In the article, “Faking Cultural Literacy”, Karl Taro Greenfeld discusses the tendency of humans to claim to be literate about topics and events of the society even though, in reality, they aren’t. People, as Greenfeld puts it, fake cultural literacy. He bolsters this idea by presenting his personal experience of giving his thoughts on books that his wife reads despite the fact that he doesn’t know anything about the books. (1) Moreover, Greenfeld supports his argument by presenting NPR’s article for April Fools’ Day which became viral on Facebook. NPR’s article was titled “Why Doesn’t America Read Anymore?” and was actually a prank but because of people’s habit of only looking at the headlines, people shared the link of the article and made claims that they do read and asked people to do the same without knowing that it was a prank and not a real article. (2) This shows how vulnerable the people are and how humans try to seem to be aware of things. Furthermore, Greenfeld claims that people claim to be knowledgeable about things because of the pressure that people feel to be informed in order to survive in the society.
He states, “What we feel now is the constant pressure to know enough, at all times, lest we be revealed as culturally illiterate.” (2) As for me, I do agree with Greenfeld’s argument. I believe this to be the case because I have personally experienced it.
In the past, I have tried to make friends by pretending to know about TV shows that others like even when I know nothing about it. I did this in order to fit in, to belong. In addition to my personal experience, I have also seen others act as well informed about different topics. Such was the case when I asked a friend of mine to teach me about the World Wars, a topic I knew nothing of at the time. My friend taught me what he knew about it. However, as I later on researched on the subject, I found out that he had been confused about the World Wars himself and as a result, he mixed up the information and facts of the subject matter. These events, along with the evidences provided by Greenfeld led me to believe and accept Greenfeld’s notion on today’s society. Additionally, Greenfeld not only made me support his argument but also made me think of the consequences of the issue.
I am left wondering whether this would someday be detrimental to our society if we leave it as it is. Greenfeld writes in the last paragraph of his article, “It pours into our lives a rising tide of words, facts, jokes, GIFs, gossip and commentary that threatens to drown us. Perhaps it is this fear of submersion that is behind this insistence that we’ve seen, we’ve read, we know.” (4) If this is the case, wherein we fail to acknowledge the fact that we do not know, is there no room for change? I can only imagine the effects of us denying and failing to observe the facts around us. I do hope that before it becomes too late, we wake up and start walking towards progress and change.