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