The LOST Arts of Reading and Communicating

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Philip
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The LOST Arts of Reading and Communicating

#1

Post by Philip » Wed Jan 16, 2013 2:15 pm

Clearly, most of us regulars on this forum have a love of language, writing and reading. We understand that one must typically dig into often-complicated and lengthy materials before we can get a reasonable handle upon the issues, the connections within, and a rightful response to them. Certainly this is true of the Bible as well as of many other types of writing.

But an immense and growing problem I'm seeing is that people simply don't want to read. :( Typically, many often find it boring or simply don't have the patience for it. This has always been true to an extent. But what I really find frightening is the fast societal growth of those with this mentality - as it is increasingly a seismic generational divide. The generation that now avoids phone calls like the plague won't even email (initiating or in response to one), as they would rather thumb in two sentences (if THAT) of text - this generation is far less literate and much less likely to read anything that they can't find online or an electronic "Cliff Notes" version of. Yes, some do download books via Kindle, etc. But my point is that in-depth analysis, which requires patiently reading and absorbing, is in great danger of becoming a lost art. This is extremely dangerous to decision making and adequately understanding the issues. And we wonder why newspapers are an endangered specie of communication?

Don't want to be a fuddy duddy (I'm only 55 :D - don't laugh!). Technology is fabulous, and I embrace it! But reading ability/analysis and quality communication rates are plummeting. I ask my son to make a proactive phone call, so as to send and subsequently/and PROMPTLY receive an urgent or much-needed message, and he looks at me as if I'm crazy or as if I'm asking him to transgress some universal societal taboo. Ask him to read a few chapters in a book - he's ready to call child services. Yes, times change, and technology is driving much of this problem. But, man, our future is going to be filled with many exceptional train-wrecks involving what the famous line in "Cool Hand Luke" so famously stated: "What we've got here is failure to communicate!"

Thanks for letting me get this off of my chest - and I'm sure I'm not the only one that worries about this worrisome trend. My response: I'm trying to teach MY kids to not let these disturbing trends keep them from being good readers/analyzers and communicators - but it's an uphill battle!

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Re: The LOST Arts of Reading and Communicating

#2

Post by Icthus » Wed Jan 16, 2013 3:40 pm

As an English teacher, I completely agree; reading and writing skills often seem to be in pretty bad shape today. I teach at a state university, and the extent to which the bulk of my students are unable to communicate in writing, organize ideas, form coherent paragraphs, think critically, etc. is depressing at times. I'd like to add logic and rhetoric to the list of "lost arts" as well.
“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.” -G.K. Chesterton

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Re: The LOST Arts of Reading and Communicating

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Post by Canuckster1127 » Wed Jan 16, 2013 3:55 pm

It's not entirely new. Before the new technologies, people complained that people read too much shallow books like romances and not the classics.

I grew up with a love of reading. Even as a young teenager, I read philosophy and history and my pleasure reading tended to be authors like Tolkien, Lewis, Frank Herbert etc.

While reading is a key part of it, what I find more disturbing is not so much the medium in which it's delivered, but the overall lack of critical thinking skills in a lot of educational circles. I grew up in Canada in the educational system there before I came to the US at the age of 15. The key difference I found than was that a lot of the education in the US that I took part in was simply regurgitating facts and information. In Canada, it wasn't enough to do that, you had to write in essay form, an interaction with those facts and demonstrate that you understood it and could apply it to come to your own conclusions or support an argument.

I'm not saying that US education is wrong, but that was something that really stood out to me making the switch in mid High-School at that time in the late 1970s.
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Re: The LOST Arts of Reading and Communicating

#4

Post by Philip » Wed Jan 16, 2013 7:25 pm

the overall lack of critical thinking skills

a lot of the education in the US that I took part in was simply regurgitating facts and information

an interaction with those facts and demonstrate that you understood it and could apply it to come to your own conclusions or support an argument
Boom, boom, BOOM!Canuckster absolutely nailed it!

HUGE pet peeve of mine is that our U.S. schools so often are trying to justify their keep by seeing who is best at memorization of often completely irrelevant "facts" of names, dates and places. I don't care what what date some general won a war, I want to know, what led up to the war, WHY IT MATTERED who won, and what the subsequent repercussions were, what's the lasting impact or influence. High School and even a ton of university curriculums are filled with irrelevant equivalents of "Trivial Pursuit," and in which the answers are all neatly packaged in multiple choice tests. Why, because they are much faster and easier for some grad student to grade (don't even think a professor actually teaches most first and second year classes). Test over, grades in, three weeks later, most of those that aced the test couldn't still tell you most of the answers. Why? Because short-term memorization doesn't last. And the tests are interspersed with by tons of "busy work" that is the equivalent of a pointless "jumping through hoops."

