Proficiently Literate?

There’s literate and then there’s proficiently literate. This whole idea that we are tipping into the postliterate relies on the idea that we are all literate; just don’t seem to care; prefer other oral based media.

So are we?

Into Literacy

For the purposes of my little thought experiment, let’s use 50% of a population as a tipping point: greater, even by 0.1% is a sway to literate sensibilities, lower oral.

We’ll start at roughly 1450 AD, when Gutenberg invented the mechanical printing press. Since then, like flat screen TVs, the cost of the printed word has scaled down to the point that any class has the means to obtain it.

Here’s the timeline from what happened then ( +/- a few years ).

  • 1650, UK & Netherlands have roughly 50% literacy
  • 1750, Sweden reached 50%
  • 1850, France
  • 1850, the Americas start with 80% literacy rates
  • 1900, Italy was shy of 60%
  • 1900, the Netherlands  (90%) and America (89%) had the highest literacy rates in the world
  • 1960’s, finally the world literacy rate hit 50%

Literacy rates in the world stay strong. We could do better, but we tipped the numbers, from 12% who could read to 14% who can’t.

Into Post Literacy

The world is literate, but how well is it literate? To understand quality, we’ll use PIAAC Proficiency Levels. It’s a scale from 0-500.

  • < Level 1 (0-175) – Basic vocabulary. Little to no understanding of sentence of paragraph structure.
  • Level 1 (176 – 225) – Short, non-continuous texts. Ability to add basic personal information in documents.
  • Level 2 (226 – 275) – Medium length, continuous, non-continuous, or mixed textx. Can paraphrase. Low-level inferences.
  • Level 3 (276 – 325) – Dense or lengthy, continuous, non-continuous, mixed, or multi- page texts. Can construct meaning across larger chunks of text or perform multi-step operations in order to identify and formulate responses.
  • Level 4 (326 – 375) – Integrate, interpret, or synthesize multi-page complex texts. Identify and understand non-central idea(s). Interpret or Evaluate subtle evidence-claim or persuasive discourse.
  • Level 5 (376 – 500) – Integrate information across similar and contrasting ideas or points of view. Aware of subtle, rhetorical cues and to make high-level inferences.

So where does the world stand? The national average is 267 (level 2).

  • 296, Japan
  • 288, Finland
  • 270, US
  • 250, Italy

Now here’s something I think merits closer attention. Let’s look at the US. A country that started as a world leader in literacy. And, let’s bring out that 50% measuring stick again.

In 2012/14 50% were Level 3 (>275). In 2017 they lost 2 points. Now 52% are level 2.

Does this mean there is a downward trend? Is their proficiency continuing to drop? Still unknown.

Canada, US & Australia haven’t been keeping up on sharing literacy rates or PIAAC data, if they even have any. So it’s hard to know for sure at the moment.

Here’s a Canadian report back to 2012 that shows how low proficiency levels are then (note: this report used quartiles to divide the PIAAC levels into grades)

US on, are greater than 50%

My Take: Aliterate oral culture is back

Here’s my theory. When Literacy Rates are high but < 50% are proficient, you’ve got fertile soil for aliterate oral culture.

My personal feeling, is like autism and other spectrums aliteracy and oral sensibilities can fluctuate. Just like you see in proficiency rates, some cultures are less and more aliterate than others. They may be swayed by oral discourse and rules. Perhaps this can be applied to any culture & sub-culture not just geographic?

For a small blip in our history, our technology required us to be proficient. To type commands, to program computers to do things. And in it we buried our oral nature in a pile of books, an accumulation of words greater in the past few years than the combined history of written words. And yet things are changing. Technology has passed the tipping point that our primal, oral nature is coming back.


ADHD Parent

I have to remind myself I’m a parent with ADHD. I considered myself mildly ADHD. For over 40 years my alternative coping strategies mostly worked.

Then my first child. Then the second. That’s when my struggles tipped.

I’ve been thinking about my biggest hurtles lately trying to find ways to cope. This isn’t a post to fix ’em, more a post to share the struggle.

Split Focus: Sensory Indecision

My first realization of the new world demand was holding my new born daughter while my 3yr old son was slowly falling backwards off a swing. Having to make that split second decision not to drop the baby while my son dropped onto the wood chipped ground. Did I make my decision based knowing he would be safe on softish ground, or was I frozen?

Now at 5yr and 2yr it’s always a battle for who gets your attention, with all the banging screaming and repetition that comes with that.

How do I pick, who do I pick, what should I pick, if any? I think I’ve come to the conclusion for me it’s the idea of sensory indecision. So many inputs coming at me, plus the inputs inside my head, it becomes overloaded. To much. And it it a paralysis of sorts.

All Focus: Context Switching

When the kids are at school I get to sink into the work day. One of the other hardest times for me is 4pm – when I say “Oh crap, time to get the kids!”

