The European historical tradition of neo-humanism was influential for the development of education systems in many countries worldwide. This chapter discusses notions of 'literacy' and language that are embedded in European philosophical and educational traditions. It focuses on one specific discourse of public dissatisfaction with the results of education and schooling which deals with the metaphor of '21st century skills and competences.' The chapter shows that literacy is a fundamental, but not purposefully pursued element of the perceptions of appropriate educational outcomes. In view of the high relevance of literacy and language capabilities, a glance in the actual language reality appears worthwhile, because this stimulates considerations about general prerequisites for language acquisition and the development of literacy which children bring to school. Linguistic diversity is a global reality: 2,500 languages are considered to be 'vigorous', enjoying vital face-to-face use in daily life by all generations, highly standardized, present in various kinds of literature and media–and so forth.