Literacy is one of the oldest hallmarks of civilization itself. The expansion of literacy rates in the United States is a severe problem confronting both our education systems and our work force structure and it will only prove to be of more critical importance the more different forms of communication come into use. Huffington Post reports sobering stats to the effect that literacy rates over all in the U.S have not budged significantly in over a decade. Partially it is to do with education being unequal over the socio-economic boundaries, but also because of an influx of immigrated workers and their descendants would will prove to be the backbone of much of the work force following baby-boomer retirement. As an English major, I feel literacy is of inexpressible importance in order to function in society.
Back in the days of large family farms and apprenticeships, literacy could be done without. As the economic opportunity expanded into machinery and later still into computers it has become no longer possible to live a decent life with knowing little more than how to read and write your name and a few other things. We are no longer framed in an economic structure that would be able to support vast numbers of workers who are illiterate in capacity because it matters as far as getting ahead is concerned. Especially, coming out of this “Great Recession” things will only get worse if something is not done to boost our education. Overall the vast majority of “middle jobs” have been phased out, rendered obsolete by technology or overseas cost. Gone are the days where an A.A would get you a 30-ish thousand dollar steady employment or a B.A would be considered sufficient education for most jobs. We live in a society at this point where a good chunk of workers are over qualified for the jobs they have because the higher levels are not open to them for various reasons. If these people remain in these positons, there are even fewer options for those who are illiterate to go to where they can still get by which means, at least for some, and perhaps even a majority, the next stop is the welfare system where the economy will only slow further.
Basic word and print literacy is of primary of course because it is so basic and will likely not go anywhere; However, there are now expanded definitions of literacy because is not literacy an expansion of competency? Computers will also grow increasingly important as time goes on. Knowing how to use them is not the advantage it was back in the 80’s, it is expected. I think it is reasonably safe to say that there are several forms of literacy that school systems and immigration programs alike must strive to teach fluency in beyond computers and print; I wish I could think of another good example but to be honest such literacy might just be so common place to myself, I don’t even realize that I use it. (That mentality in itself being a bit of a problem since I would think a majority have no idea how bad our literacy rates really are and thus don’t know there is a problem to begin with.)
Another blog also pointed out that the lack of a standard definition is one of the many problems surrounding this issue, if not the main one. I agree with this and feel that giving out basic standards for what literacy is, is an extremely important step in trying to rectify the problem. Yes, picture graphs and similar info graphs will suffice for many situations to a certain extent, but it does not and will never match the amount of information that can be conveyed by words themselves.