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Chris James

Let's no longer complain about writer's block...

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Now that's funny.

The real mystery to me is how the guy managed to live in a modern world (even on a ship) for 90+ years and not let anybody know he was illiterate. I mean, you gotta read maps and charts, you have to fill out papers, you have to read the ship's meters... it's not that easy piloting a boat.

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From my understanding, most illiterate people are not 100% illiterate. They learn to recognize certain key words, especially important ones like at their job. They can't necessarily "read" them, but they recognize them, at least in certain contexts. Thus, they can learn to function in the modern world. Plus, pictograms are everywhere. Take a look around you, especially in public places like airports, train stations, your car's controls. Most are labelled with pictograms instead of words. Hilariously, even your computer keyboard probably has a few pictograms on it.

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Learning how to fake a competency is an all-too-human reflex if it avoids doing something perceived to be distasteful or difficult. In fact, it's a kid's ace-in-the-hole. When I was a kid I managed to hide the fact that I couldn't see the classroom blackboard for nearly two years because I dreaded getting eyeglasses. I even memorized the eyechart on the way into the doctor's examining room. It was a lot of work, but it seemed necessary at the time.

James

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