As University of Tennessee professor James Tucker writes, “The deterioration of reading achievement in the United States has been noted for decades, and the many attempts to correct this decay have been unsuccessful.”
He then quotes a sobering statistic: “At least “44 million adults [in the United States] are now unable to read a simple story to their children.”
The question is, why? Obvious factors include poverty, technology and education, but so are our ideas about what literacy is for.
We’ve largely rejected the great books of the past, preferring subjective and personal experiences to universal truths. So why study? Also, today’s emphasis on race, politics, and sexuality in education has transformed literacy from a gift, into more of a weapon.
Simply put, literacy cannot be ideologically neutral. It’s not just about that we read or even what we read. It’s also about why.
Consider William Tyndale who rightly sensed all people should be able to read Scripture. He believed that “the boy that drives the plow” could be more knowledgeable of Scripture than the Latin-speaking elite.
Words are powerful. And that’s why literacy matters.
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