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Author: pauleckler Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 449396  
Subject: When did common man learn to read and write? Date: 1/21/2013 1:06 PM
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English and German became written languages in about 800 AD. Gutenberg's printing press (1436) must have had an audience in mind.

How did man learn the advantages of reading and writing?

What is the story in China?
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Author: EddieLuck Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 413944 of 449396
Subject: Re: When did common man learn to read and write? Date: 1/21/2013 1:48 PM
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<< How did man learn the advantages of reading and writing?>>

The impression I have is that while Genghis Khan encouraged scholarship, widespread public access to, and use of books and other written material occurred first in the Moorish empire, where cities typically had bookstores. I believe many of their books embraced philosophy and poetry.

Ed.

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Subject: Re: When did common man learn to read and write? Date: 1/21/2013 2:17 PM
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I don't know about Genghis Khan, but Charlemagne probably did encourage scholarship. That could be why they decided to develop written forms of the language of commoners (rather then rely on the traditional Latin and Greek of scholars of that day).

But Bishop Wulfilia had already translated the Bible into Gothic in 400 AD.

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Subject: Re: When did common man learn to read and write? Date: 1/21/2013 2:35 PM
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English and German became written languages in about 800 AD. Gutenberg's printing press (1436) must have had an audience in mind.

Govt and the church--for obvious reasons.

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Subject: Re: When did common man learn to read and write? Date: 1/21/2013 3:25 PM
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The common man had little to put in his hands to read before Gutenberg made mass printing possible.

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Subject: Re: When did common man learn to read and write? Date: 1/21/2013 3:44 PM
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English and German became written languages in about 800 AD. Gutenberg's printing press (1436) must have had an audience in mind.
How did man learn the advantages of reading and writing?
What is the story in China?


The "how" question may not be answerable... but there's a ton of great info here;
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_writing

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Subject: Re: When did common man learn to read and write? Date: 1/21/2013 6:42 PM
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<How did man learn the advantages of reading and writing?>

It depends upon what you call "advantage."

The Jewish religion originated about 3,500 - 4,000 years ago. The foundational, complex collection of laws, history, poetry and cultic (sacrificial) practice were originally mainly orally transmitted. The political leadership was weak, but the religious leadership was strong. The Kingdom of Israel/ Judah required writing to codify the laws and for internal communication.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hebrew_language


In July 2008 Israeli archaeologist Yossi Garfinkel discovered a ceramic shard at Khirbet Qeiyafa which he claimed may be the earliest Hebrew writing yet discovered, dating around 3000 years ago.
[end quote]

During the Babylonian exile, Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the First Temple, thus disrupting the priest-based sacrificial cult. Nebuchadnezzar transported much of the Judaean aristocracy to Babylon (roughly 600 - 520 BCE).



The Babylonian Captivity had a number of serious effects on Judaism and the Jewish culture. For example, the current Hebrew script was adopted during this period, replacing the traditional Israelite script. This period saw the last high-point of Biblical prophecy in the person of Ezekiel, followed by the emergence of the central role of the Torah in Jewish life; according to many historical-critical scholars, it was edited and redacted during this time, and saw the beginning of the canonization of the Bible, which provided a central text for Jews.

This process coincided with the emergence of scribes and sages as Jewish leaders [as opposed to hereditary priests]...
[end quote]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babylonian_exile

The Book of Ezra describes the Torah being read to all the people, men and women.

The Book of Esther was dictated by Queen Esther to a scribe during the reign of Xerxes (Persian empire, about 500 BCE).

At this point, literacy was mainly the responsibility of scribes. Universal literacy wasn't expected. (Many were trained as "professional memorizers" who were able to recite the literature -- a different talent than reading -- to supplement scribes/ readers.) The scribes were essential because accurate copies of the Tanach (Torah, chronicles and prophets) were needed. The "advantage" of being able to learn to read and write were obvious since the political administration, business and traders and the religious leaders needed a constant stream of written documents.

