I'm never quite sure what to think about articles like this
"The difficulty is the point": teaching spoon-fed students how to really read. Reclaiming literature is crucial to understanding the times we live in -- by Tegan Bennett Daylight
and similar discourses and even rants on the subject I've heard from college teacher friends many times.
Yes, they are right about the general level of one type of literacy and general knowledge perhaps diminishing (e.g., I was surprised when a 30something Ontario-born person said some years ago, when I mentioned Farley Mowat, that she'd never heard of him. But she was a software company employee and had a computer literacy I could only dream of).
In fairly short order, it became books instead of bards and ballads. Silent reading alone instead of group announcements or news-giving events. A lesser need to remember & memorize news, info, and learning to be able to disseminate it. Now you could reference info later--in a book. Didn't need any longer to keep it all in your head.
And so peoples' neuropathways changed radically from the former Oral learning age to the Visual learning age. Huge change or evolvement in human brains. Some pathways, unused, dried up. Maybe that's why Memorization remained such a big thing in schools even into the mid-last century. But meanwhile, different brain areas came on-stream, became dominant; different abilities evolving, different kinds of knowledge transfer underway for what people would need for their survial or work, their living or their learning in their era.
I'm sure monks, when the Guttenburg press became widely-used, were horrified that young people were setting books in type rather than copying them in callgraphy. The result then was a much wider access to knowledge and therefore presumably new or other forms of literacy.
So when I read pieces like Daylight's or hear college and university profs lament about the undergrads and their lacks in literacy, their inability to spell or write -- while those are admirable abilities -- I wonder if those students are going to need the professorial-approved form of 'literacy' to get on, to thrive and survive as the 21st century unfolds.
And I'm a calligrapher. But calligraphy was not much use to me in the workplace and career, as a lifeskill for survival. And yes, it's great to have the professors' form of literacy, but it's just possible that not having it may not render the students imbeciles.
I love the olde skills of the medieval calligrapher -- writing with ox gall ink, sometimes even with feather nib dip-pens. Yet as lovely and cherished as all the micro-abilities involved in calligraphy are, the skills of writing in Uncial would not get a person very far in thriving in this era.
(c)2017 Margo Lamont