Illiterate in the 21st Century

"The illiterate of the 21st century will be those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn."    - Albert Einstein

As a teacher, I dream of eradicating illiteracy. In my opinion, in developed countries, there is no acceptable reason for any person to be put at a gross disadvantage by not knowing how to read and write.



I'm horrified to think that I am consciously choosing to be illiterate. I enter into new technology kicking and screaming. And pinching, biting and hissing. My husband, whose entire career and life-blood has been in software and computers cannot relate to me at all. I can't relate to him, either.

It isn't that I'm not smart enough. I'm not interested enough.


Say it isn't so

I am aghast to think that Albert makes a good point. We live in a time and society that demands we change frequently, rapidly and fluidly, especially when it comes to technology. In order to avoid being put at a gross disadvantage, we must be able to learn new technology, unlearn old technology, and relearn emerging technology.

Unfortunately, Albert confuses the issue by also saying, "I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots."   I have both of these quotes posted on my bulletin board , so I remain completely conflicted and bewildered. I believe both to be true.


Where do you stand?

Albert's two positions don't need to be mutually exclusive, but they are for me, for some reason. One can be savvy with software and still remain personable with people. Yes, both are completely achievable - simultaneously. However, I find myself so firmly established in one camp, that I just can't seem to step into the other.  I am all about human interaction - ALL about it. The relationships forged on social media seem lacking to me. The nuances of a person's expressions, tone of voice, and body language are all lost through social media, and most people would agree that those things are enormously important in establishing and maintaining relationships. I absolutely appreciate keeping up with old friends through posts and watching children grow through photos on Facebook. There is no way I would be able to do this without social media. Despite being abreast of the minutia of my friends' lives, I feel lonesome. Hollow. Wanting. What is that all about?

I am still bewildered - I don't know why I feel such a void when I sit at my computer. When I sit at a computer, doing whatever it is I am doing, I am tuned out to everything around me. I'm unaware of the minutia of my own world. I'm so focused that I miss the bird song, the changing light as the hour passes, or the feel of the air on my skin. These are all things I notice when I am not working on my computer. I love those things - and I don't like the idea that I am missing them.


Missing out

One must spend time at a computer to learn, unlearn and relearn technology. (For some of us, it takes much more time than for others ...) When I spend time becoming "literate" with technology, perhaps I am making too big of a sacrifice by forfeiting the other experiences - I'm missing out.  Hmmmm - but wait ... just as being literate with reading and writing can expand one's world, so can technology. When I resist learning, unlearning and relearning, I'm also missing out. I don't know how to reconcile these two ideas. Where is Albert when I need him? He has some explaining to do.

For the time being, I will have to live with my discordant thoughts, stumbling along until I find the balance that must be out there somewhere. For now, I'm signing off so I can notice the sparkle of light on the water, the buzz of a household waking up, and the warm aroma of a new pot of coffee.


* Full disclosure: Einstein is frequently credited with the second quote in this article, but there are those who claim he did not say this.