This went on for another 500 years, until Roman times. Large Hebrew academies which taught tens of thousands to read and write were established.(There is a record of 24,000 students dying during an epidemic at Rabbi Akiva's academy.)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbi_Akiva
http://www.jewish-holiday.com/TTakiva.html

After the Roman destruction of the Second Temple and Jerusalem, there was mass slaughter of Jewish scholars. To prevent loss of the knowledge and develop greater understanding, Jewish scholars began to write the Talmud and associated writings.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pirkei_Avot
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mishnah


Pirkei Avot (Hebrew: ???? ????), also pronounced Pirkei Avoth, or Pirkei Avos, which translates to English as Chapters of the Fathers is a compilation of the ethical teachings and maxims of the Rabbis of the Mishnaic period (about 200 CE). Because of its contents, it is also called Ethics of the Fathers.
[end quote]

Pirkei Avot contains the first direction for universal literacy for Jewish boys.

http://chateaumezcal.com/avot/avot5.htm

Perkei Avot 5: 25. He [Yehudah ben Tema] used to say: A five-year-old begins [to read] Scripture; a ten-year-old begins [to read] Mishnah; a thirteen-year-old becomes obliged to observe the commandments [he must have read, understood and memorized them and their practice]; a fifteen-year-old begins the study of Gemara; an eighteen-year-old goes to the marriage canopy; a twenty-year-old begins pursuit [of a livelihood]; a thirty-year-old attains full strength; a forty-year-old attains understanding; a fifty-year-old can offer counsel; a sixty year-old attains seniority; a seventy-year-old attains a ripe old age; an eighty-year-old shows strength; a ninety-year-old becomes stooped over; a hundred-year-old is as if he were dead, passed away and ceased from the world. [end quote]

In the Bar Mitzvah ("son of commandment") ceremony at age 13, the young man reads from the Torah, preaches an original sermon about it and demonstrates that he can read the prayers in the service -- in front of the whole congregation. (In modern-day U.S., many girls do this in a Bat Mitzvah ceremony. My 12-year old cousin was brilliant and nobody was surprised when she eventually graduated from Cornell University with an engineering degree.)

The rule is that prayers must be read from a text, even if the person who is praying knows the prayer by heart, to make sure it is perfectly accurate. In Jewish services, every person joins in the prayers -- the cantor leads the prayers but does not pray on behalf of an illiterate congregation (e.g. like a priest reading a Latin mass).

Universal literacy with a public test at age 13 (which drastically influences the status of the youth, the entire family and marriage prospects) is a very strict form of selection.

The ability to read is a tremendous advantage in a culture where a person who can't read is excluded from prayer (except as a low-status listener) and excluded from favorable marriage.

Talented youths from poor families were often sponsored for higher education to become scholar/ rabbis. Rabbis often selected young rabbis as husbands for their own daughters. (The famous mathematician, Benoit Mandelbrot, descended from such a multi-generational rabbinic family. Jeff and I descend from a cantorial family on our mother's side, which is why we can remember anything set to music.)

Human beings learned the utility of reading and writing thousands of years ago. However, most cultures did not train and selectively breed talented readers the way Jewish culture did.

The requirement for "the common man" to read for about 2000 years (100 generations) is probably why Jewish reading scores are at +1 sigma of the general population, while Jewish math scores are the same as the general population.

Wendy

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Author: WendyBG Big gold star, 5000 posts Top Favorite Fools Top Recommended Fools Feste Award Winner! Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 413961 of 449396
Subject: Re: When did common man learn to read and write? Date: 1/21/2013 8:08 PM
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I forgot to mention...

Hebrew is easier to read than English because Hebrew is phonetic with no inconsistent letter combinations (e.g. "enough").

A phonetic language like Hebrew, English, Greek, Cyrillic, etc. is fairly easy to learn because there are fewer than about 30 letters.

However, phonetic writing is useless if the people speak different languages. Chinese character writing is more suited to a multilingual nation than phonetic writing.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Written_Chinese

Written Chinese is roughly logosyllabic; that is, a character generally represents one syllable of spoken Chinese and may be a word on its own or a part of a polysyllabic word. The characters themselves are often composed of parts that may represent physical objects, abstract notions, or pronunciation.

