Literacies for the digital age: Financial literacy

Kathy Schrock, Application Platform Strategies, Sept 01, 2014
Commentary by Stephen Downes

OK, what is a literacy, exactly? I ask because offers a whole list of literacies, ranging from financial literacy to digital literacy to civic literacy - and then proceeds to outline some. And that's where I begin to get uncomfortable, as it seems 'literacy' on this model is really just a collection of life lessons. The 'financial literacy' section, for example, is accompanied by a graphic depicting "needs vs wants" and includes things like "saving for a goal" and "what do banks do?" (I assume 'steal your money' is not the accepted answer here). But literacy is not a set of facts, nor even a set of skills, related to a domain or discipline. Put loosely, literacy is the ability to recognize, work with and create methods and processes of the domain. Yes, you need to understand (some of) the content, but it's far more important to be able to interrogate, manipulate and manage the elements of the domain, which includes far more than just content. A definition of literacy defined in terms of content alone may as well be interchanged with propaganda, for that's all it is. Literacy goes far beyond that. See also: Media Literacy, Out of Bounds.

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