One of the worries about the 50% dropout rate from schools is the growing illiteracy rate. It looks like a bad thing that so many citizens will be functionally illiterate. It seems realistic to anticipate a widening divide between literate and illiterate citizens. Are we headed back to feudalism with an arrogant nobility and under-privileged peasantry? I think not.
There are two kinds of literacy: literal and iconic. Literal literacy can read text, printed words, books. Iconic literacy can read signs, situations, games in play. I suspect our cultures are becoming less literally literate in order to read the world better than ever. The dropouts are preparing for the future while the graduates are preparing to live in the past.
Iconic literacy can read:
- What a situation calls for
- What game is being played out here
- What is missing in a situation that drives things to extremes
- What is the lesson to be learned from what's happening
- What ecologies are keeping themselves fed, reproductive and resilient
- What signs of a change are appearing
- What feedback the system is providing
- What underlying premises drive the chronic behaviors
- What choices and opportunities are overlooked
- What mind is running the show for better or for worse
We cannot learn to read the signs from texts. We have to learn the landscape by immersing ourselves in it. Iconic literacy is discovered by exploring, experimenting and failing.