Various current Chinese characters have been traced back to the late Shang Dynasty about 1200–1050 BC, but the process of creating characters is thought to have begun some centuries earlier. After a period of variation and evolution, Chinese characters were standardized under the Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC)....

Literacy requires the memorization of a great many characters: Educated Chinese know about 4,000; educated Japanese know about half that many. The large number of Chinese characters has in part led to the adoption of Western alphabets as an auxiliary means of representing Chinese. Chinese speakers in disparate dialect groups are able to communicate through writing, because standard written Chinese is based on a standard spoken language ("Mandarin"). Although most other varieties of Chinese are not written, there is a well-developed Written Cantonese tradition....
[end quote]

There are many languages and dialects in China. The advantage of character-based written Chinese is that they can all read the same characters even though the pronunciation is completely different.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_varieties_of_Chinese

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandarin_%28bureaucrat%29


For around 1300 years, from 605 to 1905, mandarins were selected by merit through the extremely rigorous imperial examination.
[end quote]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imperial_examination

The imperial examination (??, keju) was an examination system in Imperial China designed to select the best administrative officials for the state's bureaucracy. This system had a huge influence on both society and culture in Imperial China and was partly responsible for changes in the power structure of the Tang and Song Dynasties that would hold long after their dissolution. The system assisted in the replacement of what had been relatively few aristocratic families with a more diffuse and populous class of typically rural-dwelling, landowning scholar-bureaucrats, organized into clans. ...

Under the Song dynasty the emperors expanded the examinations and the government school system in order to counter the influence of military aristocrats, increasing the number of those who passed the exams to more than four to five times that of the Tang. Thus the system played a key role in the emergence of the scholar-officials, who came to dominate society. ...

In AD 605, For the first time, an examination system was explicitly instituted for a category of local talents. This is generally accepted as the beginning of the imperial examination system (??).[7][8]

Theoretically, any male adult in China, regardless of his wealth or social status, could become a high-ranking government official by passing the imperial examination, although under some dynasties members of the merchant class were excluded, and it was not until the Song dynasty that a majority of civil servants came into their positions via the examination system. Moreover, since the process of studying for the examination tended to be time-consuming and costly (if tutors were hired), most of the candidates came from the numerically small but relatively wealthy land-owning gentry. ...

Even though only a small fraction (about 5 percent) of those who attempted the examinations passed them and received titles, the studying and the hope of eventual success on a subsequent examination served to sustain the interest of those who took them. Those who failed to pass—most of the candidates at any single examination—did not lose wealth or local social standing; as dedicated believers in Confucian orthodoxy, they served, without the benefit of state appointments, as teachers, patrons of the arts, and managers of local projects, such as irrigation works, schools, or charitable foundations.

In late traditional China, education was valued in part because of its possible pay-off in the examination system. The overall result of the examination system and its associated study was cultural uniformity—identification of the educated with national rather than regional goals and values. ...
[end quote]

The imperial exam system was theoretically open to any male student. I read a story about a peasant village that rallied support for an exceptionally talented young man for years until he succeeded in passing the exam.

The concept of a learning-based meritocracy fostered respect for learning and education that is evident in Chinese culture to this day. Although the common man was not expected to read and write until recently, learning was fostered and advancement based on education was a real possibility.

Chinese and Jewish culture have many similarities, among which is the respect for learning.

Wendy

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Author: pauleckler Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 413962 of 449396
Subject: Re: When did common man learn to read and write? Date: 1/21/2013 8:20 PM
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Govt and the church--for obvious reasons.

If that were the case, you would think that writing in Latin, the language of nobles, royalty, scholars, and the church, would be enough. By writing in the language of commoners, it would seem someone wanted to communicate with them.

Written text made sure everyone got the same message. Writing in their language avoided the need to teach them a new language, or the vagaries of having someone translate or interpret.

