Lost arc of language
Literacy purists bemoan ‘kids these days’ and their inability to understand and appreciate the beauty and substance of written language. What with instant-messaging and texting, they just don’t want to learn grammar and syntax. But what about the million-plus legally blind Americans who passed through our school systems functionally illiterate? According to the National Federation of the Blind, only 10 percent of visually-impaired Americans can read Braille. Audio technology, argue some, has made Braille antiquated; as e-books replace paperbacks, text-to-speech technologies replace cumbersome Braille books. But others highlight the link between the form and structure of words and sentences and brain activity and coherence of thought. One study found that students who did not know that we capitalize proper names, or how to use punctuation, for example, had highly disorganized through processes--“as if all of their ideas are crammed into a container, shaken and thrown randomly onto a sheet of paper like dice onto a table.” Further, Braille literacy means you’re twice as likely to be employed. (This is partially because audio-only readers require expensive technologies to function in intellectual/white-collar professions.) However this debate shakes itself out, we’re pretty sure Gadfly wouldn’t be the same read aloud.
“Braille Illiteracy is a Growing Problem,” by Bill Glauber, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 2, 2010
“With New Technologies, Do Blind People Lose More Than They Gain?,” by Rachel Aviv, New York Times Magazine, December 30, 2009
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