“Literacy as a Base for World Peace.”
Source: Laubach, F. (1951). “Literacy as a Base for World Peace.” The Phi Delta Kappan, 33(2), 84–86. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/20332144.
In October 1951, Lauback released an article exclaiming that “by teaching a man to read you set him on a path of a higher standard of living, with all the advantages to mind, body and spirit that higher living entails”. Lauback highlighted how through a literacy campaign in Ecuador a popular phrase was coined: “One illiterate less is on citizen more”. With literacy, comes active participation in communities and community development.
Considering this is a piece written over 68 years ago, it still holds some remarkable truths. Admittedly, the language requires updating, with references to a “Christian democracy” and the “men” we must teach to read. However, it also drew on some significant themes in literacy advancement which still resonate, such as the role of parents as the first line of education. If parents are not literate, then this creates even more challenges for their children, as the parents can only show them what they see of the world. Of course, this has changed significantly over the past 68 years with the introduction of the internet and the development of mainstream education. Nevertheless, it is still understood that the education a child receives in their home environment holds significance.
In 1951 UNESCO launched a 20 million dollar global literacy drive, which has continued to this day. In 2019 UNESCO, within the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, and the Education 2030 Framework for Action, are working on their five-point strategy of literacy advancement, including scaling up literacy action for girls and women. I can only imagine what Lauback would think of a world where huge efforts are being made to continue the advancement of literacy, but where globally there are still over 750 million illiterate people, 550 million of whom are women.
Literacy advancement and the empowerment of women sit centrally within the United Nations (UN) 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. The UN agrees that these are areas that need addressing if we are to live in a fair, just and peaceful world. However, over the past twenty years, a significant gender disparity in literacy advancement has stubbornly remained. Women often sit at the heart of their communities by supporting the raising of children. Yet, with such high numbers of illiteracy in women, the world is missing the opinions, ideas, and critical thoughts of so many. One of these women living in an area affected by conflict could have the idea to prevent future conflict and support the development of her community, establishing peace.
Getting back to Lauback and giving him the final word as he calls us all to action from the shadow of 1951: “Our mission here on earth is to change our environment, not to adjust ourselves to it. To adjust yourself to brutality, inhumanity, injustice, and stupidity, of which the world is full – though it is easy, and may look profitable – is habit-forming, and will make out of you at the last a character you would now shudder to think of!” Quite. “The goal towards which all history tends is peace…”