This is just sad...

We were talking informally in class not long ago, 17 college sophomores and I, and on a whim I asked who some of their favorite writers are. The question hung in uneasy silence. At length, a voice in the rear hesitantly volunteered the name of . . . Dan Brown.

No other names were offered.

The author of "The DaVinci Code" was not just the best writer they could think of; he was the only writer they could think of.

From "Writing Off Reading," by Michael Skube, which ran in the Washington Post a couple of weeks ago. Read it here.

Frankly, I find this a little bit hard to believe, but only a little bit.

Kids don't read. And their writing is atrocious: I've had students -- some of my brightest students -- write things like "u r" instead of "you are," on formal assignments.

I have a bit of a problem with Skube's implication that high school teachers are to blame for this -- "Did no one teach these kids basic English?" -- as if high school teachers can coerce their students into learning. And you can't fail an entire class, even if they deserve it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Kids" don't read is a highly misleading generalization, I think. I could believe that journalism students today don't read; look at the state of the profession, read what passes for journalism today. But I imagine that it varies pretty widely by major.

For example, I was a Classics major ten years ago and we were, all of us, readers to a degree I christened "bibliomanic". We couldn't stop reading for more than a day if you paid us, it comes just before food and just after caffeine and oxygen in the list of life necessities. My fellow computer geeks are the same way, and many of us are writers to boot.

But this also reminds me of something a friend of mine said. We went to junior high and high school together, so have known each other for 20 years. He once said to me "That's the reason you're so smart, you read all the time." I had to explain to him that he had it backwards: I read all the time because I am so smart.

4:19 p.m.  
Blogger PrickliestPear said...

Of course I was exaggerating. But the percentage of high school students that read other than for school purposes is extremely low.

I'm not blaming them -- if they don't enjoy reading, one should not expect them to read for pleasure. It's just very disturbing.

1:19 p.m.  

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