.

But the real fighting started with LBJ's predecessor, President Eisenhower. He was a former military man.

And so I end this entry. I will be back soon. I need to write and reflect about what I learn for it to sink in. It's not about how much we accumulate, but the content that we have learned. Learning should enrich our minds, increase our culture literacy, and enrich our lives.

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