It seems likely the printing press was similar in impact to that of the internet. The innovation that resulted was far greater than originally anticipated.

Before printing, information came from government, the church, stories told by travelers, or letters from travelers. With printing ideas could be widely distributed and discussed. Printing was a major factor in the Reformation.

With printing, books were not limited to monasteries and libraries, but could be widely distributed. Innovations that followed include novels, history, newspapers, wall paper, printed textiles, etc. Ideas could be discussed: politics, history, science, philosophy, music, art, etc, etc.

Even now, printing is still the model for publishing, cd's, movies, videos. Mass produce something popular and collect a few pennies on each copy sold to make a fortune.

Printing was revolutionary.

When did individuals decide they needed to read? Maybe after printing made much to read available.

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Author: qazulight Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 413964 of 449396
Subject: Re: When did common man learn to read and write? Date: 1/21/2013 8:28 PM
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Chinese and Jewish culture have many similarities, among which is the respect for learning.

I have been kicking a short story around about education. Something about being kicked back in time to the Roman era and taking the left overs, the odd balls and even the Christians and forming a sub-culture bases on universal education.

It is the spread of education, within a stable and just society, (See the Minor Prophets) that creates wealth.

It is my opinion that the Earth is on the cusp of the greatest leap forward in wealth that it has ever experienced.

Cheers
Qazulight

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Author: pauleckler Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 413966 of 449396
Subject: Re: When did common man learn to read and write? Date: 1/21/2013 8:38 PM
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It is my opinion that the Earth is on the cusp of the greatest leap forward in wealth that it has ever experienced.

Rising standard of living in less developed countries has to be good news in many ways. Less poverty. Better health. Better quality of life. Longer life expectancy. And more trade/commerce for everyone. Of course, that stresses resources like energy and water. But it reduces pressure on immigration and tensions that can lead to wars. Still it makes the world more competitive, and that puts pressure on those trying to earn a living.

Generally I think its a good thing in balance, but it is not without its problems. They need to be managed.

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Author: tim443 Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 413968 of 449396
Subject: Re: When did common man learn to read and write? Date: 1/21/2013 8:55 PM
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Of course, that stresses resources like energy


}};-D


OT - Man this inauguration thing is one heck of a party, even European royalty doesn't do it up like that.

The Canuck embassy hosted a party with about 20 congressmen, some senators, several state governors, politicians from several nations and a host of other VIPs as well as about 1800 Hill staffers and TV crews taking advantage of one of the best views of the parade on the Avenue. I don't have the details from RK yet as she is still at it but looking forward to it.

Congrats on a job well done, to the best of my knowledge nobody got killed over the actual election and we should now have a pause in the campaigning? }};-()


Tim

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Author: pauleckler Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 413969 of 449396
Subject: Re: When did common man learn to read and write? Date: 1/21/2013 8:55 PM
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Thanks for the detailed and thoughtful response, Wendy. I appreciate it.

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Author: flyerboys Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 413972 of 449396
Subject: Re: When did common man learn to read and write? Date: 1/21/2013 9:47 PM
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Paul & Wendy Thank You!!!

Superb thread...

... on a facet of the most super Macro factor of all. What a treat.


As a footnote, this is a link to my favorite current research on the science of the synergies of genetic and cultural evolution undergirding much of the technology of literacy:

http://www.all-souls.ox.ac.uk/users/heyesc/Celia's%20pdfs/2%202012%20Heyes%20EHC.pdf

david fb

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Author: flyerboys Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 413973 of 449396
Subject: Re: When did common man learn to read and write? Date: 1/21/2013 9:52 PM
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The MF posting fails to hot-link correctly -- so copy the link (all the way though .pdf) and it works fine.

Also thanks to the other contributors eddie, qaz, bill.

