Literacy and Numeracy: Stone Axes and Bone Knives

stonetoolsboneknives

Ultimately, everything is metaphor, whether we relate a taste to a strawberry or a color to a sound.  I use the word synesthesis broadly to describe the mechanism in memory that makes this possible.  The more I read, the more I am discovering that the structure is relatively the same in most individuals, but the perceptual history of every individual shapes the content of this structure differently.

There is some research that shows identical twins when together take different paths, however separated identical twins take similar paths.  You can find this in the work of Steven Pinker.

What is known is multiple sensory cues are better than individual sensory cues.  A visual cue will have a synergistic effect in memory when accompanied by other sensory cues including what I call the “cognitive sense”.  This being the case, the classroom is a terrible environment for learning and it is generally better to be immersed and learning in an environment with as many real sensory cues as possible right from the start.  This is why immersion is regarded as the best way to learn language although there are some caveats.

Steven Pinker has found that restricting language does limit people in their thinking, however in a generation the children build complete grammars with the language they are given and even coin new words as their experience dictates.  Language is a living, evolving thing within and across generations and cannot be contained in a 1984 fashion.  Nor is it wise to attempt to freeze a language you are studying, because it is a moving target.  Spelling guides, pronunciation keys, dictionaries, thesauruses, quotations, encyclopedias, news was never meant to police your thinking, but to equip you to think more broadly than your current abilities.  You weren’t meant to follow these books, you were meant to read to lead.  The books were meant to follow you.

Memory is infinitely flexible.  We are continually living a life where our mental data is accumulating and where we encounter crisis, climax and resolution or some variation mentally and we make the mental leap or stand on the cliff edge unable to evolve and cornered by our past.

Physics, Chemistry, Chronology, Geology, Psychology, Biology, Mathematics are the foundation stones of our sensory perception and our symbol systems and every one of these symbol systems evolves as we accomplish a phase change in any one due to an accumulation of exceptions until the system on which the symbols are based breaks down.  We call these phase change points “zero” and “infinity”, but zero and infinity are only place holders on a continuum be it linear, geometric, exponential or hyperbolic that has yet to show a limit of any kind.  All they mark are phase changes.

As Goedel demonstrated mathematically no system is complete, therefore no symbol system is complete.  There will always be phenomena that have yet to be represented and cannot be represented by the present system.  This is true for any language as well.  Listen to the phenomenal aural vocabulary of our youth as they imitate the sounds of their environment such as instruments and devices that our previous generation never heard.  Can we capture those “sound effects” with our current alphabet or icons?  I listen to children and youths communicating without uttering a single word in any language.  They communicate in the sounds and visual action of their home entertainment systems!  Anime is creating a world of children who speak a language their parents cannot fathom unless they are watching what their children watch.

And don’t be surprised to find children are no less intelligent than we were.  They don’t need the literacy we had to function in their environment quite effectively.  Measures of literacy and numeracy are irrelevant justifications for perpetuating an obsolete educational system.  The problem isn’t your children, it’s your educators.  Your children will define what communication will be in the future and we have to learn their lingua, not teach them ours.  Educators refusing to make the leap are, as Elliot said, “hollow men”.  Our children’s communication tools and cognitive abilities are in many ways superior to the cognitive tricks we use to think literally and mathematically with alphabets and numbers.  And that is all they are, a bag of tricks hammered into us for over twelve years.  Our literacy and numeracy tools are like stone axes and bone knives compared to what our children are using now.  Children can compose in video, audio, events, graphics, text, gesture and digits faster than we ever could read, rite and rithmatic with our pencils.  What makes our technology so exceptional or even worth preserving?  Are you still using a stone axe?

Welcome to the world of Marshall McLuhan.  Make the leap and learn the new media.  Let your children get on with computing.

The next time your child gets poor results on a literacy or numeracy test, tell the teachers to get their shit together and teach new media or find another job.

Love your children not your herd teachers.

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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.