Without literacy, we are left vulnerable to manipulative charlatans like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, as well as their doppelgangers in Philadelphia's big dailies. Just check out the unhinged debate over health care reform.
This past Friday I participated in the Literacy Freeze, a publicity stunt held by Philadelphia's Center for Literacy -- my employer -- to draw attention to the disgraceful condition of our city: more than 200,000 Philadelphians don't have so much as a high school diploma, and 8,200 kids drop out of our high schools every year. More than 20 percent of Philadelphia adults lack basic literacy skills. In concrete terms that means not being able to help a fifth grader with his or her homework. The impact is tremendous, trapping thousands in dead-end jobs or unemployment, robbing the city of much-needed revenue and lowering the quality of life for everyone.
When people think about literacy, they generally think about the ability to read, write and do math. But it's more than that: what literacy is also about is drawing meaning and context from the words and numbers on the page.
When you look at how children acquire literacy, it begins with very basic "Dick and Jane"-type texts, through more complicated books that have chapters, to texts that require the reader to have some level of cultural knowledge: references to past presidents, for example, or elements of history, mythology, and other touchstones. I was an early reader, and by third grade was reading way above my level. But that didn't mean I was historically literate, which probably explains why, when I chose Tom Sawyer as the book I wanted to read aloud to to my classmates, Mrs. Gallagher quickly shut me down as I mangled Twain's colloquialisms, reading the words clearly but failing to absorb their meaning.
Those who don't have that higher level of literacy are left vulnerable to manipulative charlatans like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, as well as their doppelgangers in Philadelphia's big dailies. And nowhere is this better seen than in the increasingly unhinged debate over health care reform.
A couple of weeks ago, I posted a picture from an insane teabag event in DC on my Facebook page with the caption: "Brendan Skwire is getting really tired of seeing 'health care reform' depicted as the wholesale slaughter of 6 million Jews'". It caused quite a stir. A friend who thinks he's a libertarian chimed in with a fairly ignorant comment. (In the following excerpts, I leave the spelling and grammar uncorrected.)
Looking at the banner though, it appears to show a historical fact, national socialist, ie nazis, allowed for the slaughter of millions to happen in the name of mass collective thought and the insane dream of a better national good. did it not? if not, who is the holocaust denier now? again though, im not saying I agree with using it in this context, just that, on its own, it is factually correct, you are making the comparison for yourself based on the context, the banner isn't. And like any editorial, one that invokes one to think in order to understand, is the most powerful.
That sparked a pig-pile of well-deserved derision. Here's a particularly good one from one of my favorite (if lesser-known)Philadelphia bloggers:
"allowed for the slaughter of millions to happen in the name of mass collective thought and the insane dream of a better national good. did it not?"
so you're trying to imply that any time a leader talks about the national good, it's like the nazis? that's insane! plus it would mean every president was a nazi.
the problem with nazis is not that they were trying to improve society as they saw fit, it was that their effort included the slaughter of millions of people. i'm all for making a better world, but draw the line at genocide. to compare health care reform to nazism strikes me as both insulting to the victims of the holocaust and mind-bogglinging stupid.
so no, i don't see anything factually correct at all. in fact, it seems to me that the sign holder is trying to draw a comparison between two very different things and looking rather stupid in the process.
Indeed. But my glibertarian friend did not get it, and continued to dig his hole deeper:
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