Take a look at these quotes:
Young people “aren’t as troubled as some of us older folks are by reading that doesn’t go in a line,” said Rand J. Spiro, a professor of educational psychology at Michigan State University 1
Last fall the National Endowment for the Arts issued a sobering report linking flat or declining national reading test scores among teenagers with the slump in the proportion of adolescents who said they read for fun.
Nadia said she wanted to major in English at college and someday hopes to be published. She does not see a problem with reading few books. “No one’s ever said you should read more books to get into college,” she said. 2
Critics of reading on the Internet say they see no evidence that increased Web activity improves reading achievement. “What we are losing in this country and presumably around the world is the sustained, focused, linear attention developed by reading,” said Mr. Gioia of the N.E.A. “I would believe people who tell me that the Internet develops reading if I did not see such a universal decline in reading ability and reading comprehension on virtually all tests.”3
“Reading a book, and taking the time to ruminate and make inferences and engage the imaginational processing, is more cognitively enriching, without doubt, than the short little bits that you might get if you’re into the 30-second digital mode,” said Ken Pugh, a cognitive neuroscientist at Yale
“It takes a long time to read a 400-page book,” said Mr. Spiro of Michigan State. “In a tenth of the time,” he said, the Internet allows a reader to “cover a lot more of the topic from different points of view.”4
“On the Internet, you can hear from a bunch of people,” said Zachary, who will attend Columbia University this fall. “They may not be pedigreed academics. They may be someone in their shed with a conspiracy theory. But you would weigh that.” 5
Though he also likes to read books (earlier this year he finished, and loved, “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand), Zachary craves interaction with fellow readers on the Internet. “The Web is more about a conversation,” he said. “Books are more one-way.” 6
Web readers are persistently weak at judging whether information is trustworthy. In one study, Donald J. Leu, who researches literacy and technology at the University of Connecticut
“Kids are using sound and images so they have a world of ideas to put together that aren’t necessarily language oriented,” said Donna E. Alvermann, a professor of language and literacy education at the University of Georgia 7
In a book, “they go through a lot of details that aren’t really needed,” Hunter said. “Online just gives you what you need, nothing more or less.” 8
Experts on reading difficulties suggest that for struggling readers, the Web may be a better way to glean information. “When you read online there are always graphics,” said Sally Shaywitz, the author of “Overcoming Dyslexia” and a Yale professor. “I think it’s just more comfortable and — I hate to say easier — but it more meets the needs of somebody who might not be a fluent reader.” 9
according to Stephen Denis, product manager at ETS, of the more than 20,000 students who have taken the iSkills test since 2006, only 39 percent of four-year college freshmen achieved a score that represented “core functional levels” in Internet literacy. 10
Web junkies can occasionally be swept up in a book. After Nadia read Elie Wiesel’s Holocaust memoir “Night” in her freshman English class, Ms. Konyk brought home another Holocaust memoir, “I Have Lived a Thousand Years,” by Livia Bitton-Jackson.
Nadia was riveted by heartbreaking details of life in the concentration camps. “I was trying to imagine this and I was like, I can’t do this,” she said. “It was just so — wow.” 11
Hoping to keep up the momentum, Ms. Konyk brought home another book, “Silverboy,” a fantasy novel. Nadia made it through one chapter before she got engrossed in the Internet fan fiction again
All of those quotes are from an NYT article entitled Literacy Debate. I include the link because I was a bit selective in the quotes I chose and I want you all to be able to read the entire thing so that you can see that the selectivity has not slanted the presentation.
Now I want you to read one more quote:
I’ve always been a staunch defender of the web as a source of both entertainment and information, and challenged those who are quick to pooh-pooh the internet as intrinsically inferior. As I began the Times piece, I was preparing a rebuttal against the internet naysayers….