And because kids so often aren't expected to produce the facts and then build a conclusion from them, they don't know how to. I see kids online, all the time, arguing to connect A to Z, yet without any connective, factual evidences in between. They just think they can connect A to Z without any supportive facts or traceable connectivity. And they typically don't understand the differences between facts and pseudo evidences. Often emotion and feelings are given far more weight than any untidy facts. When I was a kid, I used to think that very basic logic was mostly common sense. If so, it's far from common nowadays. How many times do people make comments which include, "I feel that ..."; "I've heard ..."; "That seems ..."; "Well, I believe ..."; "People say ..."? They think emotional thinking is as valid as stating facts. Scary!

Fortunately, I had very tough classes in earning my journalism degree. Lots of logic. I even had to take algebra, supposedly because it encourages the logical processing of information (or :x :evil: the tossing of the course book, multiple times, across the room, with more than a few, choice, R-rated words).

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Re: The LOST Arts of Reading and Communicating

#5

Post by narnia4 » Wed Jan 16, 2013 11:09 pm

My opinion is that the easiest way by far is instilling a love of literature and stories through the parents/family at as young an age as possible. Once you have to force teens or even college students to read even relatively simple stuff, you've lost half the battle. Tolkien and Lewis are a couple of great ones to get kids interested in reading, both were huge influences for me at least. I read The Lord of the Rings before I was a teen and watched friends as or more intelligent than I struggle to read it years later because they liked the movies, struggle and fail. College friends stop at The Hobbit because the rest is "too hard" while I'm reading and enjoying Tolkien's academic works (yeah I'm a nerd). And that's fantasy, its a shame to think that some of these same people would never in a thousand years read a Tolstoy, never in a hundred thousand pick up a history book, and never in a million enjoy a book on philosophy/theology.

That's not to brag or put anyone down, certainly not on this board which has its share of very sharp people, with the majority appearing to enjoy reading. The point is that I was fortunate enough to have homeschooling up to middle school and to be put in an atmosphere conducive to learning. I don't know exactly what led to it, but I'm extremely grateful for it.

So basically I concur with Bart. One more personal experience that jives with what he's saying, after homeschooling I went to a private school where virtually everything was rote learning. It didn't matter the subject, the goal was to memorize fill in the blank words or certain formulas, simple input and output with no critical thinking required. So its not as if I can blame my classmates for not being afforded the same opportunity to think, but schools just aren't that big on thinking... not k-12 anyway. At universities it varies wildly class by class, of course.
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Re: The LOST Arts of Reading and Communicating

#6

Post by Silvertusk » Thu Jan 17, 2013 1:34 am

Strangely - ever since I have brought myself a Kindle, I have read more, including books I would never normally read. This is down to the fact that I think I prefer the medium in which I can do it. Being an ICT Teacher I don't think there is any surprise there.

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Re: The LOST Arts of Reading and Communicating

#7

Post by August » Thu Jan 17, 2013 6:04 am

Canuckster1127 wrote:While reading is a key part of it, what I find more disturbing is not so much the medium in which it's delivered, but the overall lack of critical thinking skills in a lot of educational circles. I'm not saying that US education is wrong, but that was something that really stood out to me making the switch in mid High-School at that time in the late 1970s.
Cannot agree more. When I took my daughter out of high school, and started home schooling her at the age of 16, I was appalled at the lack of critical thinking and analysis skills she had after more than 10 years of US public schooling. The way they do it seems to be fill in the blanks or multiple choice, with additional coaching on how to pass standardized testing. She was in the top 20% of her class in public school...My experience is not isolated. In my job I deal with similar issues, albeit from a business standpoint, and at a recent conference, we involved public school teachers, college professors and leaders from hi-tech R&D companies, and there was a huge disconnect between all three.

It all gets back to what both Philip and Canuckster said here, not enough reading, and a lack of showing/teaching critical thinking and analysis. I guess when the schools have to cater to the lowest common denominator, and get rewarded for their passing rate instead of equipping children with the tools to succeed in life, this is what we get.
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Re: The LOST Arts of Reading and Communicating

#8

Post by Philip » Thu Jan 17, 2013 3:07 pm

The terrible legacy of the "No Child Left Behind" initiative is that the schools all spend ridiculous amounts of time coaching kids how to score well on the tests, as opposed to relevant teaching of useful skills, information, and knowing how to apply critical thinking. No teacher wants to risk poor test scores.

In college, many of the professors are exceptionally lazy. They want robo-students to follow their robo-syllabus (which often hasn't changed since the Stone Age), with minimal effort on their part. Once tenured, it then often becomes less and less about students and instruction, but becomes all about research, publishing, and burnishing one's academic legacy. All this while tuition grows further and further out of reach. Truly, I think a lot of professors finished their doctorate programs without having a clue of what they were going to utilize their training for. So, clueless, many opted for academia. This is not to slight the many fantastic and brilliant professors out there. But very few I had impressed me. Most, I can't even remember their names. Sad.

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