Do you remember when the book Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know came out, by E.D. Hirsch Jr.? If so, you go back a long way (to 1987), as I do. The book sparked a lot of controversy of course, regarding what was on the list or off it, plus whether the whole idea, of listing “must know” facts, was a good one.
Without dwelling on that particular tome, I’m keen to investigate these twin terms, of “fluency” and “literacy”. When a person is said to be “fluent” regarding X, the implication is likewise “literate regarding X” and vice versa. Ones level of fluency and/or literacy becomes a measure of inner circle hood, i.e. an indicator of whether one has made it into some inner sanctum or priesthood. The vocabulary varies.
Wearing my anthropologist hat, assuming my credentials by birthright as a human, more than by relying on having taken that Psychological Anthropology class at Princeton, as an undergrad, I’m looking at belief systems more as Bucky Fuller did: as planets that reflect divergently from the outside, and convergently from within. When you’re fluent in a system, you bounce around in it, familiar with your “cage” so to speak. When you’re still an outsider, you may sense an impenetrability and/or indecipherability in what you’ve encountered. Consider Synergetics itself (Bucky’s magnum opus): many find it highly frustrating and ultimately not worth the effort. Some find Heidegger likewise impenetrable.
In my own subculture, we feel obligated to pass the torch regarding various topics, including history. Cultural Literacy was likewise big on history. We also have our core versus less central STEM teachings (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics). In the latter category come various tools. More than simply facts, we want “initiates” (those joining us) to have specific skills.
Cultural Literacy includes skill sets, such as the ability to shoot a bow and arrow. I find myself sharing Jupyter Notebooks and JupyterLab as I would basket weaving and knife sharpening, with those I’ve been entrusted to “brainwash”.
From the Bucky Fuller magnum opus, I feel the need to pass on at least the debate over whether…