Don’t forget to dot the I

Many, many years ago mariner knew a woman who was raised deep in the back country of Tennessee. In her forties, she was not literate. Don’t surmise that she was unintelligent or otherwise had shortcomings; actually, she was mentally sharp and had a pleasant personality. Simply, she had never been taught to read or write.

Mariner was friends with her children and he visited often. One time, he saw a grocery list she had written so her husband could buy groceries on the way home. Most of the items were single letters, marks and shapes rather than words. One drew my interest; it was a stick man, a plus sign and two whole eggs. “What does this mean?” I asked. She said it was a man plus 2 eggs – in other words, ‘mayonnaise’.

She never received the credit due for her contribution to literacy. She invented a literate style used by many young people today – emoji.

Written language began and existed for centuries without the ability to use the same printed word/sounds in different situations. The Egyptians were famous for their massive and intricate accounts of history using only graphics and images, every account unique in its documentation. The first language to use letters and words was the Indian language called Brahmi, several hundred years BCE. There were other ancient written languages that existed a millennium before that but they weren’t as organized.

Certainly civilization as we know it could not have evolved without letters and words. But today a new phenomenon is evolving and it replaces letters and words with images. Is it because it’s too much trouble for the thumb to bounce around on a tiny keyboard? Is it because reading and writing are too slow in our super fast computer society? How many folks have said, perhaps often, “reading is too slow – show me a chart or a picture.” Or perhaps, “Just give me a link, I’ll read it later.” (and never do)

Mariner ponders whether sentences, too, will disappear. Perhaps only in news broadcasts will a viewer ever read a whole sentence on the TV screen. Words, usually dressed up with color and shapes, are all one needs to understand a commercial. But why stop there?

Big Data has learned to communicate directly with our subconscious brain. The conscious brain isn’t needed much anymore. Primary education theory is moving toward natural skills training; Liberal Arts is disappearing from colleges and universities. Will literacy be next?

Ancient Mariner

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