Literacy and Numeracy: Who Needs Them?

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When Plato was teaching his students he was often frustrated by their note taking and reference to written records.  Plato was of the opinion that the new technology of literacy was creating a generation that was unable to think and meditate on what they were learning because of their dependency on the written word.

Today, technology is providing us with a broad array of new media with which we record, replay, produce, publish, communicate and collaborate without using literacy or numeracy.  Academics, publishers and governments are alarmed at declines in the reading of printed publications and student’s declining performance in the classroom.  They are claiming that “computeracy” is creating a generation that cannot read, write or perform mathematical operations because of their dependency on digital communication.

The truth is literacy and numeracy are simply primitive techniques for encoding information.  Composition and mathematics are just a bag of mental tricks for processing information.  And most of us do most of it poorly anyway.

Grieving over the loss of literacy and numeracy is like grieving over the inability to weave cloth or tailor one’s own clothes.  Computers have made literacy and numeracy very much like the mechanization of textile production.

What is happening in classrooms, to publisher’s sales and bureaucracy is not a decline in the intelligence of our next generation.  It is an increasing obsolescence of traditional literacy and numeracy.

Our children are not thinking at lower levels.  Instead, they are not wasting time with the mental effort required to mechanically process at the level of traditional literacy and numeracy and applying themselves to higher level thought.

The current method of submitting papers for peer review is completely obsolete.  HTML was an attempt to take the primitive technology of the printed page, reference and citation and emulate it with the small addition of hyperlinks.

The yet to be fully realized method of academic publication will be the publication of databases containing problem and hypothesis, subjects and researchers, schemas and forms, data and queries, measures and units, amounts and currencies, results and conclusions all available for peer review and public consumption–research databases and white databases.  And beyond that entire models in common formats which we are seeing in Computer Assisted Design Systems and Geographic Information Systems, for example.

This new generation using new media is modeling the universe in ways and at scales that were impossible with pen, paper and chalkboard.  They are even beyond printing press, radio, television, recorded audio, recorded video and most physical storage.  And the new generation can already interact globally in all of these new media.

Where are the people that are supposedly preparing them for life in this new world?  Complaining that their students are not interested in reading text books.  Even pumping normal children full of Ritalin to deny they as educators are not worthy of their students’ attention.


Universe: The Czerepak Framework

I just visited the archive of Tim Brown’s Design Thinking Blog and came across the following post:

Definitions of design thinking

Tim Brown » 07 September 2008 » In design thinking »

In my HBR article I gave a ‘definition’ of design thinking. It was:

Design thinking can be described as a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.

On reflection this is a narrow description that focuses on design thinking’s role within business. The next sentence that I wrote.“….design thinking converts need into demand” , which I borrowed from Peter Drucker, broadens things out a bit but still assumes an economic motivation.

I am grappling with two questions as I think about this.

1. Is there a general definition of design thinking?

2. Is it useful to have one?

I think Tim has something very good here and suggest that the following would be a further breakdown of his classification:

  • Viable: Business
    • How Much: Quality
    • How Many: Quanitity
  • Feasible: Technology
    • What: Material
    • How: Process
  • Desirable: Human
    • Why: Goal
    • Who: People

Obviously, if you have been following my blog, you can see the same pattern appearing and reappearing as we explore other’s concepts.  The six interrogatives continue to reassert themselves.  However, I think I finally nailed one more aspect on the head.  I hate to say it, but it came to me in a dream about working on a programming project:

  • Reliable:
    • Where: Location
    • When: Timing

Quantity and Quality are two aspects of design/system thinking that are continually overlooked by academics and specialists, but not business people.

Interestingly enough this perspective is not new.  Clayton M. Christensen in his book The Innovator’s Dilemma discusses a four part model that fits nicely with this:

  1. Availability
  2. Compatibility
  3. Reliability
  4. Cost

I consider, Clayton’s the most empirical ordering.  Consequently, I would like to mesh Tim’s, Clayton’s and my perspective into the following:

  1. Feasibility: Technology
    1. How
    2. What
  2. Compatibility: Personality
    1. Why
    2. Who
  3. Availability: Market
    1. Where
    2. When
  4. Viability:  Business
    1. How Much
    2. How Many

Now, looking at this I am reminded of Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Tipping Point, and it adds the following character to the model:

  1. Feasability: Mavin
    1. How: Processes
    2. What: Materials
  2. Compatibility: Connector
    1. Why: Goals
    2. Who: People
  3. Availability: Salesman
    1. Where: Locations
    2. When: Schedules
  4. Viability: Customer
    1. How Much: Costs
    2. How Many: Units

Universe: A Multi-Dimensional Medium

Let’s do a thought experiment.  I want to take design thinking and abstract it to a system.


Imagine that there are no solids, liquids, gases or plasmas or particles.  That the Universe is a fluid medium swirling between equilibrium and non-equilibrium in multiple dimensions.  What we perceive to be solid, liquid, gas or plasma are not states, but intersections of dimensions that describe interdimensional vortices.  Energy is the intensity of a vortice.  Mass is a vortice of a set of dimensions.  Light is a vortice of a set of dimensions.  All of the particles are vortices of sets of dimensions.  Each influence the other based upon which dimensions they are composed of.

R. Buckminster Fuller clearly states in his work that we should perceive the systems as finite four dimensional spheres.

There are only four fundamental states:  vortice verge, vortice converge, vortice emerge, vortice diverge.


Everything we perceive are combinations of these vortice states.  The states are +/- vortice yaw, +/- vortice pitch, +/- vortice roll.

If any vortice is spiraling toward you it is positive, if any vortice is spiraling away from you it is negative.  By definition, no vortice can be stationary with respect to you.

There are only eight fundamental vortices: How, What, Why, Who, When, Where, How Much, How Many.

This gives us the following eight vortice, four state table:


Take the time to look at the terms defining each of the white cells in the table.  Each row is the addition of a dimensional vortice.  For example: Each additional “when” vortice is another separate clock.  Each additional “where” vortice is another separate radius.  All of them are factors in a system or a design.

And even this representation is inaccurate.  If we consider fractal geometry and chaos theory, there are no points, no straight lines, no arcs, no planes, no circles, no polygons, no polyhedrons, no spheres, only vortices that are above, within or below our range of perception.  Space cannot be filled with any geometric shape.  Everything is composed of vortices–spirals.

We have to abandon the flat world, flat space models we currently cling to.  The world and the universe are not infinite planes.  The world is a finite island of non-equilibrium in a predominantly equilibrium universe.

And that is it, the Czerepak (Chair-eh-pak) Framework.

Copyright (c) 2008 Grant Czerepak.  All rights reserved.


Satire: Cogitators, Academics, Necromancers and Immortals


I’ve continued my reading of Jonathan Swift’s novel, Gulliver’s Travels, and have completed the Third Part. In this part we encounter the people of Laputa, so caught up in cogitation limited to music and mathematics that they are nearly unable to function in the physical world; the people of Balnibarbi, so caught up in academics that they are impoverished for lack of pragmatism; the people of Glubbdrubdrib where necromancy allows Gulliver to discover from the dead how contorted historical accounts truly are; and finally the people of Luggnagg among whom exist the immortal Struldbruggs who reveal that immortality is not necessarily everything it is hoped to be.

Jonathan’s fiction is a journey into extremes and reveals an irreverance for each of them. All to often we idealize cognition, academics, history and immortality and Jonathan does his utmost to help us to be regrounded.

related post: The Small and the Great