Literacy is power

The need to communicate in some way other than face to face goes back thousands of years

“Literacy is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute, and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning to enable an individual to achieve his or her goals, to develop his or her knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in the wider society.”  – UNESCO

The need to communicate in some way other than face to face goes back thousands of years.

A version of the three Rs is said to have existed around 8,000 BC. The earliest known forms of written communication originated in southern Mesopotamia about 3500-3000 BCE with people using token markings to manage trade and agricultural production.

Then came cuneiform writing (numerical signs and signs or symbols) where information was recorded on clay tablets. Egyptian hieroglyphs appeared from 3300-3100 BCE (it was a power thing among the elites).

Systems have been improving ever since. Literacy still means power.

You can sign your cheques with Xes but knowledge makes you strong.

There are two kinds of knowledge.

One is based on our own experiences or learned from others. The other is knowing where to get information. Being literate means you can “read up” on different issues and don’t have to rely on the 6 o’clock TV news for information.

Communication systems have improved over the centuries but never so much as in the last decades. This is the Information Age.

Access to the Internet has expanded our idea of what “reading” means and has opened opportunities that never existed before.

If you want instant information, check the online news.

Entertainment? Go to Facebook.

Instant messaging, e-mail.

There seems to be some new way to get information every day.

The catch is, we still need basic literacy skills.

Spelling doesn’t seem to be one of them, but reading and writing are the keys to managing the technological culture.

Will words written with ink on paper disappear? Maybe someday, but latest surveys show writers are still writing hardcopy books and people are reading them.

One thing that will endure is our need for continuing education.

That will never end.

Diana French is a freelance columnist for the Black Press Williams Lake Tribune. She is a former Tribune editor, retired teacher, historian, and book author.