I never give myself the right heads up, or ramp down. I always forget.

Over the course of the next few hours I go through the motions. Trying to listen, to start planning dinners with my partner, walking kiddos around the neighbourhood knocking on doors to play with friends. But in my head, I haven’t switched gears.

I’m still thinking about work. Problems still running around in the noggin that need a solution.

When someone brought up the term “context switching,” I thought “Ah Ha! That’s what it’s called”.

Remember those kids vying for attention? Yah, they don’t care about context switching.

Add to that, they are experts and context switch mid sentence a thousand times a day; the dramatic emotional changes, the here-there running from place to place; the labyrinth of pre-logical minds. It’s a mine field of switches to keep up with. My mind ends up feeling dazed and confused like a rag doll smashing about holding onto the leash of a bear.

No Focus: Deprivation

I’ve tested my will power enough to know I’ve got the chops to go cold turkey on most things, and if it weren’t for that, I doubt I would be able to come close to do this.

I’ve been able to ignore a lot of the impulses.

Through selflessness and love for my family I have been trying my best to stay snuggling on the couch, making their lunches, getting them dressed, going for walks, instead of tinkering or doing whatever that “other thing” is roaming in my mind.

I used to think that was a good idea. Why wouldn’t it be better to be with them instead? I’m starting to wonder and reconsider. I’ve been depriving myself, that voice, for too long.

Some of those thoughts and impulses were things, in hindsight, I loved. I miss them. Some of them I could only do in small doses. Some I needed big swatches of time. But either way, they have been left undone and slightly neglected.

What to do. What to do.

“Maybe when they get older” my friends and I all say ( for many reasons ), “they’ll calm down, and you’ll get back to some balance”

“Maybe. Maybe.” I say.

But I don’t think that’s my answer. To wait 5 or so more years?

So what am I doing about it? This blog.

It’s one of those voices I’ve been ignoring. If it hasn’t been a work report, and to do lists, birthday invitation, or practising words with my son, it hasn’t happened. So, crack the knuckles and get cracking I go.

Photo by Joshua Fuller on Unsplash

Creek Crack

I think it’s safe to come back out? The kids are old enough; I’m crazy enough; now federated!

There’s just a few cobwebs to clear off here.

Photo by Eva Wilcock on Unsplash

Last night I came to the realization that I was not in the drivers seat of my life anymore. I didn’t even know if I was in a car. If you prefer the analogy of the bull, there were no hands on anything. I had long been kicked off and covered in dust.

So from 2am onward – I reassessed. Old school, quietly with a pen and paper.

I actually haven’t really done that since our second was born. She’s now 3 ( in the blink of an eye ).

What’s been going on for the past 3 years?

  1. A new child – first and foremost
  2. Me and my ADHD – I always have had it, but “barely”, then something changed that threw it off the rails. 🤔See above
  3. Moving back to the Mainland – I think everyone in Canada is suffering about housing, but around Vancouver, boy oh boy that was a hard pill to swallow.
  4. Slowly getting lost in being a parent. Slowly forgetting… where did I put my glasses? I don’t know, where did you put your monster truck? Stop kicking your sister! Oh, right, you wanted a snack. Have I eaten anything today?

Back at’er … Again.

So WordPress refreshed. Federated settings tweaked. Moved a couple older properties into this one. And I’m putting one key in front of the other. Creek crack, clickity clack…

Glitching out on the Fediverse

As one can tell, I show up once a year on this blog to shave my beard off. I had hope to share more. And I did for a while… just somewhere else.

A relatively new and young ( a 1.5 and 4.5 year old ) family has a tendency to do that. I come back here not to post so much as to look back at my archive. I might come back and write more, but you might need to wait 3 years, give or take.

In the meantime, I am still tinkering on pet projects.

Enter the Fediverse

If you haven’t been paying attention to Mastodon and the Fediverse, I recommend you do. Decentralized social media is cool. With the help of a a project called Shuttlecraft, I now to have my own plot of Federated digital land. Come by won’t you?

Enter Glitch

With Shuttlecraft came a re-introduction to Glitch. I was completely unaware what they were up to, and that’s a bad on my part. Because while the internet is opening new languages, as someone who want to put something on the net, I felt you had two choices: a webhost that is still kind of antiquated, which a limited support of antiquated services, and going all cloud all the time – which can get costly.

Then there is glitch. A webhost that’s kept up. Technical enough for developers getting into things like react & node.js, but not uber technical that you need to spin up cloud instances and install every Unix package and then configure your choice of webserver from scratch.

If you haven’t taken a look at in a while, swing by there too, won’t you?

Nap time is over

Well, it looks like nap time is over, and I’ve got to get the little one. See you again in Movember.