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“Cultural Literacy and Critical Literacy” by Donald Lazere

Donald Lazere has devoted his numerous works to the matter of critical thinking in the modern culture. In his Cultural Literacy and Critical Literacy (1992), Lazere focuses on the notion of the critical literacy, which, in his opinion, is rather important for the intellectual potential of an individual.

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He has developed this notion in response to Hirsch’s cultural literacy (Hirsch, Kett, and Trefil 1988) and highlights that the opportunity to develop critical literacy, which is in effect ability to think critically, should be provided by the undergraduate and graduate curricula (Lazere 54). The author supports the idea that the educational system should support pluralism and non-standard thinking of the students. It is stated that the task of the educational system is to find an appropriate balance between learning facts and training skills, as the last factor is a pillar of successful studying and development of the students’ intellectual potential.

These statements are absolutely consonant to my opinion, and I agree with the author willingly. I think that nowadays the ability to think critically suffers much from the pressure of modern informational technologies. My point of view has been influenced by several works which consider critical thinking an extinct skill suppressed by the modern mass media, and I would like to adduce them in order to support my statement.

In her A Defence of Reading (1999), Marie Winn presents the results of her research on TV’s influence upon kids’ performance at school and family relations. Unlimited watching of the TV shows causes mental passivity, problems with memory and attention, weakened willingness for studying, as well as produces dramatic obstacles in socialization and building the relations. Stephen Jay Gould in his The Monster’s Human Nature (1999) analyzes the substitution which takes place when the literary source is screened by the modern directors.

The author states that the movie version of Frankenstein has distorted the deep message of Mary Shelley’s work (2004). In her book, says Gould, the author highlights the mattes of humanism and tolerance, analyzing the nature of people’s hostility to any malformation. At the same time, having changed the characters’ description, dialogues and plot nuances, the Hollywood versions of Frankenstein’s story have distorted the Shelley’s idea about why the monster became evil. Gould has shown rather eloquently, how much the works of literature lose when they are adapted to the needs of the mass media, supporting his statement by several quotes and their analysis, which has made an article rather convincing.

Having chosen different dimensions of highlighting the problem, both authors talk about media causing dependence and mental insolvency: when preferring watching TV or movies to reading, one refuses autonomous and independent thinking activity.

However, Winn focuses more on mental and cognitive aspect, while Gould highlights social and moral impact. At the same time, it is obvious, that both points of view concern the whole society and its potential: particularly, Winn considers media a cause of cognitive atrophy, which is rather harmful for the society’s human capital, as it decreases the average level of intelligence and ability to learn; Gould outlines the prospect of people’s inability for independent thinking, generating ideas, and forming personal notions about things and events.

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Both tendencies cause the nation’s human capital decrease, which may affect all fields of the social lives: “lazy” thinking is not able to generate innovational approaches in science and technology, to find effective schemes in management and politics; weak imagination is not able to make a breakthrough in culture and art, where inspiration should always fuse with perpetual and hard mental work. In fact, the following paradoxical chain takes place: the progress “bestows” the negative tendencies on the society, which may hinder the further progress in different fields of social life.

Thus, the analysis of influence of the modern mode of life on one’s ability to think critically has shown that the statements of Lazere sound rather reasonable and timely. Adaptation of the curricula to the needs of the critical thinking development is a crucial factor for avoiding the nation’s intellectual stagnation.

Bibliography

Gould, Stephen J. “The Monster’s Human Nature”. Intersections: Essays in the Sciences and Humanities. Eds. Scott Steven Don Perkins, and Erika Rothwell. Scarborough, Ont.: Prentice Hall Allyn & Bacon Canada, 1999. Print.

Hirsch, Eric D., Joseph F. Kett, and James S. Trefil. Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know. New York: Vintage Books, 1988. Print.

Lazere, Donald. “Cultural Literacy and Critical Literacy”. Critical Reasoning in Contemporary Culture. Ed. Richard A. Talaska. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992. Print.

Shelley, Mary W. Frankenstein: the Modern Prometheus. [United States]: Quiet Vision Pub, 2004. Print.

Winn, Marie. “A Defence of Reading”. Intersections: Essays in the Sciences and Humanities. Eds. Scott Steven Don Perkins, and Erika Rothwell. Scarborough, Ont.: Prentice Hall Allyn & Bacon Canada, 1999. Print.

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StudyCorgi. "“Cultural Literacy and Critical Literacy” by Donald Lazere." November 25, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/cultural-literacy-and-critical-literacy-by-donald-lazere/.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "“Cultural Literacy and Critical Literacy” by Donald Lazere." November 25, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/cultural-literacy-and-critical-literacy-by-donald-lazere/.

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