(Whoops! Thought I posted this already! But here it is!)
Reading these first couple articles has definitely opened my mind to an ongoing argument I had never really thought about: is there a negative side to being literate? The topic seemed pretty black-and-white to me; popular thought appears to be that one who is literate is far more successful than one who is dubbed illiterate. After all, it’s almost human nature to want to reach out and communicate with others, and this task appears relatively impossible if literacy is removed from the picture. Although I do not agree with the argument that Lankshear and Ong are making, they do bring to light some resilient examples in which literacy can be damaging. Nevertheless, it is still my belief that people are doing themselves a great disservice when choosing to remain ignorant of literacy.
Ong’s piece opens with a possible definition for the illiterate individual which, unlike Ong, I believe to be quite accurate. He says “[t]he term illiterate itself suggests that persons belonging to the class it designates are deviants.” It only seems fair to imply that these illiterate characters are far less likely to succeed in life, which therefore may lead to deviant behavior. A person will most likely encounter some form of literacy in his or her lifetime, most importantly in the working environment, and the literacy barrier in front of that person is going to unleash vast consequences. While it is not necessarily required to be literate to become successful, it will definitely pave the road and make life much easier for the person struggling down the road to literacy.
I really despise the argument that the spoken word is superior to the written word. I cannot wrap my brain around it! While I like the debate that the written word is unable to defend itself when asked a question about its content, this argument seems to have far too many holes in it to remain stable. How effective is the spoken word once the speaker is gone? Some might like to make the argument that listeners can pass the message down to future generations, but then the whole “game of telephone” problem emerges. Also, history shows us that there are certain people who like to tweak and manipulate the words of others so the writing mirrors their own ideas or thoughts. Put simply, the written word simply survives the test of time, while the spoken word has no chance of making this same accomplishment.
Of course, being literate is not the answer to all of life’s questions. It is not a fool-proof formula for success, nor is it a one way ticket to happiness. Nevertheless, it is a powerful tool, and writers like Ong and Lankshear should not degrade it simply to make the illiterate population feel special and privileged. Communication is a wonderful skill to utilize, and literacy is one of the many steps taken in obtaining this skill.