I am not a political “wonk” by any means of the imagination. But I do feel it is important for everyone to watch, talk about, and think through our State of the Union address. It is part of the wonderful process of democracy. The State of the Union is one chance we have to listen in on what is essentially a huge board meeting–minus the Chief Financial Officer’s or Treasurer’s report.
President Obama and the Republican speaker, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, both did a fine job of outlining visions for the United States in the months ahead. Did you have a chance to see it all? Ms. McMorris Rodgers did not have any problems with water bottles or talking down to the audience, so as one pundit put it, “At least she did not give the comedians material for the next few weeks.”
The area that often draws my attention in the State of the Union is education. Again, the president focused on early education and putting children in school at an earlier age. This was a bit disappointing to me in that the thought was not followed up with better pay for teachers nor for a bigger issue in my mind, which is literacy. I was talking about literacy with a sister and expert in education just a few days ago. I asked her about a statistic I saw that has fewer and fewer people reading for pleasure, and more and more people unable to read.
“It’s not that they can’t read, Liesa,” she said. “The problem is in comprehension. Many people can work out words on a page, but they cannot put meaning into those words once read.” Ouch!
I knew instantly what she meant, as I have put down books like De Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, when the words start to lose meaning to me. And I have to wonder, at what level of reading do which authors run past us intellectually? Does an average IQ have the capacity to use reading to enlarge a social conversation, or are we, on average, bound to our oral histories as played out for us on television and in movies?
As an author, I’m definitely interested in literacy, and people having fun with the books and blog posts I write. If they cannot understand what these 26 symbols are and how they combine to make words, logic, and vision happen, then where is our hope? How can we problem solve without written communication?
One of my readers here is Letizia. She has a blog called Reading Interrupted. Each post is an invitation to think and drink in the vision of a great reading life. If you haven’t had a chance to see this site, I’d highly recommend it.
And as for the State of the Union? Overall it seems we’re okay–perhaps average. Excuse me. I understand that the more you read, the more reading you’ll be able to do. I’m off to find a good book. Have any suggestions?