Re: virus: Too Much TV

Ryan Weddle (
Sat, 10 Apr 1999 03:38:29 -0400 (EDT)

On Fri, 9 Apr 1999, KMO wrote:

> I have considerable sympathy for this idea. Even so, literacy as defined
> as the ability to look at strings of static words on a page or screen and
> effortlessly and spontaneously have images and complex ideas form in

Just a note... The notion that literacy is the ability to look at "strings of static words" and "effortlessly and spontaneously" have images and complex ideas form in your mind bears a little more examination.

The notion of "reading" is parasitic on general language facilities. Language use manifests both in spoken languages and sign languages naturally, but not in written form. Reading and writing are a mapping of language from one coding to another. In this sense, when you learn to read, you do gain the ability to "effortlessly" conjure images and ideas by staring at a string of words. This, however, is far from literacy.

> one's consciousness as a result of that activity is a skill that is
> imparted less and less by public education but is still consistently
> imparted to students in private academies and by home schooling. It's not
> the only means of conveying or receiving information, and those, like
> Harold Bloom, author of "Closing of the American Mind," who define
> cultural literacy as familiarity with the cannon of Western Civilization
> are oblivious to important new ways of thinking and communicating.

There are degrees of literacy beyond the ability to read. It may not be important that students be familiar with the Western Canon, but that they have the ability to read and comprehend them is. However, it is unreasonable to suggest that one could reasonably appreciate an individual work from the Western Canon without a familiarity with the context. Furthermore, it is also questionable how familiar one can be with a particular school of thought (within this Western Canon), without having read it in some depth. All too often, students mistake their passing acquaintance with an author for an authoritative view ("Yes, I'm familiar with Nietzsche..." - coming typically from someone who has not read Nietzsche at all, or perhaps a bit of Zarathustra). Even though familiarity with the classics is not the whole of cultural literacy, it certainly is an integral component.

> Still, the ability to express oneself in writing and to be able to read
> and comprehend what others have written is a valuable skill that improves
> ones ability to navigate consciously in a memetic landscape. It is also a
> skill that the institutions of public education in the US are
> increasingly unable to impart to students.

If reading and writing improve ones ability to navigate a memetic landscape, then it is literacy that allows one to navigate it more intelligently. Hypertext and multimedia augment the presentation of knowledge by demonstrating interconnectedness and relationships between bits of information that might otherwise be missed. I think that many proponents of cultural literacy (as familiarity with the classics) have the same end in mind.

Ryan Weddle

BTW - on a related note, and not without parallels to the discussion of The Matrix... has anyone read the Dictionary of the Khazars by Milorad Pavic?

> -KMO
> Sodom wrote:
> > Literacy isn't falling - its adapting
> >
> > Bill Roh
> >
> > > -----Original Message-----
> > > From:
> > > []On Behalf
> > > Of KMO
> > > Sent: Friday, April 09, 1999 2:05 PM
> > > To:
> > > Subject: virus: Too Much TV
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > > Dr Sebby wrote:
> > >
> > > > Downfall?..sometimes i wonder where it is 'we're' falling from.
> > >
> > > As a society, literacy.
> > >
> > > -KMO
> > >