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Reading the screen

Are the electronic media exacerbating illiteracy and making our children stupid? On the contrary, says Colin MacCabe, they have the potential to make us truly literate

By Colin MacCabe   May 1996

Universal teaching must precede universal enfranchisement,” John Stuart Mill wrote in 1861. Mill, and many after him, have assumed that full citizenship is only available to those who can read and write. Logically separate, but historically connected, is the idea that a modern economy requires a literate work force. When Britain introduced universal education ten years after Mill wrote these words, it was motivated as much by fear of being economically eclipsed by a better educated Germany and US as by the desire to equip its citizens for democracy.

The economic developments which both required and produced universal literacy were…

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