O NOES teh intertubes R killin ur litracy!!!1 (yes, again)

stacks of booksAnother six months passes, and yet again it’s time to fire up the already-old (and probably unwinnable) argument over whether or not the all-pervasive power of TEH INTERNETS is eroding morals and family values contributing to the decline and fall of the Holy Roman Empire vaguely connected to the perceived decline in literacy in developed nations. [image by austinevan]

To be fair, this New York Times piece is pretty balanced, and the only sensationalist moments it contains are the wild-eyed proclamations of the old guard:

Some traditionalists warn that digital reading is the intellectual equivalent of empty calories. Often, they argue, writers on the Internet employ a cryptic argot that vexes teachers and parents. Zigzagging through a cornucopia of words, pictures, video and sounds, they say, distracts more than strengthens readers. And many youths spend most of their time on the Internet playing games or sending instant messages, activities that involve minimal reading at best.

Right, of course. And if it hadn’t been for the decadent influence of the gramophone, the Great War would never have happened! Damn kids, get off my lawn! And don’t bring up shifting educational standards again – it’s high time you learned not to talk back to your elders!

Sheesh. I expect it’s a case of “seek and you shall find” with these people, to be honest. After all, people have been lamenting the decline of the younger generation since Plato, and we seem to have made it quite a way since then.

What about you, dear readers? Has following Futurismic turned your grey matter green?

5 thoughts on “O NOES teh intertubes R killin ur litracy!!!1 (yes, again)”

  1. I can’t say I really agree 100% to this since all one has to do is look at the parts of the World where education and literacy is in demand. Like for instance places in Africa where textbooks and such were nonexistant the Internet allowed many a classroom of kids to learn how to read and such. Of course, there is the exception where some kids (oddly enough in most developed nations) think that with ONLY the Internet they can sidestep learning the basics. Like…literacy. :p

    I can attest to this as I’ve seen many classmates fall down the cracks of Internet addiction and speaking in tongues (ie. LOLCat speak). My method of avoiding this? Books. Glorious tomes of knowledge and imagination.

  2. Balderdash. When I was just a lad in rural Indiana, I had a small local library and read a lot. Now, my daughter has the entire world, and reads a lot. I frankly don’t see a difference. I couldn’t have written fiction and posted it on fanfiction.net for immediate feedback — it just was impossible for me to participate in a literate community that way. And lest you scoff that fanfiction.net is not a literate community, let me introduce you to Exhibit A: New Castle, Indiana, circa 1975.

    This is just fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the headlong plunge into the future which we all find exhilarating and inevitable.

    Plus, regarding your angst: if there are sites around the Intertubes which contribute to the degradation of our youth, rest assured that Futurismic is not one of those sites.

  3. OK, so Plato was down on the youth of his day, and while we may have made it quite a way since then, we peaked a few decades ago, and are doing the roller-coaster bit now. Consider the failure (dropout, flunk out) rate of most schools. Consider the number of high-school graduates who can write a coherent article (very small), or the number of job applicants whose resumes and applications are filled with errors of spelling and grammar (very large).

    And that’s just here. Let the developed nations take care of themselves.

    The fault lies not in our children, but in our “educators” – almost entirely the teachers unions (in whose pockets Mr Obama seems comfortably situated).

  4. Not refuting what you’re saying, Mike, but I’d be interested to see figures that confirm the decline in concrete terms. There’s a similar observed slump in the UK, but when you look at the numbers it seems to disappear, which gives the nod to the psychologist’s article again. Sure, for example, more kids drop out of high school now – but don’t a higher percentage of kids go to high school in the first place?

  5. Hi Paul,

    I co-opted the title for a panel suggestion on this topic to be held at Philcon (I hope you don’t mind). It made the first cut – and most likely will make the second.

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