Feed me more good stuff like this!!

david fb

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Author: Watty56 Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 413975 of 449396
Subject: Re: When did common man learn to read and write? Date: 1/21/2013 10:32 PM
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I was curious so I was searching with Google to see what I could find.
This web page states,

" Worldwide, literacy has steadily increased from 56 percent of almost 2 billion adults (ages 15 and over) in 1950 to 83 percent of about 4.5 billion adults in 2008."

http://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/literacy-rates

Which to me would indicate that the 50% worldwide literacy milestone was probably not reached until just before the mid 20th century.

When you said "common man" I would assume that it was meant to also include women and the lack of education for women in many cultures could explain that having the majority of the people in the world didn't happen until pretty recently.

I also found this web pages with literacy maps at various years in the 20th century.

http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/literacy.htm

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Subject: Re: When did common man learn to read and write? Date: 1/21/2013 11:41 PM
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" Worldwide, literacy has steadily increased from 56 percent of almost 2 billion adults (ages 15 and over) in 1950 to 83 percent of about 4.5 billion adults in 2008."

I think those figures should be treated with a degree of suspicioun. Illiteracy reflects badly on countries and to admit a high illiteracy rate indicates failure. Besides which what standard of literacy is this based on ? - the US or some third world country.

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Subject: Re: When did common man learn to read and write? Date: 1/21/2013 11:43 PM
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Paul,

What an interesting question! It does depend upon what you mean by "learn the advantages" of writing. Obviously, the Babylonians got there first, but they used pictographs, rather than an alphabet. But for most of the time, scribes and priests were the only literate members of society.

Anyway, I did a little Googling and came up with this list.

Cuneiform late 4th millenium BC

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuneiform

Hieroglyphics ~3200 BC

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egyptian_hieroglyphs

Linear A ~1625 BC

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linear_A

Linear B (Mycanaean) ~1450 BC

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linear_B

Phoenician (first use of an "alphabet") older than 1050 BC

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoenician_alphabet

paleo-Hebrew and Hebrew script late 2000's to early 1000's BC

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hebrew_alphabet#History

Mayan Glyphs ~300 BC (The conquistadores burned a lot of their books as being "pagan", so this is unclear.)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_script#History

Runes ~150 AD Some stone monuments in Ireland have both Roman letters and Runes carved in them.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runes

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Subject: Re: When did common man learn to read and write? Date: 1/21/2013 11:44 PM
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<When did individuals decide they needed to read? Maybe after printing made much to read available. >

I believe that many (if not most) children and adults have a thirst for mental stimulation. No other species craves the spread of knowledge like humanity!

People love to teach. People love to learn.

I recently read an article that took my breath away.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/kidspost/ethiopian-k...


Ethio­pian kids teach themselves with tablets

Published: January 18

The kids in a village in the East African country of Ethiopa wear dirty, ragged clothes. They sleep beside cows and sheep in huts made of sticks and mud. They have no school. Yet they all know the English alphabet, and some can make words.

The key to their success: 20 tablet computers dropped off in their village last February by a U.S. group called One Laptop Per Child.

The goal is to find out whether kids using new technology can teach themselves to read in places where no schools or teachers exist. The answer, say Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers, is amazing. ...

None of the adults can read. They support the laptop project and express amazement that their children were lucky enough to be chosen.

“I think if you gave them food and water, they would never leave the computer room,” said Teka Kumula, who charges the tablets on a solar station built by One Laptop. “They would spend day and night here.”...
[end quote]

http://dvice.com/archives/2012/10/ethiopian-kids.php

Ethiopian kids hack OLPCs in 5 months with zero instruction
Just to give you a sense of what these villages in Ethiopia are like, the kids (and most of the adults) there have never seen a word. No books, no newspapers, no street signs, no labels on packaged foods or goods. Nothing. And these villages aren't unique in that respect; there are many of them in Africa where the literacy rate is close to zero. So you might think that if you're going to give out fancy tablet computers, it would be helpful to have someone along to show these people how to use them, right?

But that's not what OLPC did. They just left the boxes there, sealed up, containing one tablet for every kid in each of the villages (nearly a thousand tablets in total), pre-loaded with a custom English-language operating system and SD cards with tracking software on them to record how the tablets were used....

