|Sometimes I really question whether we're sisters. I know you love research, but some of us, myself included, find studies and statistics boring. And tedious.|
|Ah, but at least you can read and understand them; you just do not want to. Huge difference.|
|Good point. Although I do struggle with statistics as, unlike you, I've never been comfortable with numbers.|
|Is this going to be one of those philosophical conversations, or do you have something specific in mind? And, FYI, having skill with numbers and mathematics is called numeracy.|
|Whatever. Although I'm guessing numeracy falls under the umbrella of literacy. And, yes, I'll admit that, until recently, I thought "literacy" just meant the ability to read and write.|
|Most people do, which is understandable since it is the dictionary definition. I will not quote statistics on how many people do not have those basic skills, but even if you do, it does not mean you know how to apply them to ask questions, get information, and make informed decisions. That is functional literacy.|
|Even though I was a straight-A student with a college degree, that's one of the first things you had to teach me when I had my "crisis". So, why do I feel like I'm about to become a poster child for illiteracy?!|
|I hate the word "illiteracy" as it has a negative connotation of being ignorant or uneducated when, in reality, it probably is never having been exposed to the subject matter and/or recognizing its importance.|
|Like me when it came to money. I was 40+ years old and not only didn't know how to budget, I never even thought about why it was important. But it wasn't until we were asked to develop and teach a personal finance course at KIPP Houston High School that we learned it's called "financial literacy." At the time, I thought it was the education world using an impressive-sounding phrase instead of being more straightforward.|
|Terminology aside, financial literacy is about making informed financial decisions. Regardless of your financial situation, as I have proven. Remember, early in my career, I almost declared bankruptcy because I did not apply what I learned in business school and the corporate world to my finances.|
|That story always seems to resonate with so many people, myself included. Especially if we're looking for a reason, or
at least an excuse, for not knowing what we should know. I used to think,
"Ignorance is bliss." Until you made me
understand that what I don't know can hurt me. And my family. |
|It is even more far-reaching as there is a ripple effect on communities and cities, and so on. Before reading Houston's Adult Literacy Blueprint, the joint initiative between the Mayor's Office of Adult Literacy (when created in 2019, the only office of its kind in the nation) and the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation, I never realized the impact of literacy – including financial, digital, and health literacy.|
|I admit that when you sent me the Executive Summary, I only looked at the quotes and sentences that "pop out" from the rest of the text. But, even so, I was truly shocked to learn that one in three adults in Houston lacks the necessary skills to fully participate in the workplace and society! And when I saw the "What is functional literacy?" diagram, I not only didn't even know what digital and health literacy meant, I was almost too embarrassed to ask.|
|Hence the purpose of the Blueprint. It is a strategic plan to ensure more adults acquire the literacy skills they need to succeed in the workplace and in life, but also is a document to raise awareness of the issues.|
|Be honest. Besides people like you, how many will read the summary, let alone the full report?|
|For organizations or companies addressing the problem, it is a valuable document. If you are looking for employees or are interested in breaking the cycle of poverty, it will be of interest. Or, maybe you merely need documentation to satisfy people who want "proof" or supporting backup about the importance of literacy.|
|But isn't it important for all of us to understand the importance of literacy since it impacts all of us?|
|Yes. But, as you said, it is unlikely people will read the studies. Good news is September is Adult & Family Literacy Month, and that should help increase awareness. So, how did you find out more about digital literacy? And, I am talking about the concept, not you personally, as I know that in an ideal world, you would never have to deal with technology, whether your computer or your cell phone. Although you have become more tech-savvy than you realize.|
|Until we met with Jackie Aguilera from the Mayor's Office of Adult Literacy, I never thought about how you need basic digital skills (such as emails and other communication tools, using the internet, and even the ability to get on a Zoom call) not only to be able to get a job and move up the ladder but now, thanks to the pandemic, to attend online classes.|
|Plus, using the internet means you need the ability to find and understand information, especially to make sure it is accurate and credible. Unfortunately, so many people repeat whatever they find, thinking it must be true.|
|That's a topic onto itself. But let's face it, not everyone's as critical as you.|
|You say that like it is a bad thing.|
|Cute. But lately, there's no shortage of conflicting information, whether on the internet or in the media. And it's confusing. For example, the COVID-19 vaccines. Which brings up health literacy. Again, I didn't know what it meant until Jackie explained it could be something as basic as the instructions on a prescription or the nutritional information on food packages, but it's all part of understanding general health information and services to be able to make smart decisions.|
|Even I find health issues confusing. Too many moving parts to our body and, like a car, so many things that affect its performance.|
|Of source, a car analogy! Well, it turns out that I'm health literate and I didn't even know it. Who knew that all those years asking questions about the girls' health issues – ranging from routine ailments like colds and stomach aches to sports injuries and reading challenges – to the more complicated and long-term issues that first daddy and now mommy faced – were all part of my "training" in being health literate?!|
|Yes, but remember when it specifically came to health insurance, you initially needed plenty of help deciphering it. Until you realized it followed the same formula as everything else … ask questions, get information, make informed decisions.|
|The funny thing is that, at first, when it was financial matters, I didn't think I could do it. But once I tried, I realized I could. Which then gave me the confidence – and motivation – to tackle other topics. Now we just need to tell more people about the power of literacy and how it can be a blueprint for life.|
|We just did.|
Want to read other columns? Here's a list.
