Wednesday, February 16, 2005


Illiteracy vs. Alliteracy

Illiteracy is best defined as the INABILITY to read, or at read fluently.

Alliteracy, on the other hand, occurs when a person CAN read, but does not. Alliteracy is becoming quite common. Increasing numbers of people seldom, if ever, read, unless there is no other alternative. They prefer text messaging to email, video to text, and get virtually all their news from television and cable.

The ability to sit still and concentrate is not an innate characteristic of humans. Repose does not come naturally to active youngsters. It must be developed, little by little, until the person has learned to appreciate and be comfortable in silent tranquility. Today's young have never been taught to listen to the "quiet within". They live in the midst of constant noise - many homes never turn the TV off, whether or not anyone is watching or listening. It's not uncommon to have several forms of media playing at the same time (TV, music, video game). We have, by such means, trained our young to ignore events around them, focus selectively (generally the most frantic or visually interesting), and pay attention only when the action is non-stop (courtesy of Sesame Street and other similar "educational" programs). Such training is detrimental to the intellectual development of children. It eventually leads to adults who are incapable of focused attention.

Reading is an inherently solitary activity. It requires a mind that is in the habit of working at that task until the intention of the author is clear. For more complicated reading, the effort needed may not be worth the minimal rewards received.

What kinds of activities lead to ability to sit quietly and focus?

They may include:
  • listening to music with no words
  • learning to play a musical instrument
  • drawing (not coloring in another's drawing, but creating one's own work
  • mediating
  • watching with scenery, without any added sound
  • watching the movements of animals (ants, fish, birds), and writing down their observations

It starts with the family. When a student enters a classroom, it's easy for the teacher to tell whose family used electronic babysitters, and whose family spent quiet time with him/her. In a classroom situation, it's very difficult to teach when perhaps 1/3 of the students have "ants in their pants", as my grandmother would have said. They are out of their seats every few minutes, talk non-stop, bang on the tables in an effort to supply their own sound track, and cannot focus on an assignment for more than a minute or two without needing a break.

I'm not talking about 1st grade kids, these are descriptions of 14-16 year-old high school students.

The parents seldom see any problems with their children. At home, they function well, and are generally good kids. In a pre-literate society, they might be leaders.

But we don't live in a primitive world. We live in a society that increasingly needs its citizens to be able to function well while performing abstract tasks. The work that the alliterate can perform is generally poorly-paid, unskilled labor.

That lack of literacy serves as a barrier to economic advancement may strike some as unfair. And, to some degree, it is. Yet, so primary to the skill set of a modern society is the ability to read, that incompetence at the task makes one unable to take full advantage of the educational opportunities available.

It's significant that many of the minorities who have been successful academically engaged in their youth in quiet or contemplative pursuits - playing an instrument, mastering chess, drawing, or the like.

Teaching literacy and basic numeracy is well within thecapabilities of most families. It is for that reason that home schooling is getting to be so popular. Why send your children to school if the classroom activities are more focused on keeping the alliterate from disturbing the learning of the ready-to-learn, than on educating them.

Tracking is a no-no in schools today. Unless the student is working on a REALLY low level (more than 3-4 grades lower than his/her peers), there is a strong push to place that student in regular ed classes. The elite don't want that to affect their own children, so they have re-defined the above-average student as "gifted", and persuaded the schools to re-segregate those kids from the rest. All in the name of "fairness", of course. Tracking, of course, is bad. This separation from average is not tracking, but some other thing. What, I'm not sure, but definitely not tracking.

Can you read between the lines?


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Jim Van Pelt said...

Very interesting post. That's an insightful way to look at the problem.

Anonymous said...

Alliteracy may be the nail in the coffin for the United States of America. It's funny how literacy, one of the pillars of democracy, may play a role in the demise of one of the greatest democracies in human history.

Anonymous said...

You really mean aliterate, not alliterate. Aliterate (one "l") means "not literate." Alliterate (two "l"s) means to "contain words that begin with the same letter or sound."


All to create a populace divorced from its history, and from great thinking that might inspire critical thought.

The Left has a LONG GAME; they think and plan in terms of decades if not centuries. They are MISSIONARIES for The Cause, and nothing - not facts, not logic, not history - nothing - will deter them from attempting to create heaven on earth.

Anonymous said...

Terrible misspelling!
If your goal is to educate then you need to make the effort to proofread before posting.
The three words in question are: Illiterate, Aliterate, and Alliterate.
Illiterate- Can’t read
Aliterate- Can read but doesn’t
Alliterate- “All” the same starting sounds

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