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Tag: literacy

Stop putting off reading of CLASSIC LITERATURE: you can do it without spending any time at all by using one of these new incredible methods! Never fold a paper crane again without learning some classic poem!

The issue:

It’s often hard to get motivated to read a famous work of literature, especially when there are so many other forms of entertainment competing for one’s attention.

Proposal:

Let’s create a situation so that a person can read a book as a “bonus” along with a primary activity that they were already doing.

(Ideally, the primary activity should be something that doesn’t require linguistic processing, since then it would compete for attention with the text of the book.)

Examples:

  1. Jigsaw puzzles in which a book is printed on the individual pieces (Figure 1). This could work well for a novella or a Shakespeare play (which is something that is already commercially available in entire-play-on-one-poster form).
  2. Knitting yarn with a chapter of a book written on each ball of yarn, so you can read War and Peace while you make a scarf. As a bonus, the ink could be water soluble, so when you’re done knitting the scarf, the text washes right off!
  3. Origami paper with famous poetry printed on them. You could read some Robert Frost while folding an origami crane.
  4. A “learn to type” program in which the example sentences are famous quotations. For example: Classic: a book which people praise and don’t read.” – [Mark Twain].
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Fig. 1: The person solving this jigsaw puzzle will also have the opportunity to read the entirety of “A Tale of Two Cities” (possibly in a very confusing out-of-order fashion).

Conclusion:

It is very surprising, in retrospect, that the 20th-century invention of “popsicle sticks with jokes written on them” did not inspire a more widespread “literature-on-everyday-products” genre.

PROS: Increases appreciation of classic literature.

CONS: May cause existential angst in children who just want to assemble a jigsaw puzzle but end up also reading The Stranger by Camus.

Re-experience the process of learning to read AND prevent spies from stealing your secrets!

Background:

Once you know how to read, it’s impossible to see text the same way as you did before—you will inescapably recognize the symbols as letters the instant that you see them.

The issue:

This “automatic” parsing of written language makes it easy to forget how much effort was required to initially learn how to read. This inhibits people’s ability to empathize with children and second-language learners as they acquire literacy.

Proposal:

In order to let you remember what it was like to not be able to read, this hypothetical browser plug-in will simply change all web fonts to an illiteracy-simulating “dingbats” font (Figure 1).

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Fig. 1: With the “Wingdings” font replacing the standard web page font, every Internet site becomes totally incomprehensible, letting you re-experience the lack of ability to read. In order to obtain proficiency with this new alphabet, a user would need to learn 26 lower-case letters, 26 upper-case letters, ~10 punctuation marks, and 10 digits, for a grand total of ~70–80 symbols.

Note that the new “letters” actually do directly correspond to the letters of the English alphabet, so you could hypothetically re-experience the alphabet-learning experience by using this plugin.

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Fig. 2: Here is what a block of English text might look like to someone who is totally unfamiliar with Latin letters.

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Fig. 3: The importance of heraldry and easily-understood symbols is more evident when you cannot read!

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Fig. 4: This approximates what a medieval peasant would have experienced reading a manuscript about the Hundred Year’s War. Note how much more important the images seem when you can’t read the text.

Secret bonus feature:

If you set your browser to a “dingbats” font and actually learn how to read it, then you’ll be able to thwart spies who try to read your screen over your shoulder. The CIA should mandate that all of its laptops be set to this custom font mode.

Conclusion:

If you want to remember what it was like before you could read, you should set your browser font to Wingdings or another “dingbats” font.

PROS: Increases ability to empathize with people learning to read. Makes it difficult for spies to read your secrets.

CONS: Your browser might get stuck in this mode, and then you’d have to learn a totally new (yet almost completely useless) alphabet.

P.S. You can also experience this phenomenon by just going to a Wikipedia page in a language you can’t read. Try one of these: https://or.wikipedia.org/, https://am.wikipedia.org/ , or https://si.wikipedia.org/ (unless you somehow read all three, which is exceptionally unlikely).

You’ll never believe this new UN-FALSIFIABLE method for showing off your wealth and privilege! The common people hate it!

Background:

Many years ago, only the elite members of society were literate.

In some places, it was even ILLEGAL for commoners / peasants / slaves to be literate, for example:

Proposal:

Now that we are allegedly in a more enlightened era, there is no way to use the alphabet itself to distinguish commoners from nobility.

But in this proposal, a new “rich people only” alphabet is created, and the top 1% of each nation’s wealthiest individuals are automatically granted a license to use it (see Figure 1). These letters are forbidden to the common peasantry, and use of these letters by non-authorized individuals, either in handwriting or as a font, would be extremely illegal.

 

rockefeller-full-text

Fig. 1: In this new proposal, the top “high status” alphabet may ONLY be used by extremely wealthy individuals, as measured by their official tax returns. Previously, an incredibly rich oil baron (for example, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_D._Rockefeller ) would have no way to distinguish his own name from that of a common worker with the same name—but in the new system, the “high status” letters make the distinction clear. This is similar in concept to the Ancient Egyptian hieroglyph “cartouche,” which is an oval that is drawn exclusively around names of royalty.

Since the letters in this proposal are so similar to existing English letters (see Figure 2), no additional education is necessary! Just install the font, and you’re good to go, provided you meet the stringent total wealth requirements (approximately $9,000,000 U.S. dollars for United States residents).

alphabet-compare

Fig. 2: Top: sample letters A through J from the “commoner” alphabet that you, a commoner, are already familiar with. Bottom: matching letters from the extremely sophisticated “high status” alphabet.

Conclusion:

If you are starting a utopian community on an oil platform in the sea, you should consider implementing this proposal!

PROS: Would encourage extremely rich people to file accurate tax returns, so they could secure their ability to use this exclusive font. Would streamline the process of arresting subversive individuals: the secret police could simply plant this font on the targeted individual’s computer.

CONS: None!

 

fancy-alphabet

Supplemental Figure A: A complete “sophisticated” alphabet, upper-case letters only.

 

cartouche_wikipedia

Supplemental Figure B:  The closest historical example to this proposal is the Ancient Egyptian “cartouche,” seen above in the corresponding Wikipedia entry (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cartouche).