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Fahrenheit 451, anyone?
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MsFrisby



Joined: 09 Jul 2006
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 20, 2006 2:20 pm    Post subject: Fahrenheit 451, anyone? Reply with quote

Quote:
What is the worth of words?
Will it matter if people can’t read in the future?
By Michael Rogers

Updated: 10:45 a.m. MT Sept 14, 2006

“Literacy experts and educators say they are stunned by the results of a recent adult literacy assessment, which shows that the reading proficiency of college graduates has declined in the past decade, with no obvious explanation.

“’It's appalling -- it's really astounding,’ said Michael Gorman, president of the American Library Association and a librarian at California State University at Fresno. ‘Only 31 percent of college graduates can read a complex book and extrapolate from it. That's not saying much for the remainder.’”

--The Washington Post, December 25, 2005


December 25, 2025 — Educational doomsayers are again up in arms at a new adult literacy study showing that less than 5 percent of college graduates can read a complex book and extrapolate from it.

The obsessive measurement of long-form literacy is once more being used to flail an education trend that is in fact going in just the right direction. Today’s young people are not able to read and understand long stretches of text simply because in most cases they won’t ever need to do so.

It’s time to acknowledge that in a truly multimedia environment of 2025, most Americans don’t need to understand more than a hundred or so words at a time, and certainly will never read anything approaching the length of an old-fashioned book. We need a frank reassessment of where long-form literacy itself lies in the spectrum of skills that a modern nation requires of its workers.

We’re not talking about complete illiteracy, which is most certainly not a good thing. Young people today, however, have plenty of literacy for everyday activities such as reading signs and package labels, and writing brief e-mails and text messages that don’t require accurate spelling or grammar.

Text labels also remain a useful way to navigate Web sites, although increasingly site design has evolved toward icons and audio prompts. Managers, in turn, have learned to use audio or video messaging as much as possible with workers, and to make sure that no text message ever contains more than one idea.

In 2025, when a worker actually needs to work with text, easy-to-use dictation, autoparsing and text-to-speech software allows him or her to create, edit and listen to documents without relying on extensive written skills. And any media analyst on Wall Street will confirm that the vast majority of Americans now consume virtually all of their entertainment and information through multimedia channels in which text is either optional or unnecessary.

In both the 19th and 20th centuries, the ability to read long texts was seen as an unquestioned social good. And back then, the prescription made sense: media technology was limited and in order to take part in both society and workplace, the ability to read books and long articles seemed essential. In 2025, higher-level literacy is probably necessary for only 10 percent of the American population.

It’s worth keeping in mind that reading itself is an inherently artificial human activity, an invention that in evolutionary terms has existed only for a blink of an eye. School districts have wasted billions of dollars in recent decades to correct “reading disabilities” when in fact there is no such thing as “reading ability” to start with. Reading is an artificial construct that is of high value for a very limited set human activities — but by no means all activities.

There is no question that reading is a desirable and often enjoyable skill to possess. In 2025, tens of millions of Americans continue to enjoy books and magazines as recreational pursuits, and this happy habit will undoubtedly remain part of the landscape for generations to come. But just as every citizen is not forcibly trained to enjoy classical music, neither should they be coerced into believing that reading is necessarily pleasurable. For the majority of students, reading and writing are difficult enterprises with limited payoffs in the modern world.

Some positions in society do require significant literacy skills: senior managers, screenwriters, scientists and others need a highly efficient way to absorb and communicate abstract thought. A broad written vocabulary and strong compositional skills are also powerful ways to organize and plan large enterprises, whether that means launching a new product, making a movie or creating legislation. But for the vast number of the workers who actually carry out those plans, the same skills are far less crucial. The nation’s leaders must be able to read; for those who follow, the ability should be strictly optional.

We have made at least two generations of American children miserable trying to teach them a skill that only a small percentage of them really need. And we have wasted billions of dollars that might well have gone for more practical education and training.

In 2025 it’s time to put reading into perspective for the remainder of the 21st century: it is a luxury, not a necessity!


http://msnbc.msn.com/id/14823087/?GT1=8506

Less than a third of college graduates can read a complex book and then talk about the meanings contained? Sad
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Celaeno



Joined: 09 Jul 2006
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 20, 2006 3:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've been in English classes with business and engineering majors.* It's true.

The article made me sad, but this part actually surprised me:
Quote:
Managers, in turn, have learned to use audio or video messaging as much as possible with workers, and to make sure that no text message ever contains more than one idea.


