Sunday, February 7, 2016

Essay: Blurring the Lines of Literacy

This was my first English Composition I assignment. It's a reader response over Dennis Baron's essay: "Should Everybody Write?" Because our textbook was the source of information, we were only required to insert page numbers for in-text citations; however, I have included both the original source and our text book which printed that source at the bottom of this post.

Blurring the Lines of Literacy

     Just as she was poised to blog a renewed call to action, still dressed in wrinkled pajamas from the previous night, her eyeglasses conveying a sense of accomplished wisdom, every bone in her body was rocked by the sound of an explosion on the street below. Cautiously peering through her second floor window, she observed angry protesters rioting around the source of the explosion: a vehicle, now a burning pile of metal and rubber. Civil unrest has shaken the foundation of the city; indeed, shaken the very bones in her body since the police shooting of an unarmed African American. With the power of writing, this blogger provoked civil unrest by publishing her ideological beliefs about the injustice of police shootings. Thousands of subscribers shared her writings over social media, creating a domino effect known as viral posting. This explosive result demonstrates the weight written words carry as they speed across the cables of the internet super highway; therefore, authors should carefully consider the responsibility they have when choosing to publish any piece of writing.

     Civil unrest can be revisited in the long history of cultures around the world, but the impact literacy has on such a dynamic topic is complex. Baron’s essay revives an intriguing criticism about too much literacy; the concern was an abundance of literacy would raise people above their socioeconomic status, “causing depression, discontent, or even civil unrest” (710). On the surface, he seems extremely critical of recent technology which has provided the opportunities for anyone to become an author; however, his criticism does at least have some merit. In our digital world today, anyone with access to a computer and the internet—just about everyone in developed nations—has the wherewithal to express their thoughts in writing. Whether they have an education or expertise in the subject matters not. The blogger previously discussed published her writings with the intent to cause civil unrest within the community. Likewise, activists of the Black Lives Matter movement used social media to call the Missouri community of Ferguson to action, sparking extensive civil unrest over the death of Michael Brown. Certainly discontent and civil unrest can be present without the writings of activists; in fact, examples from the beginning of civilization have been well studied. Consequently, the use of tactical writing that was strategically executed through social media led to devastating ramifications within the community of Ferguson: riots broke out, cars were set on fire, and stores were looted in the chaos that ensued.

     But does the risk of civil unrest as a consequence of too much literacy prove that some people shouldn’t write, or does that single minded view appear more dangerous than the alternative? Many positive things can be attributed to increased literacy, such as leading-edge knowledge about health and diseases to the overall advancement of human civilization. Socrates believed that nothing new could be learned from literature; a brilliant yet hypocritical view, given that his thoughts on this have been remembered and taught throughout history only because Plato wrote it down (707).

     The evidence shows the 19th century concerns of too much literacy can have an impact on social and political events causing civil unrest, discontent, and even depression; however, it’s hard to imagine a world without the abundance of literacy we have today. If the consequences could be avoided with less literacy, then Thomas Gray’s famous quote “ignorance is bliss” becomes strikingly relevant. What the world must be like without the rich rewards of literacy that has made us such civilized people in the vast oceans of space and time.

Works Cited:

Baron, Dennis. "Should Everybody Write?". Web of Language. (2010). Web.

Lunsford, Andrea [et al.]. Everyone's An Author. Ed. Marilyn Moller.
     New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2013. Print.

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