Saturday, September 17, 2011

Literary Responsibility in the Digital Age

After reading Across the digital divide , a blog post about poverty and the digital age, I started to wonder: Am I a digital elitist?

I love my Nook. I do, and I know some of you might stop reading because of that one sentence, and that’s fine. It’s not like I’ve stopped buying print books. Actually, I have several books in both e and print format. It’s that I’m a forgetful person. I tend to find myself sitting in the pickup line at school, wishing I had brought the latest book from the To Be Read pile. My Nook is like my netbook. It’s always in my bag. Now, I am never without a book to read. It’s also handy when I’m doing critiques for my writer buddies.

After reading the above mentioned blog, I started to think about how this fast moving train into the digital age really has the potential to prevent some of our countrymen from advancing their lot in life. And, because you know I love lists, here are a few reasons why. (I should add that, while I can find all kinds of articles that support my OPINION, there are even more out there that support the other side. This is my blog, and thus my thoughts. You are free to disagree with me, and I always welcome opposing viewpoints, but please keep it civil!)

1. Eliminating cursive writing in the schools. BAD IDEA. I’m not an expert in linguistics or psychology, but I am willing to bet the teaching cursive writing has a positive correlation with reading ability. The more a kid studies the letter, the more they write the letters and form words has to have influence on not only reading speed, but also comprehension. I’m a fast reader. I mean fast. When I was in 8th grade, we had reading class once a week and we read those short stories and then answered the comprehension questions. Then, once our minds were turning, we would take a speed reading test. I aced that class. I couldn’t get enough of it. Yes, the stories were often lame and it was the one time I found myself leaning toward non-fiction pieces over fiction, but I got to sit in class for 90 minutes and read. I should also mention that, while I don’t show people my handwritten work often, I normally get compliments on my cursive writing once a week, if not more. After a quick Google search, I found several articles to back up my claim. Here’s one that talks about the writing-reading relationship.. On a personal note, my kids will be learning cursive, no matter what. As a fan of dystopian, I know, one day, the world is going to plunge into turmoil, society will collapse and eventually non-electronic communication will be difficult to come by. My future generations are going to make a killing by sending and reading letters for people!

2. Removing print books from schools and issuing each student an iPad in an effort to save money. This actually sounds good, at first. With school budgets being slashed, our schools must come up with ways to stay academically viable on a shoestring budget, though I would question how purchasing, even a discounted iPad could be cheaper than handing down used books from class to class. But here’s the problem. What happens when Tommy, a seventh grader, drops his iPad. Or worse yet, what if it’s stolen. Since Tommy’s dad just lost his IT job and they’re living paycheck to paycheck on his mom’s nursing income, can they afford to pay for the replacement? If not, does that mean Tommy can’t complete his homework assignment? It’s not like he can handwrite the five page paper that’s due on Friday because he never learned cursive in the first place and his print writing is horrid. And forget studying for a test. How’s he supposed to read the information? It’s on the missing iPad.

3. Just as, in my opinion, handwriting is an art, so is studying. I remember learning the a couple of different study methods when I was in middle school and let me tell you, all of them involved books and writing. Now, I’m sure there will be new methods developed that don’t require such rudimentary tools, but until then, what is little Tommy’s family supposed to tell him? Sorry son… I guess you’ll have to wait until college to learn anything? (Assuming Tommy can afford college after having to replace the iPad.)

4. Finally, the digital age and libraries. Do you know that there are people who actually want to do away with libraries? And then there’s the camp that says, “Sure, keep the library, but just do away with the books and make everything digital.” I’m not much for grabbing a pitch fork and torch, but those people would probably be at the top of the “To Do” list if it ever comes to that. Because here’s where little Tommy has a chance to survive school. He can go to the library and use the computer to turn in that assignment. He can ask the resource desk to do an inter-library loan to get the textbooks he’s lost. After all, there are probably going to be some communities where the parents are going to stand up and demand that some of the fundamentals of education still be observed. At the very least, they can be ordered from Half.com.

5. One more, mainly because I can’t resist. It turns out, when (and if) little Tommy goes to college a lot of professor prefer students NOT bring their iPads and laptops to class. *collective gasp* I know you’re wondering if I’m making it up. I’m not. In addition to being a great educational tool, these electronic devices can also hook up to the internet, giving students the opportunity to completely tune out a boring Western Civ lecture by watching videos of cats and dolphins playing together. They can also download apps, like Angry Birds and Farmville, which, in my opinion, would have made my math classes go by a lot faster! Hmmm… I wonder if the same thing could happen in Tommy’s seventh grade class… what’s the teacher going to do? Take away his game, I mean textbook? Yeah, that will go over well. Parents just LOVE it when you pick on their kids!

Please don’t mistake that I’m saying technology in schools is bad. It’s not. We live in a world that is run by man and machine. I just don’t think we should embrace the future by pretending the skills upon which our society was built are now obsolete. And we certainly shouldn’t do it until we can ensure that everyone, from the richest or the rich and the poorest of the poor, has a chance to live the American dream!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, the expanded version of Stephen King’s The Stand is waiting for me on the Nook. (No way am I lugging that book around in print! Though, if I ever run into one of those down with library creeps, it could come in handy!) Regardless of technological preferences, always BE PASSIONATE about your life and future!

3 comments:

  1. I agree with each and every point you made! I would never want anyone to replace books, newspapers, or anything else with technology. I can't explain why, but it just seems wrong that humans feel the need to have computers replace everything. Just because they can doesn't mean they should. Great post!

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  2. I still don't understand why anyone would want to drop cursive. Archaic maybe, but I think you're on to something about the correlation between writing and reading.

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  3. I will say you are not alone, I love my Nook (and I am constantly scrutinized for me love of a non book).
    I don't want people to remove books or newspapers because you're right we don't live in an equal society. The internet isn't even equal, you seem to need wireless and not dial-up to get anything done. Bravo for the post!

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