Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Nineteenth-Century Origins of Our Times (precis)

In Graff’s study The Nineteenth-Century Origins of Our Times we see the different views of teachings and beliefs about the development of history in the 19th century. Graff expands on the views of both the “Optimists” and the “Pessimists” where the Optimists believed the worthiness of the poor and supported a free educational system which allowed the talented succeed, and the Pessimists promoted education for the poor as a way of controlling them where their “desire was to control the lower class, not to assist their advancement” (213). Graff speaks of the illiteracy findings of Soltow and Stevens where they tried to shed some light on illiteracy among whites, primarily seamen, and the reasons for their illiteracy. Their finding showed that those whites who were illiterate were primarily farmers and laborers who reflected a neglect of schooling. The illiteracy rate seems to have decreased with the promotion of reading and the press. At the time the poor were seen as immoral and those who were of superior status feared that if the poor were educated they would cause trouble. As a result, education was seen as a way to teach morality. Morality based literacy was a way for the young to assimilate to the dominion of the literate.
Graff also speaks of the high number of illiteracy among African Americans, primarily a result of slavery. White salve owners feared that like the poor, slaves who were literate would perhaps cause trouble. However, African American did what it took to gain literacy and those who were literate among them would teach one another to read. Not only did they have the white supremacists against them there were also other factors that contributed to slow progress of their advancement like the shortage of teachers and the confusing teaching methods that did nothing but confuse the students. Clearly the education system had mush to work on.
Though the educational views of today are very different than they were a century ago we often come across large numbers in some societies where illiteracy still exists. Even in big cities like Los Angeles, though rare, we come across individuals who have managed to slip through the cracks of the educational system and are fossilized in their learning advancement. It is clear that even today literacy is a form of hierarchy where the financially stable have a better chance of advancement through literacy than the not so fortunate not only because of finance but also because of circumstance.

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