In his literary work, Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know, E.D. Hirsch Jr. challenges the young Americans on their ability to read and understand the content and context of what they read. He appreciates the need for people to get educated for both economic development as well as the state of democracy in the United States. Literacy creates all the positive achievements that human beings can achieve.
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The chief importance of literacy is communication. Whether through verbal, electronic, written or even acted form of communication, the quality if the message passed and its accuracy depends on the literacy of the receiver. Poor communication has been associated with the Biblical failure for the completion of tower of Babel. A common mode that everyone understands is vital and in the US, standard English language has been approved as the literate language. This argument is true because one of the main sources of failure in organizations is communication breakdown. When there is misunderstanding between people, or part of the information is missing in any field, no teamwork would be developed. This would collapse any system forever. Whether through radio, TV, phone or any other means, the two parties making communication must have a common literacy that would enhance accurate and complete flow of information.
National integration is mainly pegged on the literacy level of a people in a country. People must be able to solve the problems that face them through an interactive process. Further, people are aware of the national values and occurrences leading to the laws that govern the. Today, it would not be surprising when a young American does not know where a small state such as Oregon is situated in the American map. The author has even stated that a certain student thought that Toronto was in Italy! When people do not even know the states in their country, they are not expected to know what their constitution stands for or even know about the important occurrences that were experienced in the US history. With little knowledge about the country, there would be no national integration. These observations are true because the first thing that ensures national integration is the ability of the citizens to identify themselves with their national values. When literacy is too low for the people to even identify the values, national integration is very unlikely to be achieved. A student who believes that Toronto is in Italy would never appreciate someone from the state as a compatriot.
Literacy can be used to create equality among the people. When people in a society can communicate and share ideas, it ensures that even the minority groups are included and can rise to their potential. Unlike in most cases in the past where these minority groups were disregarded, they can today sit and discuss issues of national and global importance due to their ability to understand and articulate what they hear from various sources. This is a true and has been manifested through the election of a black president in the United States. About a century ago, black people were seen as slaves, but the literacy that has been imparted on them has shown the world that all men are equal regardless of their race or gender.
Hirsch argues that literacy does not refer to the understanding of what one is taught about their career, but their ability to understand the message that is sent to general public such as through the newspaper, which does not have a specific target. When people get this information, it helps in building up a very concrete society that is complete and can economically sustain itself. Most of the state economies have been created by the state of the society and this can be used to cement Hirsch’s arguments with regard to the importance of literacy in creating a productive society.
The importance of literacy is immeasurable and cannot be overlooked. Hirsch has insisted throughout his work that most achievements can only be made through literacy processes. This is true because issues such as communication, integration, equality, and even he general social development cannot be achieved without literacy. They are the key pillars to social, economic and even political integration of any economy.
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