History of Writing and Its Impact on Society
Writing may be considered as one of the earliest form of transformative technology that provided many benefits to humankind. It may also be considered as a significant contributor to the intellectual and communicational abilities of humans to transmit information, demonstrate verbal and non-verbal expressions through written text, and establish status quo based on the educational abilities that are acquired by the individual writer. In doing so, it would be interesting to trace back the development of writing and how its impact on society have influenced and may continue to influence the behavioral traits, intellectual abilities, and social skills of humankind.
There are different information in today’s Internet that provides ideas, facts, and opinions regarding the early beginnings of writing. According to History World (2012), the early beginnings of writing have started in the early 20th century when the two civilizations of Egypt and Sumer (now known as Iraq) developed the Sumerian script and its Egyptian version a century or more later (History World, 2012). Likewise, there were evidences of later discoveries by a German archaeologist, who have discovered small bone and ivory tablets that have been used by earlier civilizations for writing (History World, 2012). Sumerian tablets have been discovered in 3200 B.C. that were identified as the earliest cuneiform tablets from this civilization (History World, 2012). For instance, the early forms of scriptwriting included images that were used to depict or illustrate words. The use of pictographs continued to evolve when early civilization learned to combine pictures to explain a concept, to represent a pun, to recommend a different concept through a representation of another object, and to develop a conceptual character (History World, 2012).
According to Jeremy Norman’s (2012) chronological studies on the history of information and media, the early forms of writing began during 2,500,000 BCE to 8,000 BCE, which included the early attempts to record information or may have been considered as early forms of art; oral transmission of traditions among groups of people; use of the Ishango Bone to record a six-month lunar calendar, logical or mathematical carvings, passage of time, a series of numbers, and a system of proto-writing and notation.
From 8,000 BCE to 1,000 BCE, some of the different evidences of early writings or printing included carvings on 8600 year-old tortoise shells that were discovered by archaeologists in the Henan province of Western China; Egyptian hieroglyphs that may have evolved from drawn symbols on pottery produced by the Gerzeh culture; Sumerians’ cuneiform writing that began the system of pictographs and were written with styli on clay tablets; Egyptian papyrus that was used for boats, mattresses, mats, and as a writing surface; and, Mesopotamia’s stamping of inscriptions into soft clay of brinks that were ordered by royal rulers to build temples of gods and goddesses (Norman, 2012). These discoveries demonstrated how early civilization used different instruments to communicate and document information, and to build structures adorned with symbolical illustrations to represent their cultures, beliefs, and practices (Norman, 2012).
From 1,000 BCE to 300 BCE, some of the evidences of early writings during this era included the oldest known evidence of the Phoenician alphabet was the Ahiram Sarcophagus, being that Phoenician was one of the most widely used writing systems that were spread by merchants; the Iliad as the oldest literature works of ancient Greek language, and believed to be one of the first works of ancient Greek literature; the Dipylon inscription that was a short written text on an ancient Greek pottery vessel was considered as one of the oldest known examples of the use of the Greek alphabet; and, the construction of the Tower of Babel (was then known as the Etemenanki Ziggurat) that contained bricks stamped with inscriptions in cuneiform (Norman, 2012). These evidences of early writings demonstrated how civilization used writing to create impact and to influence the development of people’s knowledge, to conduct business and trade among different cultures, and the evolution of alphabet writing as part of distinguishing different racial cultures (Norman, 2012).
