Model Literacy Synthesis

Thesis Statement: Although literacy has always been vital to communication, it is now more important than ever to be literate in order to lend structure to the informational abyss, to ascertain the subtle differences between credible and misleading information, and based on this discernment, to lend an informed voice to ongoing conversations that are imperative to making progress.

Perhaps the most important aspect of literacy is the ability to evaluate the credibility of information in context of a twenty-four hour news cycle, social media which never ceases, and images that adorn almost every vertical and horizontal surface. The cacophony of text in these mediums presents readers with a daunting amount of information to process, filter, and integrate into their own knowledge base. Furthermore, in the 21st century, technology has democratized information access and allowed virtually anyone to lend their voice to the ever growing conversation, which results in an overwhelming amount of white noise. The easiest coping mechanism is literacy. A reader who has a broad knowledge of their surroundings is better able to assimilate new information and give formlessness meaning. This notion of rendering judgment on what we read is addressed in Stephen King’s Memoir of the Craft when he observes, “One learns most clearly what not to do by reading bad prose…So we read to experience the mediocre and the outright rotten; such experience helps us recognize those things when they begin to creep into our own work, and to steer clear of them.” While King is addressing potential writers and advising them to determine good prose from bad in order to become better writers, the same basic mechanism applies to reading our everyday lives–we need to read, and judge what we read, to refine our understanding. King’s assertion about literacy is especially important when we watch the news or scroll through Twitter. Sure, these are not books, but they all present text for rendering. Perhaps the best example of the need to determine the value of information is when we use social media. A choice to follow a user on Facebook or Twitter is a choice predicated upon the value which that person adds to our own understanding or the extent to which they demonstrate what not to do. For instance, organizations like NASA, NPR News, and National Geographic offer valuable information, whereas reality TV culture most often offers aimless drivel. The literate consumer of 140 character statements only needs this brief snapshot to determine what is valuable and what is not. This is King’s point, and it is an important one. We do not grow without being presented with new and challenging information–finding valuable information and making informed choices is a vital byproduct of literacy. Choosing not to develop perspective on social media leads to the lowest forms of entertainment and stagnation. In King’s words, it leads to mediocrity in our work and our understanding. Ultimately, it is the pursuit of what challenges our thinking that leads to growth. Without a filter, all information is the same, and therefore meaningless. Striving for literacy provides fertile ground for personal growth. It follows, that as a result of this intellectual growth, a literate individual is also more apt to join conversations and influence positive change. Frederick Douglass is a historical exemplar of literacy’s ability to catalyze positive social change…

 

 

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