When Red first heard Black talking about the importance of "soft skills," she didn't even know what she was referring to, let alone that they would be important to her life. So, Black explained that it was a term used to describe intangible but essential skills, such as critical thinking and problem-solving, communications, and conflict management.
Red, trying to be sarcastic, then asked if there was such a thing as “hard skills,” Black matter-of-factly told her those are tangible and technical skills such as computer skills.
Of course, Black couldn’t pass up an opportunity for sarcasm and explained that although there’s consensus about the importance of soft skills, there’s debate about what they should be called, with her favorite being the Texas Education Agency (TEA) calling them "21st Century Skills" – although she's old enough to remember they were important in the 20th Century, too.
But would anyone call them “Mom Skills”? Well, Red couldn’t help but remember the time Black told her, “Your job is every bit as demanding as a corporate position, and, in fact, you use many of the same skill sets.”Not something Red could ever have imagined, but it made sense once she better understood what soft skills are and how they are used. But then Black took it a step further,
Soft skills are transferable – between your personal life and the workplace (and from industry to industry). If you recognize that interpersonal relations have existed since Adam and Eve (or “caveman” days), and technical skills are constantly changing and there is no way to predict the careers of the future … it is easy to see why soft skills will always be needed.
It's funny, but now that Red’s familiar with soft skills, she not only recognizes them in day-to-day living but sees the impact they have (and the problems caused when they’re lacking). Our new website may not have SOFT SKILLS as a major section, but since it’s one of Black's passion projects, it will have a special place.
Until then, here are some of our favorite posts showing how soft skills affect us on a daily basis (OK, the Ferrari one about negotiating skills may not affect many people, but the message will):
- COLLEGE & SOFT SKILLS: My son’s going off to college but doesn’t know what he wants to study …
- COMMUNICATION: How Do You Communicate? Blah-Blah-Blah Or Bullet Points?
- CUSTOMER SERVICE: RED & BLACK … May I Help You?
- LEADERSHIP: RED & BLACK … Leaders All Around Us
- MOM SKILLS: Translating Mom Responsibilities
- PERSUASION SKILLS: The Fact Is … Don’t Use Facts
- NEGOTIATING SKILLS: A Perfect Day For A Convertible. And For Chutzpah.
- PROBLEM-SOLVING: One Person’s Problem … Is Another’s Challenge?!
- SPOT THE SOFT SKILLS: Selfish, Shallow … And Svelte?
Red was your typical straight-A student, getting great grades starting in kindergarten straight through to graduating from college.(Black’s grades were less than stellar, plus she was a discipline problem – some things never change.) And then, excited and proud of herself, Red thought she was done. Black, on the other hand, thinks of education as something that never ends, and much to the chagrin of students, will tell them,
Homework never ends; it just is called “research” when you get older.
Over the last few years, Red has come around to Black’s way of thinking and realizes it’s a mindset. And that education is more than the classes you take in school.
September is when students of all ages are back in school, but it’s also National Literacy Month, which is about so much more than reading and writing. Literacy includes things like Digital Literacy, Financial Literacy, Health Literacy, and even News Literacy. (As the linked Conversation Starters indicate, Red was the “poster child” of a highly educated person who lacked many of these basic literacy skills.)
So, we challenge you to find a topic that interests you or one you could benefit from learning (personally or professionally) and start doing your homework.
And while not a homework assignment, we figure if you’re still reading, you might be interested in some of our favorite “lifelong learning” posts (many of which helped Red learn about learning in a whole new way).
For many of us, Labor Day marks the end of summer (temperatures aside), and as we switch from a summer holiday mindset back to the “real world”, we can’t help but feel overwhelmed.
You don’t need us to tell you how falling back into a work or school routine can be challenging, especially if you’re facing a backlog of tasks and responsibilities. And, if that wasn’t bad enough, the “silly season” is just around the corner. (Red has been seeing Halloween decorations since mid-July, which means Thanksgiving and all the winter holidays aren’t far behind.)
But you don’t need us to tell you why you feel overwhelmed; you need help dealing with being overwhelmed.
When our new website goes live next year, one of the major sections will be THE DAILY HELP, where you’ll find easy-to-implement tools to get your day back on track and feel more in control.
But that doesn’t help you … NOW. So, here are a handful of our favorite posts to help you deal with daily challenges we all face. (Red admits that she picked the ones she felt she needed to reread.)
- Black’s Time Management “Secret” ... Is Worth Repeating (Time Management)
- It's happened again ... I can’t see my desk there’s so much paper on it. Help! (Piles of Paper)
- How Do You Communicate? Blah-Blah-Blah Or Bullet Points? (Communication)
- Expect Reality, Not Perfection (Relationships)
- Don’t Confuse Time Alone With Time Away! (Stress)
P.S. – Wondering why we haven’t mentioned money? Well, stay tuned, as we’ll have a post dedicated to DOLLARS & SENSE in early November as we get closer to the holidays. (FYI, our subscribers get sneak peeks before we post online.)