Monday, January 12, 2009

The Last Days of Literacy

In The New Atlantis, Christine Rosen has an essay worth reading about . . . reading. It begins with a fairly standard overview of the screen vs. the page, but it opens out into compelling discussions of educational and socioeconomic impacts:
A University of Michigan study published in the Harvard Educational Review in 2008 reported that the Web is now the primary source of reading material for low-income high school students in Detroit. And yet, the study notes, “only reading novels on a regular basis outside of school is shown to have a positive relationship to academic achievement.” . . . Despite the attention once paid to the so-called digital divide, the real gap isn’t between households with computers and households without them; it is the one developing between, on the one hand, households where parents teach their children the old-fashioned skill of reading and instill in them a love of books, and, on the other hand, households where parents don’t.
. . . positional differences between types of reading:
Screen reading allows you to read in a “strategic, targeted manner,” searching for particular pieces of information, he notes. And although this style of reading is admittedly empowering, Bell cautions, “You are the master, not some dead author. And that is precisely where the greatest dangers lie, because when reading, you should not be the master”; you should be the student. “Surrendering to the organizing logic of a book is, after all, the way one learns,” he observes.
. . . and even fun trivia:
In A.D. 1000, the Grand Vizier of Persia, an avid reader, faced a peculiar logistical challenge when he traveled. Unwilling to leave behind his precious collection of 117,000 books, as historian Alberto Manguel tells us, he hit upon a unique strategy for transporting them: four hundred camels trained to walk in an alphabetically-ordered caravan behind him on his journey.
(Via Andrew Sullivan)


Blogger Barbara Carlson said... we know how many backs it takes to file the Vizier's call (numbers)...

3:34 PM  
Anonymous Penny Williams said...

kinda puts having an off-site storage unit in
perspective, doesn't it?

11:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wanna know how he taught the camels to spell the alphabet.

4:39 PM  

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