Re: The matter of "literacy"
- From: Brad Collins <brad@[redacted]>
- Subject: Re: The matter of "literacy"
- Date: Tue, 14 Aug 2007 15:55:28 -0700
> When Michael Hart writes: "_I_ want to provide a million book
> library to persons who never really even considered owning a
> thousand books.... THAT is expansion of literacy," it raises a huge
> and serious question about just what is MEANT by "literacy," in this
> or any other context.
> A million book library, when the vast majority of people who do read
> hardly seem to get through the few dozen or hundred books they have
> on their shelves!
> A million books - to what purpose? For a very few, an infinitesimal
> fraction of the world's population, a million books may be useful as
> a research tool. But if you've worked as I have with large numbers
> of people who are "functionally" or cognitavely illiterate, and then
> consider the vast amount of the population whose reading consists
> almost solely of Tarzan, Harlequin Romances, Reader's Digest, half a
> dozen rote-learned passages from the Bible, or the local sports
> pages, literacy is far removed from what's being talked about.
But isn't that a lowest common denominator definition of literacy and
Like the Industrial Revolution, literacy has not advanced uniformly
across the planet. In some places it's still trying to build up
Access to a good research library with a million or more books is
limited to a small part of the population even in developed countries.
For those living in places with access to those research libraries,
the very small number of people who will take advantage of them will
have a far better chance of going on to becoming highly literate than
people living in rural locations with access to a library with a
couple of thousand books.
Once you've achieved general literacy, your ability to advance is
limited by what is available to you to continue your studies.
Michael Hart's Million books ARE for everyone, but only a few people
will ever take advantage of the gift. Since it's impossible to know
which individual out of a hundred thousand will be the one to do so we
have to give everyone the same opportunity and leave it up to them if
they wish to take it.
In industrial countries, man has probably advanced general literacy
about as far as it will go, because general literacy will always fall
at about the level needed for the average person to get on with their
lives. Technological advances seem to have a tendency to
But as that general level of literacy spreads across the planet, so
will the number of exceptional individuals which go on to become
highly literate and educated. Those million books will help those
people more than anyone else. And those people, it would be hoped,
might go on to do extraordinary things which will certainly impact
Is that the kind of exponential expansion of literacy that Micheal is
talking about? For general literacy it will help, but not
dramatically. But for those few people who have the intelligence and
drive to learn, it will certainly be all that Michael envisions and
Brad Collins <brad@[redacted] Bankwao, Thailand