Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Information Literacy and the 21st Century Workplace - Preliminary
Thoughts
This article is by Dr. Walter R. Beam. It is based on an Information Literacy Workshop, November 3, 2000, given at the Capitol College Seminar on Information Technology.

From the site:

Literacy and the American Society.

Possession of literacy skills as a major criterion for employment is a relatively novel concept, except for those
engaged in law or 'letters'. At the start of the 20th Century, few Americans attended college and even fewer
completed a degree. Though some trade schools had evolved, most trades were considered to be best learned
through apprenticeship – that included medical and legal practice, well into the 19th century.

Reading had been recognized as an essential skill for all learned professions – and especially for teaching, which
was held in higher esteem a century ago than it is today. Both reading and writing skills were essential for law
practice. Skill in (applied) mathematics was necessary in engineering, simpler parts of it in accountancy and, to a
lesser degree, in business. Competent business people often hired others having skills they themselves not possess,
and still do. However, marginal skill in reading, writing or math has often led to trusted employees breaking their
trust.

From "the three Rs" to communication. Of the three traditional literacy components, readin',
(w)ritin', and (a)rithmetic, the first has long been a key to personal knowledge and progress. It is easy to believe
this will continue true for the future. For those able to grasp and retain what they read, it is the fastest path to
knowledge. Manual writing skill has traditionally been emphasized in early youth, though relatively few master the
cognitive skills of writing in high school or even in college. Integration of reading, writing, speaking and use of
graphics, sometimes referred to as communication, is a compact representation of non-mathematical, or more
generally, non-specialist literacy. In the past generation, even Communications has been turned into a specialized
college degree.

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