Literacy Vs Understanding

Literacy Vs Understanding

This picture of a cobbler was published in The Nation newspaper on December 15, 1999.  I think the cobbler, while getting tired from mending shoes, is reading the newspaper and trying to update himself about what is taking place around him.

My View Of The Picture:

I didn’t select this image for my scrapbook to remember or highlight that the shoemaker is sitting in front of a poster of the radical leftist JVP’s Nandana Gunatillake. I chose it simply because the cobbler is reading a newspaper. Now you can ask what is so important if the cobbler is reading a paper. Important is the culture of reading and writing in any nation. Important is that a low wage earning person, who most of the time is in a worrying state about how to make ends meet, is concerned about knowing what is going on around him. His appearance makes it evident that he is a low wage earning citizen, but he is attempting to get information even during his working hours.

Literacy is a very interesting thing. It helps us to read and understand what others are trying to communicate. It also enables us to let others know what we want to express. However, there is something more important than literacy and that is ‘understanding’. There is no doubt that literacy is of great importance. But literacy alone is not enough for any nation. Reading alone is like consuming unprocessed data, whereas it is understanding, the product of the brain’s coding software, that is the analysis of the incoming data, that interprets the data to your brain and informs the brain about how we should act. The matter of concern is the coding used in the construction of our understanding. The better the brain’s ability to shape understanding and the higher the quality of literacy and understanding, the better the chances are that a person will act as a responsible citizen. Furthermore, don’t forget that this is a continuous process for input and understanding are directly affected by the experience. Reading and writing alone are nothing if you do not possess the faculties to understand.

There is the argument that reading and writing increase your understanding. But the same reading and writing has the potential to distort understanding, to mislead and take you to such a state of confusion where it is all dark and you have lost your clarity completely. Therefore, clear understanding is the key irrespective of how you get it, whether through literacy or elsewhere.

Nations should be considered developed not just because of having a strong economy, but because of their level of awareness and understanding of the world around them. A person who is literate alone is more likely to commit an offence than is a person who understands the actions of others and/or the consequences of his own. Educational degrees are not necessarily proof that you have understanding and awareness of the world. Degrees are linked to literacy, whereas understanding relates to our knowledge and sensitivity towards any particular matter.

I was researching the literacy rate of different countries. Almost every country’s literacy rate is showing an upward trend considering historical data. Unfortunately, there are statistical calculations for literacy rate but not for understanding. So can we say that the index of understanding is moving in the same pattern as that of literacy? To know the exact rate of understanding the only way is to measure the indices of justice, peace and inclination towards respecting and preserving the original nature of any particular country. We can’t consider any country as a sensible country only because of its high literacy or development rate. The chances are high that most of the people having understanding and sensitivity toward others are also literate but being literate alone doesn’t guarantee that all have understanding.

Therefore, to have understanding you don’t necessarily need to be literate but you need to be sensible and have sensitivity to the world around you. It’s the same situation if someone gets a good education but still acts stupidly. He might have a high educational degree but not the sensitivity to the world. When this condition arises such a person becomes more deadly than a person who is illiterate.

As far as the picture is concerned indeed, it’s very appealing to me because when I selected it, I praised the cobbler who apparently belongs to a lower earning group and is reading a newspaper somewhere in Colombo, Sri Lanka. However, today I am thinking that the matter of concern, irrespective of which professional or income group he belongs to, is whether he has understanding or not. Because humanity and this world need increasing understanding and not just a rising literacy rate.


Poll of the Post

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4 Comments on Literacy Vs Understanding

  1. Unfortunately, for literacy they keep on changing the standards, some time ago literacy was considered education till primary i.e. class fifth in Pakistan. Then it was dropped to person who could read and write. And these days I think it is One Who Can Write His/Her name! That is how countries manipulate the data. So definitely there is no understanding at all! We can see the lack of Understanding in day today affairs of Pakistan. Don’t know about other countries, we need both, surely.

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