Suddenly, I was pooh-poohing the internet along with its critics. She wants to be an English major, be a writer, and get published?! She can’t even spell dying, or be bothered to use spell-check! She can’t even be bothered to read other books to see what her competition is up to! Never mind that as an English major in college she’ll be required to do much more reading than she ever had to do in high school, and for which she will be unprepared without practice. Whoever’s not telling her that she “should read more books to get into college” is doing her a grave disservice….I realized that mine is the last generation to know what life was like before the internet. The internet was only a baby when I began junior high in the early nineties…” Teresa Jusino over at Pink Raygun
Ms. Jusino has just won Pink Raygun the first ever CROTCHETY OLD FAN AWARD for BEING YOUNG BUT NOT BEING STUPID.
No one ever said you need a walker or a cane, gray hair, no hair or a pacemaker to recognize when a new trend is new-and-stupid as opposed to just being new.
1. books go in a line? All those hoary old English Professors I studied under must be wrong then. They taught me all stories were circular. Hell, even Dhalgren is circular. That novel makes a very fine point of the fact that a circle has no definitive beginning or end. But hell, this guy’s a psychologist and every literary critic knows Freud trumps any work of fiction.
2. Teresa said it well: whoever told this poor benighted girl that fact of life has a lot to answer for. Nadia might still luck out though – there’s plenty of room and employment for vapid, air-headed females.
3. Teresa again: ‘quality’. Damn straight skippy. I caveat with the fact that written tests are not entirely accurate. After all, you have to READ and WRITE to take them…
4. Mr. Spiro – some things are worth working hard for. Bet you never read War and Peace. ‘Cover a lot more of the topic’ – like what? youtube videos?
5. They may not be pedigreed academics but that hardly matters in a world where everyone can have a blog. No wonder Fox News’ rating are so high…
6. Books are more one way Root/core/heart of the problem right there. Books are NOT ‘one way streets’. Without going into a bunch of literary falderol, there’s at least two ‘ways’ – the author’s and the reader’s. The problem with reading on the internet is that the very second the source starts taking you in a direction you might not be interested in or want to go, ‘click’, you’re off to somewhere else. With a book, you have three and only three choices: let the author take you on the trip, throw the book in the crapper or skip that page. You can’t go and find ‘different viewpoints’ (that agree with your own).
Therein lies one of the great problems. The internet allows you to believe that you are well-informed, when all you’ve really done is find a bunch of external sources that confirm what you already believe.
7. Aren’t necessarily language oriented Yeah, well, that’s kind of the one thing we all use to exchange information now, isn’t it? Is this why fast food cash registers have pictures of food and drinks on the buttons instead of numbers? Can you imagine a world post-language?
8. This is my absolute favorite quote from the article: (in a book) they go through a lot of details that aren’t really needed. This is just so wrong-headed, uninformed and ignorant, I can’t even find the words to express myself. Maybe what the troubled publishing industry needs is this guy as an editor. (What I really wanted to say was “How the fuck! does this idiot know?”)
9. I’ve worked with learning disabilities kids and my mother spent a life’s career working with them. She’d be the first to tell you that what we don’t need is ‘ways to make things easier’ – we need ways that enable folks. You don’t carry a wheelchair-bound individual around – you build ramps and lifts so they can get around themselves.
10. TWO THIRDS of college students CAN’T EVEN DO WELL ON A TEST OF INTERNET SKILLS! We are absolutely NOT talking about reading books versus reading on the internet here – we’re talking a complete and utter lack of education and ability on the part of the vast majority of higher education students. They gave up on book reading cause ‘400 pages takes too long, dude’ and ‘there’s lot’s of unnecessary words in there, dude’ and, ‘like, I can sample ten times the idiocy lots easier on da web, man’ – and they can’t even pass a comprehension test when they’re hand fed exactly what they say they’re looking for, using the delivery model that’s tailored to their gnat-sized attention span.
11. Nadia’s summation of her holocaust book read is the perfect end to the horror story that is unfolding all around us. She can’t even express herself beyond an ‘oh wow’.