Is the ability to read and write more important today than in the past? Why or why not? Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer.
(a) It is a very dangerous thing to say that basic literacy skills are more important now than they have ever been in the past. While a strong argument can be made in favor of this idea, making such an argument would imply that reading and writing were somehow less important in the past. While there is a grain of truth to the argument that literacy was not fundamental to the daily existence of most people in the pre-Industrial Revolution period, rationalizing such a lack of need for education in such a way is the first step to withholding education from certain groups, a great social crime that has led to the dis-empowerment of disadvantage groups all over the world throughout history. However, if we can keep in mind that education is a basic human right, then we can discuss the strengths of the proposition that literacy is more important now than it has ever been before.
It is true that in the past the majority of people all over the world made their livelihood from agricultural activities and that the vast majority of these activities required little or no literacy skills. In some senses, we could argue that literacy skills were less important in the agricultural age than they are now, but to do so would be to forget that literacy also reflects an active mind and that people have always needed to engage in activities of the mind. For example, even though a farmer might have labored all day in her cornfield, she may enjoy reading the latest Jane Austen novel when arrived at home. We can see in this example that while literacy was not directly related to this laborer’s livelihood, literacy was important to her quality of life.
However, we could make a good argument that literacy is more important now that it was in the past. As we all know, the world is experiencing a revolution that may turn out to be more important than the Industrial Revolution. We are now entering the Information Age, an age in which information and knowledge have more value than the ability to build machines, create “stuff,” grow crops, or even mine precious metals and produce gemstones. Nowadays, accurate information may be worth more than the most expensive Rolls Royce or the biggest diamond. The perfect example of this increasing dominance is the explosive rise in the popularity of the Internet–the Internet offers the world countless bytes of information twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Companies all over the world, but principally in the United States, are rushing to stake their claim in cyberspace and stiff competition among companies has resulted. In order to gain dominance, these companies must have the best-skilled workers, an advanced understanding of computer systems, and good intuition about what will happen in the future. All of these abilities to compete in the global marketplace stem directly from literacy skills and those without these skills will be stuck in the service, agricultural, and heavy industry fields.
In short, we can see that people in the past who were lacking in literacy skills essentially had more company than those lacking these skills have today and could still earn their livelihood. Further, we could argue that because of the nature of the global marketplace and because of the emergence of the Information Age, we could make the argument that literacy is fundamental to professional success nowadays. However, literacy should be considered a basic human right in a literate society–all people throughout history should have learned to read and write.
(b) While some countries have strong programs against illiteracy, others still do not care that much. But, illiteracy has become a big obstacle during the last century and is still problematic question now with quick development of technology and automation. From my everyday experience and observation I can state several factors, which defend the statement, that reading and writing now is more important than ever before.
First of all, it is essential for a person to have at least basic knowledge of reading and writing to survive in our society. While in the past, some people could live in wilderness or even in cities without any knowledge of written language, now it is almost impossible. The way of living has change so much that it is impossible to be a part of nation, especially in developed countries, without ability to read and write your bills, to understand your mortgage documents or job applications. Moreover, you can go nowhere by yourself but in your own small town without reading the maps and signs on the roads and in cities.
Second, nowadays, most of jobs require reading and writing as necessary skills and tendency that these skills will be more and more important for future jobs increases. In fact, because of sharp development of technology, more of jobs on the labor market are for literate people and less of them are for people without any or slight reading or writing knowledge. For example, there are not needed so much people who can work on lands or select parts in auto-factories because the machines do that kinds of jobs now. On the other hand, factories and corporations need people who can read the instructions and control the machines. It is barely true that without jobs that need only physical abilities, illiterate people are forced to be constantly on unemployment lists.
In conclusion, the most scare part of living illiterate in our society is maybe living dependable of someone. An illiterate person will have difficulties not only to do simple tasks such as writing bills, withdrawing money from cash machines, or reading menu in a restaurant, but also to be a productive and useful individual of our society with job and normal life.