A good many times I have been present at gatherings of people who, by the standards of the traditional culture, are thought highly educated and who have with considerable gusto been expressing their incredulity at the illiteracy of scientists. Once or twice I have been provoked and have asked the company how many of them could describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The response was cold: it was also negative. Yet I was asking something which is about the scientific equivalent of: Have you read a work of Shakespeare's?
I now believe that if I had asked an even simpler question—such as, "What do you mean by mass, or acceleration," which is the scientific equivalent of saying, "Can you read?"—not more than one in ten of the highly educated would have felt that I was speaking the same language. So the great edifice of modern physics goes up, and the much insight into it as their neolithic ancestors would have had.^^ much insight into it as their neolithic ancestors would have had.^^
- Proponents feel that simplified characters having fewer strokes makes it easier to learn. Literacy rates have risen steadily in rural and urban areas since the simplification of the Chinese characters, while this trend was hardly seen during 30 years of Kuomintang (KMT) rule and 250 years of Manchurian rule before them, when the traditional writing system was dominant, though this rise in literacy may not necessarily be due to simplification alone.
- Although Taiwan, which uses traditional Chinese characters, has a better literacy rate, proponents point out that with a population 50 times larger and landmass 260 times bigger, the illiteracy in mainland China is much more difficult to eradicate. In 2004, the only provinces of China where the illiteracy rates were lower than Taiwan's wereGuangdong at 3.84%, and Guangxi at 3.79%.
- Many studies have been conducted to prove, contrary to cultural prejudice, that simplified characters are easier to learn than traditional ones.
- The literacy rate in mainland China is higher than that of Taiwan when compared at the same GDP per capita.
For 99 per cent of the tenure of humans on earth, nobody could read or write. The great invention had not yet been made. Except for first-hand experience, almost everything we knew was passed on by word of mouth. As in the game of 'Chinese Whispers', over tens and hundreds of generations, information would slowly be distorted and lost.
Books changed all that. Books, purchasable at low cost, permit us to interrogate the past with high accuracy; to tap the wisdom of our species; to understand the point of view of others, and not just those in power; to contemplate - with the best teachers - the insights, painfully extracted from Nature, of the greatest minds that ever were, drawn from the entire planet and from all of our history. They allow people long dead to talk inside our heads. Books can accompany us everywhere. Books are patient where we are slow to understand, allow us to go over the hard parts as many times as we wish, and are never critical of our lapses. Books are key to understanding the world and participating in a democratic society.
Attention is the fundamental literacy. Every second I spend online, I make decisions about where to spend my attention. Should I devote any mindshare at all to this comment or that headline? — a question I need to answer each time an attractive link catches my eye. Simply becoming aware of the fact that life online requires this kind of decision-making was my first step in learning to tune a fundamental filter on what I allow into my head — a filter that is under my control only if I practice controlling it. The second level of decision-making is whether I want to open a tab on my browser because I decided that this item will be worth my time tomorrow. The third decision: do I bookmark this site because I am interested in the subject and might want to reference it at some unspecified future time? Online attention-taming begins with what meditators call “mindfulness” — the simple, self-influencing awareness of how attention wanders.