Saturday, May 24, 2014

Literacy Progress: From artwork and back.

Literacy Progress: From artwork and back
by Norman E. Hooben
The Magura Cave in Bulgaria
Image Source
There are some who believe that primitive drawings found in caves in various parts of Europe are some of the greatest artworks ever... not me, I think they are what they are; primitive!  When early man (or woman) wanted to tell a story or express and idea in other than the spoken word they used drawings because that's all they knew at the time.  Somebody discovered that if you take a piece of charcoal leftover from the fire  (discovered earlier) and rubbed it against something that it left a mark and thus was the beginning of some of the greatest artworks ever...that is if you want to believe that.  My personal opinion is that once they discovered the art form it was simple graffiti or anything that would amuse the user for their own personal gratification of seeing something developed by their own hands.   Over time they may have become more artistic with their drawings and some of the art may be the source of a story they wanted to tell but by the time they got proficient someone else came along and invented an alphabet.  And with the alphabet designated for messaging and story telling the really great artworks emerged but that's another story. 
So we as a people progressed through the ages with some learning to write while others still had to depend on pictures.  A great example of this was observed during the time I was tracing my family tree.  At the church where I found my great grandparent's marriage records, I noticed that every one's entries were by they same handwriting.  The caretaker explained that not everyone knew how to write in the mid 1800's and a scribe was used to enter the names next to the 'X' signed by the people who got married.   Even in colonial America there were many people who could not read or write so pictures were used to identify a business or trade.
Quill Feather
This could have been a mortar and pestle to symbolize a pharmacist or a silver teapot to identify the local silversmith and for those that wanted to write but could not there was always the local scribe identified by the quill feather and inkwell.  Eventually most of us progressed from understanding that ancient artwork to being able to read and write such that by the year 2008 we had a 99.9% literacy rate here in the United States (so says the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency's World Factbook).
Outwardly all the above verbiage seems pretty impressive.  That is until you look around and see what's happening in our schools and the quality of education one gets today as compared to just a few short years ago.   With the advent of computers there's definitely a decline in the use of cursive writing.  I read sometime ago that Scotland has now re-emphasized the use of cursive writing...or re-teaching what could be considered a loss of ancient artwork (cursive writing an artwork...why not).  Also, at some fast food eateries the employees do not have to know how much an item costs, all they have to do is punch the cash register button that has the picture of the item being purchased on the keypad.
Without getting into the new Common Core standards where the state of Massachusetts had to lower it's standards in order to comply I'd like to add one more example of where we are going if this downward trend continues.  The following was sent to me in an email and with a jokingly response I was going to end it there... But then again, is this were we are headed?
Video of the day...

1 comment:

Artwork said...

Interesting perspective