Yesterday, I wondered if democracy wasn’t too moral – too nit-picking – for its own good. Today, via Twitter, Philip Blond argues that:
While A levels grades are rising UK now 23rd in the OECD for reading and writing – we are very poorly educated compared to our competitors
Poorly educated? By what definition? As nit-pickers who play their fearful tunes on the earthly Titanic of planetary disaster?
Three reasons, then, why Blond’s 140-character definition of where we’re at in education doesn’t convince me. The first reason, as per George Takei’s Facebook page.
The second reason, which talks about how our traditional methods of defining learning success are totally inadequate to the job in hand – again, as per another Facebook-distributed image.
The third reason, via an Ipsos OTX opinion survey on being human-savvy versus being tech-savvy:
It may be a hi-tech digital world, but the heart still rules. Given the choice, 65% of us would rather be people-savvy than tech-savvy, a number that skews higher with women, 71% of whom value people-smarts over geek-smarts. Maybe that’s why so many tech marketers play to the heart, to connections between people, to romance and dreams.
In emerging technology powers China and India, though, being tech-savvy trumps being people-savvy. [...]
So to the question at the heart of this post: what is reading and writing good for anyway? Before, as Norm points out, when endured, it guaranteed a certain long-term reward:
[...] I will hazard just one thing, and this without benefit of any familiarity with educational research or theory: some disciplines of learning do have to be imparted, because the very idea of real learning as pure spontaneity or pure fun is illusory.
Very true. But if the purpose of life in the future is to make money at practically all costs, in order that we may help protect our offspring from the fearful dangers of a Darwinian capitalism (the state withering away as the welfare safety nets which protected us from the wolf at the door serve, instead, to unlock that selfsame door), that is to say, if financial survival rather than educated thought becomes the guiding light of our civilisation, what good will be the nit-picking skills reading and writing sustain when applied in that base and anti-intellectual world of modern cut-and-thrust – that world where professional executive-summary readers rule?
In fact, if survival does become the paradigm for our Western civilisation, who will have the time to want to read and write at all?
If being tech-savvy is the way forward for all our economies, aren’t we disestablishing the place of humanity even more than – to date – our socioeconomic policies have led us to allow?
And who says “if”? Maybe survival is already our lot.
Maybe reading and writing have been the main cause of our downfall – ponderous skills which lead those who enjoy exerting them to miss the boat of an alleged tech-driven progress.
A word of caution, though, to leave you with: despite my reservations yesterday on the dangers of too much measured and time-consuming democratic morality, I might also be inclined to underline the contrary risks of quick-thinking. Quick-thinking is the antithesis of many arts and traditions we are losing: publishing is just one; perhaps the one I am most familiar with. Like a film truly worth its footage, a good book needs time to pass through the hands of its many creators.
Maybe the boat we are really missing is the boat of deep thought.
Or maybe, more sadly, reading and writing have had their day – and the years we now have ahead of us are simply times of inevitable crisis which form part of the cycle that is humanity on this globe. The other day I read how some international organisation or other was indicating that we as a species were now in freefall towards a place of planetary no-return. And I do wonder how it is we have managed to place ourselves so firmly at the centre of an ecosystem we supposedly should share with so many other creatures – creatures which have spent centuries suffering at our behest.
If our reading and writing – those activities which really do distinguish us from our fellow species – have passed their sell-by dates (that is to say, no longer serving the purpose they once fulfilled), and our planet rearranges matters so as to remove our existence from its face, surely life will go on as in such closed systems it always must.
Just not necessarily the life we imagined rather selfishly – even where literarily – for ourselves.