Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The written word and the wall

"I never heard anything about this. If I didn't stick my head in the letter, I never would have known." 

So said a woman being interviewed for a local news story. She was bemoaning the fact that she didn't know that a teacher at her child's school was producing child porn -- until she happened to read a letter the school sent to her.

It made me wonder if she saw the world as split down the middle, with oral communication on one side and written words on the other. The way she phrased this -- "If I didn't stick my head in the letter" -- almost makes it seem like she had to push her head through a porthole to read the words written on the other side. It's as if there was literally a physical barrier in her way.

Maybe that's true for a lot of people these days. For them, written English hardly exists. And her message is one that requires attention. Translated, it's this: "You're not reaching us here on the other side!" We can't just rely on written notices if we have crucial information to dispense. There are people we'll never reach that way. So we have to improvise. That's the lesson.