Is the web making us illiterate?

Is the web making us illiterate?
(Hello Cuil, er, Quill, er, Kool)

Posted by Chris Matyszczyk
July 28, 2008 12:50 PM PDT original article

The web is helping our children read more. Or less. Or, well, maybe it depends on what you call reading. Because if it’s got spelling mistakes or words no dictionary has caught up with yet, then it’s not really reading, is it?

The New York Times yesterday hosted a spirited debate on the subject. Parents, dyslexics, professors, even children chipped in with their muscular views.

Subtly showing its hand, the Times made sure the article was a very long one. Because, like many other bastions of journalism and literature, it is a newspaper that chooses to uphold certain standards.

Standards that the immature denizens of Silicon Valley have not so much eroded, but positively assaulted with the deadly weapons of speed, ubiquity and a somewhat fetching disregard for antiquity.

Personally, I would rather be around someone who is curious about the world than someone who believes Mongolia is where retarded children come from.

Can anyone truly dispute that the web has given people a greater and more immediate ability to hug a little knowledge?

(Credit: CC Benimoto)

So it seems that what many critics are concerned about is precisely the kind of knowledge and reading habits children acquire during a surfing expedition.

Perhaps one thing the web has exposed is that some so-called works of literature are, frankly, verging on the really quite awful.

Just as we have been hyped by burger chains and erectile malfunction cures, we have been hyped by literary guardians.

One tome is essential. Another is a lesser work. But so many are very hard work indeed. When you’re told something is fabulous and wonderful and stupendous, even when you find it not so, it isn’t so easy to declare your opinion.

(Look, I’m sorry, but Eugene O’Neill’s plays are turgid tripe. And don’t get me started on Chekov and James Joyce. There, that’s better.)

Perhaps there will soon come a time when reading a book for today’s 12-year-olds will be as arduous as picking up the tiniest Chaucer and seeing if you can get past page one.

Just because one generation was inculcated into the 400-page habit doesn’t mean another can’t find its own way to learn, grow, feel and any other New Agey term you might wish to use to indicate some level of progression.

Deal with it, olds.

So you love Emily Bronte. That’s OK. Don’t blame yourselves. It doesn’t mean that should be anyone else’s idea of literature. Or art. Or knowledge. It can even be someone else’s idea of bilge. And they could be right.

There again, of all the names a Google rival could have come up with to name their new brand, they find one that you have to learn how to pronounce and that is a mere consonant away from something very rude indeed.

Where did these people go to college? Chico State?

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