Are Americans Too Stupid to Think? - Thoughts On Literacy

BlogHer Original Post

It is National Information Literacy Awareness Month 2009. I belong to a listserv of that is concerned about libraries and information literacy. Let me tell you, they were doing the virtual happy dance that information literacy was being acknowledge. Sure there is not a bunch of pink ribbons for information literacy like there are for Breast Cancer Awareness but it is a start. Symbolically, we could all donate a dollar secretly to a library in a random act of kindness.

Still, I would love to see commercials, public service announcements, soup cans and full page ads with some sexy dude in a pair of black skimpy skimps imploring me to critically examine that housing contract before I sign it. True, it is a sexist thought but a half naked guy is a great visual motivator and a great springboard for discussing topics like literacy.

According to the National Forum on Information Literacy:

Information literacy is defined as the ability to know when there is a need for information, to be able to identify, locate, evaluate and effectively use that information.

Information literacy is and has always been a means of protection. It is your intellectual invisible shield against being lied, scammed or robbed by non-violent predators. As the technology changes the literacy demands must also change and evolve.

Yes, everyone should know how to read for information, how to count their money and how to write personal and business correspondence. If that is all you know how to do then you will be an information illiterate person. There is more, there is so much more to literacy.  This is not the 18th century, we can’t go back no matter how many people want to drag us back in time.

Educators and Librarians are understandably concerned, engaged and otherwise want in on the discussion about information literacy. It is bad for business to have disengaged library patrons or patrons that cannot access services. It is not just literacy but transliteracy – the ability to use different tools, media and still have the ability to evaluate content.

Bobbi at Librarian by Day wants libraries to focus on transliteracy skill building :

If we only focus on literacy we are doing a disservice to our patrons.  Just as libraries took on the task of helping to ensure all people  are literate, now we need to take on the task of ensure all people are transliterate.

You should also check out a video of Sue Thompson giving a lecture to her graduate students about the importance of having multiple literacy skills.

Anna Batchelder is at the helm of Literacy is Priceless. She searches for free literacy resources on the Internet that teachers and educators can use or be inspired to adapt to their classroom.  Sheila Webber looks at information literacy practices from around the world.

Angela Arner has a Health Literacy – For Health and Well Being blog that looks at health literacy issues from a local and global perspective. From Angela’s blog I found out that it is also Health Literacy Month, I found a podcast from Helen Osbourne on Why Health Literacy Matters.

This also lead me to Health Literacy Out Loud – a ongoing health literacy podcast on the economics, training, obstacles and reality of working with a health illiterate population. 

The information is pouring out all over but there is a disconnection between those that know and those that need to know.

Feeling A Little Tuckered

I don’t feel very academic today. I’m more in battle fatigue mode. I feel like most of my time has been spent finding information for people who should have these skills. We all should have them. I find that I live in a time where we take the word of anyone over taking the time to check it out for ourselves.

Too many of our friends and neighbors have take the path of least resistance; they just turn on the television or radio and accept whatever is being presented.

The past couple of months have been a huge disappointment. Truly, I did not think we were this myopic, selfish, ill-informed and proud of it. “Why can’t they see forward past their noses?” I’ve been nattering on like that for days to myself. My friends have the good sense to stay away from when I hit one of these moods.

Well, I guess the Muse on Duty had enough. I was riding the bus this morning and glanced at Transit TV. Transit TV is a big fan of Powerpoint-type slides. Anyway, I look up and I see this quote:

“Everyone is ignorant – but on different issues.” American humorist and philosopher, Will Rogers

Might have been the ego slap that I needed. Because how dare I assume that we all know? How do I know what you know if we’ve had different life experiences? We all have gone through different education systems or training of various qualities. We are not the same. 

Part of my life’s mission is to be a conduit, not a critic. I have to believe we can rise above the petty and get to the profound tasks that are ahead of us. 

Maybe the title of the post is unkind or less than tactful. I don’t care.  Based on the behavior of the past few months of public discourse we may be already screwed and not in a good way. My pessimism is kinda low. I am struggling to hold on to the light of accuracy and true information illumination.

This is a mood. It will pass. I’m just impatient. I think I’ll take my ignorant behind to bed and read a book. 

Gena Haskett usually sees the positive at Out On the Stoop and Create Video Notebook. But don’t bet on it this week.

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