OLPC studies have shown that kids will use their computers to teach their parents to read and write as well, which is incredibly amazing and awesome....
[end quote]

The village has no electricity, so it has no internet connection as yet.

However, if you couple the thought of millions of third-world kids with computers with an internet connection (think: the MIT open-source courses!), how will the world change? How many unique ideas, never conceived before?

The common man (and woman and boy and girl) will learn to read and think at an unprecedented rate...once they have the opportunity.

Wendy

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Subject: Re: When did common man learn to read and write? Date: 1/22/2013 1:11 AM
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PM,

thanks you really dug at what ancient writing is and when.....

Mesopotamia is believed to be where it started. The development of writing was by a class of people known particularly as scribes. The literate scribes, priests and leaders had more authority over their world than the average person. They knew how much food was produced yearly. They knew what time of the year it was with more clarity for planting. They developed their society.

Is it all that different today?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesopotamia

Believe it or not.....but any good Art Appreciation class begins with Mesopotamia and how ancient societies formed in order to know how humans interact with messages of all sorts.

Dave

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Subject: Re: When did common man learn to read and write? Date: 1/22/2013 1:33 AM
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However, if you couple the thought of millions of third-world kids with computers with an internet connection (think: the MIT open-source courses!), how will the world change? How many unique ideas, never conceived before?

The common man (and woman and boy and girl) will learn to read and think at an unprecedented rate...once they have the opportunity.

Wendy

it certainly cant hurt as my Irish/Jewish grandmother would say.....


http://www.forbes.com/sites/kerryadolan/2013/01/14/carlos-sl...

The world’s richest man, Carlos Slim Helu of Mexico, is now publicly supporting Salman Khan and his nonprofit educational website, Khan Academy, according to Twitter messages from Slim’s son-in-law, Arturo Elias and a press release issued by the Carlos Slim Foundation on Monday.

At a press conference in Mexico on Monday, Salman Khan and Carlos Slim announced they had signed an agreement of cooperation to allow students, teachers, researchers and others in Mexico to get access to education and training courses by translating them into Spanish.


the MITx is really a tool for people already in the field in some capacity generally speaking. But I have met people who stand apart from streamlined education. Who are self taught and in fact more learned.

Several years ago I met a gentleman from Sligo, Ireland. I knew his daughter my age. He was in his late 60s at that time. He had dropped out of school at age 14 and immigrated to America. He never went to college nor tried to get a GED. He was so brilliant and so well self taught he worked most of his adult life as an actuary.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sligo

My grandmother on my mom's side was schooled too some degree in Sligo herself. She had a spotty school record as her mother did not care if she went to school as a youngster of six, seven and eight. When it came time to do her leaving exams for entrance into university, she studied seriously for only six months and received honors in five languages. Having no real academic confidence she abandoned all hopes of becoming a doctor and with a sister entered university to become a home economics teacher. This was during the early part of Ireland's history as a Republic. There were few resources for the new country to lean on, so only 12 positions were open to the public, again my grandmother and her sister took two of the spots that were sought after by thousands of young women. She did well, but always regretted not becoming a doctor.

Dave

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Author: rubberthinking Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 413986 of 449396
Subject: Re: When did common man learn to read and write? Date: 1/22/2013 2:00 AM
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Democracy

Jefferson is often cited as an important figure in early American democracy.[136][137] Peter Onuf has argued that Jefferson envisioned democracy as an expression of society as a whole, and that he called for national self-determination, cultural uniformity, and education of all the people (or all the males, as he believed at the time). His emphasis on uniformity did not envision a multiracial republic in which some groups were not fully assimilated into the identical republican values. Onuf argues that Jefferson was unable and unwilling to abolish slavery until such a demand could issue naturally from the sensibilities of the entire people.[138] Gordon Wood argues that Jefferson's philosophy of liberty personified American ideals.[139] Jefferson believed that public education and a free press were essential to a democratic nation: "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free it expects what never was and never will be....The people cannot be safe without information. Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe".[140]

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Subject: Re: When did common man learn to read and write? Date: 1/22/2013 9:55 AM
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Pirkei Avot contains the first direction for universal literacy for Jewish boys.

