So, bubba zanetti (h/t) uploaded this image in a thread downstairs:
And I’ve been thinking about it.
Here’s another bit:
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: The people have read Mr. Paine’s “Common Sense”. I doubt very much the Congress has.
— 1776 (musical)
And the third bit:
Education in the Thirteen Colonies during the 17th and 18th centuries varied considerably. […] Basic education in literacy and numeracy was widely available, especially to whites residing in the northern and middle colonies, and the literacy rate was relatively high in world perspective [emphasis mine].
And I have pondered.
Back in the Colonial days, the nascent USA was full of people who could read, unlike most places on the planet. And their hunger for reading material — like versions of the Bible, commentaries on the Bible, Great Works of the Past, newspapers, tracts, almanacs, etc. (recall how Franklin made his fortune: as a printer/publisher; also, he helped sponsor one of the first lending libraries EVER) — could never be assuaged.
People who had just learned how to read gloried in that ability, and read everything at hand. There wasn’t that much to go around, so even if what was on hand was something totally opposite of what you believed, you’d still pick it up, because it was a new thing to read.
And they thought about all this — they had to, on some level, to untangle the words and ideas. And sometimes, they responded to it on their own, when they felt strongly.
And that shaped how they responded to issues.
Today, literacy — being able to read — is expected, a fait accompli. It’s not a big deal; everyone can do it. Who cares?
Thus, you have people (I know about half a dozen) who are proud of never reading a book (outside of school, of their own volition) for enjoyment, education, or further information. (Boggles me, I must say.)
And that shapes how they respond to issues. Makes them more vulnerable to the sound-bite culture, I think.
Given the immediacy of electronic communication, compared to having to laboriously write out a response with quill, ink, and parchment, everyone can just sound-bite on each other, chewing with little response.
And the proliferation and accessibility of very narrow loci (websites/blogs) where people read only the stuff that they want to read… Well, there’s an issue there. When you can go along and never hear a contrary word — that will lead to madness.
I suggest that the ease, immediacy, and proliferation of modern communications is the basis — or at least, the media — in which our terrible divides are rooted in today.
Counter-intuitive, I must say.
EDITED TO ADD: A thought occurs: the ease, immediacy, and proliferation of modern communications leads to widespread demonstrations of the Dunning-Kruger effect. See en.wikipedia.org