Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ridiculous similes that speak alarmingly true to life

In the most recent episode of Family Guy, Brian (yes, the dog) told a ditzy text-messaging girl that he wrote a book. She stared blankly into her phone then looked up briefly to ask what a book is. He said it was like a long magazine. Seeing she was still confused, he told her "it's like the internet made out of a tree."

As funny and ridiculous as this is, it speaks alarmingly true to the current state of literacy in our country. Most of my students, if they do enjoy to read, have only read Twilight or the SparkNotes versions of books they have been assigned over the past few years in school.

Never have they ventured to the library and ransacked the thousands- to- millions of books waiting for their imaginations. Most of them would be content to read nothing at all and write nothing at all. Most don't see the point to it, especially since they are convinced (and this is a quote the majority of two of my classes agreed with) that "newspapers don't matter nowadays. We can just watch TV. We don't have to read anymore."

Have we really become so technologically independent and dependent that we're foregoing reading and newspapers have become obsolete? If so, have reporting, researching, investigation and discovery also become outdated and obsolete? Many would argue so, especially in my grades.

Hopefully this can be reversed somehow. Perhaps our technology is already growing beyond our bounds. We know that many stores are foregoing any other type of advertising and focusing solely on the internet as the media outlet to grab the most potential customers, but newspapers are updating news online, but most do not charge a subscription fee to view their news.

Are they just gypping themselves? Are they on a downward spiral into bankruptcy and eventually antiquity?

The implications for this particularly pertain to me, though. As an English teacher, had I been teaching in the 1980s I might have made the argument for any student who wanted to be a newspaper reporter, that they need to pay particular attention to class and much excel at writing, editing and researching. Nowadays, my students wonder aloud when they will ever need to know researching skills, and why newspapers are still around, and why we don't allow them to use their computers and/or phones in the classroom?

Should we allow computers and phones in the classroom as tools to enhance the classroom? What about augment the traditional classroom in favor of one solely based on the internet and in technology? Should magazines, the internet, and other resources be focused upon instead of novels and textbooks?

If our students refuse to pick up a book because it 1) takes too long to read 2) is boring 3) doesn't make sense, have we failed as teachers or have we moved the base point somewhere to the sides? Do teachers need to change the way we teach because the culture has changed, or should we fight it and try to save reading and literacy in a culture which seems to care less about intelligence and expression and more about entertainment and indifference?

If I read a book and no one is around to see me read it, was it ever read?

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