Do you still read books?

16 02 2010

This rather depressing clip goes with the program that I was watching last night:




2 responses

16 02 2010

I saw this clip last night! [Thanks for the original link, btw.]

It appeared amidst the site-debate about whether the kid in the documentary actually was able to “read” Romeo & Juliet in five minutes on the web.

I was disheartened by the pro-digital crowd arguing that reading a summary in five minutes was THE SAME AS reading the entire work, as if …

1- the whole work wasn’t assigned to be read for a reason,

2- that it was necessary to experience the entire work to be able to discuss it and understand it,

3- that just knowing the talking points of a work of literature (or art or *ahem* video game) is NOT THE SAME AS experiencing the whole thing.

It seems clear that a lot of people just don’t get it.

I think commenter Jason Archibald said it best:

“I think you are looking at the issues too narrowly. It may be more efficient to read a summary and have a quick chat about something than to read an entire novel in terms of being able to report on what the book is about. However, reading the novel and producing one’s own understanding of the work exercises the mind and increases the individual’s ability and patience for doing such things. If I need a jug of milk, it’s faster to take my car than to walk… but I won’t be getting the same amount of exercise. While exercise is not directly related to getting milk, it’s a side benefit that greatly enhances my well-being. I think that, in the same way, relying too much on instant bits of information from the internet will make a person dependent on that easy source of info, make him less willing to dig through something like a novel, and less able to come up with his own reaction to the world around him.”

I also think this is part of the trend that many of us who taught at the college level have been finding: Lots of college students want someone else to do their thinking for them. Why think when all you need to do is Google and use the first page of links that pop up?

17 02 2010

I fought this as a high school English teacher also. Students are so focused on knowing the facts and getting the test questions right that they are missing the big picture–literature teaches one to THINK and ANALYZE. Knowing just the key facts or talking points doesn’t help one learn empathy, relationship skills, or the universiality of our experiences. So many students are actually bragging that they are able to get through their school years without reading one single book all the way through, and it is heartbreaking because they are simply cheating themselves.

I am proud to say I do read books of all genres. I just finished reading Stephen King’s _On_Writing_ and he mentions in it that he reads 70 to 80 books a year. A book a week is my goal for 2010.

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