I took the question about "common man" to include both sexes. Seems to me that calling literacy for Jewish boys universal is like calling democracy for white males to be universal.

But the growth of things like literacy and democracy is gradual over time -- but by no means even -- and there are important watershed events.

culcha

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Author: corbetti Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 414000 of 449396
Subject: Re: When did common man learn to read and write? Date: 1/22/2013 10:26 AM
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Great post. - thanks for sharing, Wendy!

An interesting linguistic oddity I know firsthand is the Urdu/Hindi case - both languages are basically the same language (I grew up learning Urdu as my second language) - but they are written in two entirely different ways. Urdu using a Persian-based script that is similar to Classical Arabic (but not the same - for instance, there is no "p" in Arabic but obviously there is in Persian - which led to the can of "bebsi" cola I still have as a souvenir from my trip to the Mideast twenty years ago...), while Hindi is written with a form of Sanskrit. So while I can have a conversation with friends who are Hindi speakers, I can't read a word of it when it is written, and they can't read any Urdu.

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Subject: Re: When did common man learn to read and write? Date: 1/22/2013 12:09 PM
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It seems likely the printing press was similar in impact to that of the internet.

Jeff Jarvis has a short book called "Gutenberg the Geek" available as a $0.99 ebook:

Johannes Gutenberg was our first geek, the original technology entrepreneur, who had to grapple with all the challenges a Silicon Valley startup faces today. Jeff Jarvis tells Gutenberg's story from an entrepreneurial perspective, examining how he overcame technology hurdles, how he operated with the secrecy of a Steve Jobs but then shifted to openness, how he raised capital and mitigated risk, and how, in the end, his cash flow and equity structure did him in.

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Subject: Re: When did common man learn to read and write? Date: 1/22/2013 12:22 PM
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I encounter lots of "common" men, and even some college-educated ones, who can neither read nor write effectively. Nor coherently.

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Subject: Re: When did common man learn to read and write? Date: 1/22/2013 12:42 PM
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Govt and the church--for obvious reasons.

If that were the case, you would think that writing in Latin, the language of nobles, royalty, scholars, and the church, would be enough. By writing in the language of commoners, it would seem someone wanted to communicate with them.


Reading and writing by the general public is not the reason--that is a subsequent development.

Govt and church have a need to uniformly and consistently communicate with their entire organization (but not necessarily *directly* to the general public--that is done by those given that authority). Lacking a system to mass-produce uniform documents means they have to employ a lot of people to hand-copy documents (time and money cost). This is a cost of bureaucracy.

The general public, on the other hand, wants to send/receive a variety of information. Some of it they want--some they don't. Regardless, this is is most efficiently done with some type of mass-production and delivery system. Heralds (loudspeakers on trucks?), then a postal system, newspapers, radio/television, now the Internet and wifi/cellphones/etc.

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Subject: Re: When did common man learn to read and write? Date: 1/22/2013 12:50 PM
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<I took the question about "common man" to include both sexes. Seems to me that calling literacy for Jewish boys universal is like calling democracy for white males to be universal.>

It is important to note that there was no prohibition against women learning if they wanted to and their families could afford tutors. In fact, the Jewish tradition of women learning is documented as far back as the giving of the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai, when men, women and children were all included. This inclusion of women at times of learning is repeated throughout the Bible (cf. Ezra).

Women also had specific marital rights which were documented in the ketubah document that each bridegroom signed before a marriage.

Many women around the world today are lacking these rights and privileges.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/04/us-pakistan-malala...

Let me remind you that women's voting rights in the U.S. are barely 100 years old and that the Equal Rights Amendment still has not been passed by Congress.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equal_Rights_Amendment

<But the growth of things like literacy and democracy is gradual over time -- but by no means even -- and there are important watershed events.>

Yes, I agree. When I was growing up, women entering science were unusual. Today, there is plenty of encouragement. When I volunteered at the local elementary school's Science Fair Club, the teacher was a woman, I was a woman, and 10 out of the 12 project builders were girls. As far as they could see, science was a feminine activity.

