Information Literacy: Common Denominator for National Success or Failure

Information is power and information literacy is the key pathway to accessing that power. Current local, national, and world events validate this critical concept over and over again, presidential politics not withstanding.

Moreover, in a world dictated by digital technologies, information literacy is often overlooked and/or undervalued as a key 21st century skill.

Information literacy is a critical thinking/problem solving skill set.  It’s governed by the ability to find, analyze, synthesize, and utilize effectively information from a broad range of print and digital resources.

Information literacy empowers “individuals from all walks of life to find, access, retrieve, analyze, synthesize and use information effectively and ethically to achieve their personal, social, occupational and educational goals.” (Alexandria Proclamation, 2005)

Sounds simple enough…a practice all Americans need to embrace, but have they??  

Let’s consider the following facts:

  • Although Millennials may be mini technocrats, their ability to think critically and make informed decisions, however, is woefully lacking.  Recent national studies and report cards consistently point out this fact.
  • Virtually all research and commission studies over the past twenty years conclude that the 21st century skill levels at both the K-12 and college levels, are totally inadequate.
  • Seventy five percent of two-year college students and 29 % of four-year college students end up either in reading, writing, and/or math remedial classes.
  • There are approximately 24,000 U.S. Government websites now online.  Many of them focus on organizational achievements instead of effectively delivering basic information and services.
  • In addition, it’s estimated that today, 84% of U.S. jobs are in the service sector.  Management guru, Peter Drucker, predicted this in 1959 when he coined the term “knowledge worker”.
  • National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) finds that 36 percent of the adult U.S. population has Basic or Below Basic health literacy levels.
  • Low health literacy is a major source of economic inefficiency in the U.S. healthcare system. It costs the U.S. economy in the range of $106 billion to $238 billion annually.
  • The FCC reports that 119 million Americans lack broadband Internet access.
  • And a U.S. Labor Dept. statistic – as of 2016, unfilled job openings, 5.6 million.

These factoids on American life forecast a bleak future for the American people. The economic success of this nation is becoming increasingly dependent on the effective utilization of intangible assets.

Assets such as knowledge, soft skills, dedication, and persistence drive innovation across most industries today.

All things considered, this dependency does remain at the pinnacle of all of our competitive advantage efforts.  And we must learn how to harness that dependency if we intend to retain our current crown as a world power.

Information literacy practice can lead the way.