We are living in the most literate age in history. Even the literacy rates of third world countries have risen on average 10% in the last two decades. In English speaking countries, it has taken us 150 years to raise our literacy rate 20%, showing what amazing progress the world has made in recent years.
Even so, we live in a time not so unsimilar to that of our ancestors. Despite the rise of technology, what advancements has literacy given us? There are still broken families. There are addicts and child abusers. War is a constant in every time period. There is still selfishness, greed, hatred. We still cling to irrational fears and prejudices like homophobia or racism and sexism. What, then, was all of this effort for?
Those who fought for free education, who are continuing to fight for free college education, may be sadly disappointed to find that despite all the education we receive, despite how literate our society is, these problems still persist. What then has education become, if not job training?
Though the United States education system was based off of a German model, intended to create a docile working class, I highly doubt that the modern world wants to spend 13 years of public education and beyond simply for the sake of job training. Important as it is to work and provide for yourself and family, our lives are meant to be so much more than work and toil.
Thinking back to your education, most people are able to point to at least one teacher who stood out. That one teacher was able to make education interesting to you, meaningful. THAT is how learning is meant to be. These teachers who went beyond memorization of facts and dates were the ones you remember. Ideas, critical thinking, analysis, creating your own art with what you have learned. These are the things that course through the tides of change. And it is from a lack of these things that we have seen such little meaningful change in our world.
When we learn about ideas, about doing and creating, we are learning things that we can use in our own lives, whatever our career path. There are universal elements of life that will remain relevant throughout time. Though we may find truth in all aspects of life, the arts are the most accessible medium. When we look at a painting, when we read poetry or listen to a song, we feel something that we cannot put into exact words. But it moves us. We feel something which cannot be denied. In my opinion, the writer practices the most difficult art of all: he must put the unspeakable into words. The overlooked art of reading is the second most difficult: he must understand.
At the height of our literary achievements, how is it that we still remain ignorant of the ideas which could put an end to all the tragedies in our world? Language is the key to understanding and we have yet to use it to it’s full potential.
This New Year, unlock the key to a New You, a New World, by uncovering the truth within the words all around us. Join The Bookery on January 1st to begin this journey to a Mindful New Year.