A Very Short Response to Reading

This article has finally crystalized a growing idea of mine. We need to change how we teach. Fundamentally.

We need to train people to read critically and enable them to engage with and reflect upon what they are reading. It is of utmost importance that people be able to determine the merit and reality of the words and ideas they are reading.

Or we need to stop teaching people to read at all.

This grade school familiarity with words coupled with a complete inability to critique what is written is what is enabling so much of this cultural disaster. It is how we are divided with no logical bases. It is how misinformation is spread. Just think on that… it is now possible to merely write nonsense — badly written nonsense even — and have some large segment of the population accept that nonsense as actuality even if it conflicts with their own lived experience. This inability to read critically coupled with an ability to scan words for surficial meaning is exactly how we are manipulated — into supporting a culture that harms us, into buying stuff that harms us and everything else, and into harming ourselves and others.

It is so much more difficult to manipulate a human with direct, unmediated contact. And there is less need to manipulate if we are a culture that can not be misled through these empty and false words — either because we are trained to see the lies and hollowness or because we are unable to read words at all. If we can’t be misled, then there will be no industry of misleading. There will be much less of industry full stop. Think about the linked rise of mass consumerism and mass literacy. This is probably no coincidence. And there is very likely a dependence of the former upon the latter.

Of course, I would choose books and critical reading skills and true mass literacy. But it may be too late for that. It may be a time for illiteracy, with maybe a few to safeguard the books until such time as we are ready for them again. If that happy day ever comes.

I’ll let you think on this for the remainder of this waning year. Comments are open on this one.


©Elizabeth Anker 2021

3 thoughts on “A Very Short Response to Reading”

  1. I agree we need to fundamentally change the way we teach. I also agree that critical reading is lacking even in supposedly educated people like the law students I work with. But I don’t think illiteracy safeguards anyone against being manipulated, if anything it makes it more difficult to find the truth or at the very least, a different opinion. People can still be manipulated by videos, film, TV, radio, live speeches, none of which require reading words. I think more than critical reading, what is lacking these days is critical thinking. We are too willing to accept what we see on screens, hear, and read. We don’t bother to ask questions, we believe too easily, and once something becomes a belief it is extremely difficult to dislodge.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “I think more than critical reading, what is lacking these days is critical thinking.”

      Agreed! And I truly don’t want to see us lose literacy. But evidence in my own life and reports from educators constantly show that we already have. We are not literate. We merely can read. And yes, we have image-based and recorded verbal manipulation that will still exist. I honestly don’t think there is anything anyone can do about that… but I also think that’s liable to be one of the first things to fall apart in the coming years. Ex-husband works in television. This is an industry that is already failing. It’s way too costly to make unless there are huge ad revenues, which is not as much a thing these days.

      Liked by 1 person

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