Wendy

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Subject: Re: When did common man learn to read and write? Date: 1/22/2013 1:03 PM
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Devanagari is pretty old as well - its parent language (Gupta) goes back to the 8th century BCE and what we know it as today maybe to 1000 BCE. It wasn't ever really the language of Sanskrit per se, but it was adopted by Sanskrit as the vernacular language best suited to its dissemination.

It is also a phonetic language (like Hebrew, or for that matter Italian). Very easy to learn and very simple to read once you learn the alphabet. The hardest thing for non-native speakers is pronouncing the aspirated consonants.

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Subject: Re: When did common man learn to read and write? Date: 1/22/2013 2:14 PM
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A few more tidbits--

Universal education in the US is an idea attributed to Horace Mann in abt 1850. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mann,_Horace

When you do family tree research, you find quite a few Civil War pension applications signed with an X. You would suspect that education was sometimes unavailable in rural areas. Spelling of names varied widely in part because many could not write their own names. But many saw spelling of the name as unimportant until the federal govt began of offer pensions to those who could prove they served (and were disabled as a result).

On printing, another aspect is the availability of paper. Paper from wood pulp was developed only in 1844. Before that paper came from rags. Cotton did not grow in the European climate. It was imported from Egypt until the British colonies made it available in the 18th century.

In Gutenberg's day, paper was probably made from hemp, linen, and whatever cotton was available. (Wool, linen, and leather were the native fabrics of Europe.) The arrival of cheap cotton for paper probably had much to do with the success of printing.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_paper

Wikipedia also has a great article on the history and impact of printing. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Printing_Revolution#CITEREFEise...

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Subject: Re: When did common man learn to read and write? Date: 1/22/2013 5:19 PM
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pauleckler says

... Charlemagne probably did encourage scholarship. That could be why they decided to develop written forms of the language of commoners (rather then rely on the traditional Latin and Greek of scholars of that day).

Charlemagne was never fully literate himself, but he hired the scholar Alcuin of York to run his school and scriptorium at Aachen.

At that time, European writing was done in a hodgepodge of badly degenerate scripts, difficult to write and more difficult to read. Alcuin created a reformed, highly readable handwriting known as the Carolingian script, and many of the letter shapes used today can be traced back to it. Carolingian script undoubtedly helped Europe to become more literate.

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Subject: Re: When did common man learn to read and write? Date: 1/22/2013 8:31 PM
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When I volunteered at the local elementary school's Science Fair Club, the teacher was a woman, I was a woman, and 10 out of the 12 project builders were girls. As far as they could see, science was a feminine activity.

Some "scholars" are now attributing the "Failure to Launch" (as in boys drop out of college and STEM programs) to this. (When #2 son was in high school, about 4 years ago, this was a hot topic.) Some "scholars" were saying boys viewed fields girls were excelling in as feminine. When I was growing up, I went into a "male" field (computers) and got a lot of razzing as the prettiest girl in the class - the only one...

I know people are concerned with girls maturing earlier in recent decades. I wonder if boys are somehow reacting to this by "playing" longer, or just plain trying to go in another direction - even if they'd like to follow the curriculum. Personally, I think it's attributable to boys maturing later emotionally, plus the availability of the internet for learning.

PM

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Subject: Re: When did common man learn to read and write? Date: 1/22/2013 8:37 PM
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...When you do family tree research, you find quite a few Civil War pension applications signed with an X. ...

A side note is that teaching of cursive writing to students is rapidly declining and it will be interesting to see what happens with using signatures for paperwork.


My son is in his early 20's and he never really learned to write in cursive and when it was time for him to get his first driver's license he didn't really have a signature and he was a bit embarrassed about that and didn't want to talk about it. I never saw him doing it but I'm sure that he spent time practicing and figuring out how to sign his name.

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