Friday, January 6, 2012

Literacy and Culture

When most people think "literacy," they think "being able to read and write." This answer isn't wrong; it's merely incomplete. Literacy is more than knowing how to read, the sounds each character of the alphabet makes when placed in a particular sequence. It is not merely being able string words together. Literacy is so much more. It is comprehension, understanding, application, ability. Take reading a book for example. The process of reading means absolutely nothing if there is no learning involved. Literacy is achieved only when we are absorbing, thinking, analyzing. Likewise, when we craft sentences we apply our knowledge of language and grammar to construct something coherent and meaningful.

But obviously literacy can refer to much more than just reading and writing. In today's culture, where technology plays a huge role, being technology literate is extremely important. This brings me to the idea that literacy is the driving force of culture. For centuries, before people knew how to read and write, culture was dependent upon those who were literate in their craft, whether it be metal work, farming, selling, etc. Based on the idea that literacy drives culture, then, how can "culture" be defined? I believe that culture is the way we gain and apply knowledge. Our culture is how we react to our environment—and the people in it—by applying what we know. Using this definition, it would seem as though literacy and culture are inseparable. Culture depends heavily on the literacy of its people, because literacy is what most influences our actions, beliefs, and general ways of life.

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