*I'm not saying that all business and engineering majors can't read; it's just that the ones who did the most poorly in the class were invariably from one of the two schools.
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Xavyor



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PostPosted: Wed Sep 20, 2006 5:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I noticed this a couple of years back with myself. I read full books every so often and I enjoy reading them but I can't recover the plot or details later without some prodding. The information went in and if someone talks about something that happened I'll be able to contribute somewhat to a conversation about it but if someone who hasn't read the book asks me about the plot I sometimes have problems even piecing the whole thing together.
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kame



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PostPosted: Wed Sep 20, 2006 5:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's more or less retention, and that's more closely tied to memory. If you can read it, and understand it, you're all right. I've read dozens of books that I can barely recall the plot details.
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rm



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PostPosted: Wed Sep 20, 2006 10:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

plot details are one thing. in a really good book the plot sort of disappears anyway. it's all about the meaning, and it is this country's critical analysis skills that are in the toilet, and have been for a long time as far as I am concerned.
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jsimpleton



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PostPosted: Wed Sep 20, 2006 10:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

what's a complex book?
i've read philosophy books that were extremely complex, but i'm guessing its because of the lexicons
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rm



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PostPosted: Wed Sep 20, 2006 10:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

to me a complex book is one that can be read into in a variety of ways. it has nothing to do with the vocabulary. there are no ten dollar words in crime and punishment, but it is a complex book.
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Darqcyde



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PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2006 12:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wonder if this would count:



I remember it mind fucking most of my 11th grade honors english class in high school. I'm not saying that it would give trouble to 69% of college students, but I wouldn't be suprised if it were still in the 50% range. Or were they referring to more traditional classics like Heart of Darkness or Lord of the Flies or, as was suggested above, were they referring to works more along philisophical lines such as anything by Nietzche or Dostoyevsky. I'm extremely curious as to what they used as their benchmark for complex.

I wonder what, if any, correlation could be extrapolated between this and the seeming decline in social interest and active participation in the US political system.
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Darqcyde



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PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2006 12:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Twisted Evil
Maybe they used the Bible?
Twisted Evil
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rm



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PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2006 1:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

the goddamn problem is that no one teaches people how to think. if you can describe how the book made you feel and summerize a plot then you pass, and that's bullshit. and I'm talking about in early grade school. it has to start there. they test kids all the time to see where their reading and comprehension levels are but they don't do anything to raise those levels. if you score high you get to read more complex books, or go into a gifted program. but scoring high is like, being normal, in my opinion. I was put at a 12+ grade reading level in third fucking grade. so, what did I do? I tried to read the sound and the fury. needless to say I didn't understand it. I needed someone to help me, but there wasn't anyone. I realize now that none of my teachers, probably through highschool, had ever read faulkner. I don't even know why it was in the library. the system is fucked from the very center out. if you're lucky, if you are the rare individual who sees the inherent value of knowledge, then you don't give up and can maybe teach yourself some things. I don't mean to bash teachers. I know there are many fine ones out there, but I never met one until college. it also helps to have involved and intelligent parents. anyway, it boils down to teaching. everyone's happy if you can read at all. who needs all that literature? it doesn't get you a job at verizon.
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Major Tom



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PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2006 1:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

rm wrote:
who needs all that literature? it doesn't get you a job at verizon.


but it fills many a forum...






...and that means ad revenue
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AfyonBlade



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PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2006 1:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The system is definitely flawed, and with sub-par English teachers(write THIS way, he means THIS, etc.) it really only gets worse. However, I don't think that 'School districts have wasted billions of dollars in recent decades to correct “reading disabilities” when in fact there is no such thing as “reading ability” to start with.' Sure, a technician working on fridges doesn't need to comprehend Heinlein, but when it comes to children in schools, they need to be able to decipher the freaking language.
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jsimpleton



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PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2006 1:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Darqcyde wrote:
Twisted Evil
Maybe they used the Bible?
Twisted Evil


yea, i don't understand the bible at all. Its a very deep book... or poorly written. Either way its complex
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Amilam



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PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2006 2:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A teacher only has students for a few hours a week. You're not going to make meaningful change that way. The problem is people are so absorbed by mass media entertainment (there are countless studies showing a negative correlation between time spent watching television or playing video games and literacy) that they don't spend time developing any other critical thinking skills. With Americans on average spending less and less time reading it’s no surprise that the critical reasoning abilities associated with it would suffer.
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AfyonBlade



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PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2006 2:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

True. TV is probably a good place to start with the blame.
Though, a few hours a week? I spent more time with my teachers than I did with my mother at home in any given week. Teachers have the ability to make a HUGE difference, and especially in grade school, where you're learning to read, still kind of working your way up, something happens where most kids just lose interest. It could be cooties, or it could be that the way reading is approached in school is pretty sucky.
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