From 300 BCE to 30 CE, the dead sea scrolls is one of the many discoveries and inventions of early writing that was identified during this time (Norman, 2012). These scrolls were believed to have contained historical, paleographic, and linguistic evidence of being the oldest manuscripts of the Hebrew Scriptures when Jesus of Nazareth lived (Norman, 2012). Meanwhile, writing using a bamboo pen was created for longer messages and for books during the end of the Zhou (Chou) Dynasty (Norman, 2012). From 30 CE to 500 CE, the graffito was the earliest surviving image of the crucifixion, although the depiction behind the meaning of this early writing and illustration was done in a more sarcastic tone (Norman, 2012). It was also during this time that the Four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, were approximately composed by authors who have not been identified (Norman, 2012). These books were written to depict the traditions and early Christian beliefs and writings as part of the early Christian movement (Norman, 2012). More evidences of earlier writings developed through many more centuries of human existence, which have influenced the development of simple to complicated machineries, equipment, and devices to support more sophisticated forms of publication, writing, and communication (Norman, 2012).
Literacy in Writing in the American Education System
Literacy in the American education system includes writing as one of the significant factors in the development and growth of American students (Bartholomew, 2012). The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act (2001) established higher expectations with regard to (a) student accountability in the public school education, (b) highly qualified teachers to be certified specifically in different content areas based on required specifications, and (c) rigorous standards in all content areas to meet the higher expectations to meet the demands of a more global economy (Hickok & Ladner, 2007). In doing so, many public schools in the United States (U.S.) have either met or struggled in meeting the expectations set by the federal government (Hickok & Ladner, 2007).
The desire to standardize the control and management of funding in the public school system has generated different problems, including (a) weakening the state-level exams and academic transparency in the state level; (b) changing on how tests are scored to allow more students to pass and to show more progress; and, (c) lowering of standards to mask real student performance (Hickok & Ladner, 2007). The regulations that have been developed from the NCLB Act (2001) created many changes on how American public schools address and support school funding and allotment, curriculum design, curriculum instruction, and evaluation of students’ academic performance (Hickok & Ladner, 2007). In fact, this policy influenced the development of future grants, legislative decisions, and other programs with regard to strengthening American public school education (Hickok & Ladner, 2007). For instance, in 2009, the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top grant competition was announced to provide different state governments with the opportunity to look and apply for more school funding (Bartholomew, 2012). This grant was aimed to support better changes in the U.S. education curriculum framework (including materials, assessments, and policy) that will greatly benefit American students into having a stronger and more rigorous education to support the dynamic needs of 21st century society (Bartholomew, 2012).
The events that transpired through the years in the American education system have greatly influenced the literacy of American students, including the (a) changing in the direction on meeting the technological competitiveness of 21st century demands; (b) desire to prepare students to meet and compete in a global economy; (c) drive to focus on analytic and written communication skills as important elements to be taught across the curriculum in science, social studies, and technical subjects; (d) increase in the development of critical understanding of information texts; and, (e) expectation to write compositions that demonstrate analytical thinking and mastery of inductive and deductive reasoning, to name a few (Bartholomew, 2012).
Analogy of Contemporary Technology
The evolution of writing has influenced the ongoing development of contemporary technology; specifically in the use of written text to formulate and create codes that modern machines and devices can understand to decipher desired commands by the human mind (Nordkvelle, 2004). Earlier inventions of writing eventually led to different developments in the 19th century, including the (a) computer text editors; (b) word processing and email; (c) tablet computers and the first reference to electronic ink; (d) beginning stages of electronic mail; (e) hypertext, text editing, windows, email, and the mouse; (f) general markup language; and, (g) Internet (Norma, 2012). These later developments continue to aspire for complex and dynamic technologies (i.e. mobile tablets, mobile communication devices, social networks) that contribute significantly in the establishment of control, power, freedom, efficiency, or self-realization with people in society (Nordkvelle, 2004). Individuals and groups who have greater knowledge in the manipulation and development of modern technologies have established business influences that continue to control the economic demands and needs of present society, particularly in the communication and collaboration within professional learning communities (Nordkvelle, 2004). In addition, people’s sense of freedom has been based on the extent of connections in social networks, as well as presence in different online communities (Nordkvelle, 2004). Today, contemporary technology play an essential role in producing and implementing decisions and choices that affect people’s life styles, way of thinking, new cultures and traditions, new social classes, and learning environments (Nordkvelle, 2004).
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