POINT OF VIEW: As literacy plummets, discernment fades


When I was an elementary school student in the 1950s, we all learned to read well. Classes were larger than I remembered. I count 36 in my fourth-grade class photo.

Because we could read, all my classmates went on to get life-sustaining jobs with the exception of two who had syndromes that were not understood or treated in those days.

So why is literacy plummeting today? Some point to crowded classrooms, or to special-needs students, or to dysfunctional families, but those challenges existed 50 years ago. While there may be more difficulties for teachers today, there are also underlying causes for literacy decline. In a world relying more on hearing and seeing through television and videos, reading can seem cumbersome and unnecessary to younger generations. Reading, however, is an important part of discerning, and writing depends greatly on organizational skills. The loss of discernment and organizing one’s thoughts will impede the efficacy of our society.

Those who can fill out employment applications with good spelling and grammar and provide essay answers detailing knowledge and experience will have the edge. If you file a federal job application, you will find you need a high level of word comprehension just to manage the process of providing answers to 10 pages of questions.

If you become a musician or a sports figure, lack of literacy may not hold you back. However, once you succeed in gaining contracts, you will want to understand what you are signing. When you hire investment managers, you will need adequate understanding of what you are agreeing to. Many agents and investment counselors have bilked those who blindly trusted them.

New legislators learn how hard it is to write accurate and comprehensible legislation. Choice of words makes a big difference since some words are broad in meaning and others are narrow, and some phrases won’t hold up in court. Lawyers and judges know how precise words must be. Without solidly written laws our legal system mires and confusion reigns.

Texting and tweeting employ shortcuts. Those posted short statements are often cutting and harsh without sufficient context. Tweets are basically today’s spitballs. Hit and run. Hurt and hide. With the loss of precise speaking, courtesy exits the discourse.

Sign up for The Palm Beach Post FREE weekly Opinion newsletter: Text Opinion to 444999

The skill of reading is especially necessary in science and medicine. You must be exact. The same is true of medical diagnoses and surgery. When reading history or news, one needs to discern whether the author is accurately explaining what happened.

When too many Americans cannot tell fact from fiction, or fabrication from verifiable details, our votes will become meaningless. We might as well use tarot cards to guide us.

KAREN COODY COOPER, LAKE WORTH



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

Opinion: Ari Fleischer asks if we’re being fair to Brett Kavanaugh

Ari Fleischer wants to know if we’re being fair. “How much in society should any of us be held liable today when we’ve lived a good life, an upstanding life by all accounts, and then something that maybe is an arguable issue, took place in high school? Should that deny us chances later in life?” Fleischer, a former spokesman...
Opinion: Fear-based parenting

Police came to Kim Brooks’ parents’ door in suburban Richmond, Virginia, demanding that her mother say where her daughter was or be arrested for obstructing justice. So began a Kafkaesque two-year ordeal that plunged Brooks into reflections about current parenting practices. It also produced a book, “Small Animals: Parenthood in the...
Letters: It’s McKinlay who needs detention

It’s McKinlay who needs detention After reading Palm Beach County Mayor Melissa McKinlay’s reaction to her daughter being pulled out of class for a dress code violation and put into detention, it strikes me the mayor deserves detention, too. The mayor’s reluctance to disclose whether it was her daughter’s first offense suggests...
POINT OF VIEW: Jupiter should allow new assisted living facility

I was taken aback by the quote in The Palm Beach Post article — “A $75 million Jupiter medical complex sits empty. Why?,” (Aug. 31) — from longtime Jupiter Town Council member Jim Kuretski. He called it “unacceptable” that a request is going to be made to eliminate the prior agreement from the Institute for Healthy...
Editorial cartoon
Editorial cartoon

CARTOON VIEW LEE JUDGE
More Stories