Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Reading And Writing Will Go... Wonderful! 3

It is time for us to leave reading and writing where it belongs. . . in the past, and lurch forward into our future.
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The Arguments
So the question then becomes, why do people feel that reading and writing are so important. There are a number of different responses one gets when asking this question.  www.learn-to-read-prince-george.com gives the most comprehensive list we have been able to find which incorporates just about all the arguments we have found as to why knowing how to read and write is important:
  1. There are many adults who cannot read well enough to understand the instructions on a medicine bottle. - While this is good for a forgetful person, doesn’t the doctor and/or the pharmacist tell you what needs to be done with all medication?
  2. Filling out applications becomes impossible without help.” – The key words here are “without help.” While filling out applications have become pretty standard for tax purposes, no one will hire you without an interview. So if you have someone help you fill out the paperwork at home (which is where most people fill the paperwork out) and nail the interview, nothing will prevent you from getting the job.
  3. Reading road or warning signs is difficult. Even following a map becomes a chore. – Most people don’t read road signs anymore. There is no need. All signs have a shape and color that represents their meaning. See an octagon shaped red signstopSee a yellow triangleproceed with caution. How about an orange cone, construction, slow down? As far as maps go, who uses maps anymore? Hello! GPS!
  4. Reading is a “vital skill in finding a good job. Many well-paying jobs require reading as a part of job performance. There are reports and memos which must be read and responded to – There are also many well-paying jobs requiring programming computers, fixing cars, playing an instrument, and many other skills. Does this mean that we should go out and learn them all to ensure that we always have a well-paying job? While this would certainly be helpful; most people would look at us like we were crazy if we told them that we were learning to play a tuba because our job may require it some day.
  5. Reading is important because it develops the mind. The mind is a muscle. It needs exercise. Understanding the written word is one way the mind grows in its ability.”  - However, there are many ways to develop the mind, not just reading. Does this mean that if we stop reading and writing our minds will stop developing?
  6.  “Teaching young children to read helps them develop their language skills. It also helps them learn to listen.” So does just talking to them, having them listen to the radio, and watching television.
  7. “It is how we discover new things. Books, magazines and even the Internet are great learning tools, which require the ability to read and understand what is read. A person who knows how to read can educate themselves in any area of life they are interested in. – Now a days, nothing does this better than YouTube.
  8. “Reading develops the imagination – So people didn’t have imaginations before books? That doesn’t sound right.  Or does this mean that technology cannot develop the imagination? We guess no one was ever inspired by the radio or Lego blocks? 
  9. Reading is fundamental in developing a good self image. Nonreaders or poor readers often have low opinions of themselves and their abilities. – This is because of the importance society places on reading and writing. We do the same thing to people who don’t look like movie stars. Does this make it right?
  10. improve spelling. – This one doesn’t even warrant a response. This is like saying that learning to play baseball is important because it will help me to throw a ball better.
  11. Ideas written down have changed the destiny of men and nations for better or worse. The flow of ideas cannot be stopped. – So the only way to express ideas is through reading and writing. Speeches, movies, and actions have changed the destiny of men and nations just as much, if not more than writing.
  12. The fact of the power of written ideas communicated through reading is a foundational reason why some governments oppose free and honest communication. Illiterate people are easier to control and manipulate.” So revolutions didn’t happen before literacy?  We guess when Spartacus led the slave revolt, that revolt was sparked by all the reading he did?
  13. Reading is important because words - spoken and written - are the building blocks of life. We were under the impression that life came before the written word. Obviously we’re mistaken.

The fact of the matter is that the practice of reading and writing is only really good for one thing; improving your reading and writing. And while we used to be able to say that it was important because it was the fastest and most efficient way to send, store, and secure information; this is no longer the case. We are sure that this statement is causing many of our readers to feel outrage and fear. Even people who do not tend read or write, tend to be scared of the mere thought of a world without reading and writing. We understand this, because not too long ago, when we first realized the direction the world was headed towards, we felt this way too. But this is a good thing. a very good thing! 

Think back to the questions we asked at the beginning of this article. We are guessing that the vast majority of the people who were 100% honest when answering the questions discovered that while they feel the world cannot live without reading and writing, not too many people tend to do it any more.

As we see it, people read for two reasons; to learn and to entertain themselves. However, now-a-days people tend to turn to television and video games when they want entertainment. And to learn more and more people are turning to YouTube. Indeed, we are living in a world where people ask their phones questions and they respond. Is that a world where a 500 year old technology belongs?

The End of Reading & Writing
The thing that surprises us more than anything, however, is that we seem to be the only ones who think this. In all our research we couldn’t find anyone else who thinks that getting rid of reading and writing is inevitable. Not one other article arguing that the decline in our literacy was not a blemish but a natural course of our evolution that will hopefully speed up. Every other article that talked about the end of books was referring to a push towards digital book readers. While we realize that this is happening, this really isn’t much of a benefit to our evolution. Either way it is reading and writing. The only way that turning books digital helps is by allowing us to have an entire library in the palms of our hands. Don’t get us wrong; that is a wonderful advantage. However, it fails to help with any of the things we have been discussing. It doesn’t allow us to see the hand gestures or facial expressions. It doesn’t allow us to hear the tones and inflections in people’s voices. It doesn’t allow us to see the other side of the world and experience it from our homes. All it is doing is helping to slow down our evolution. 

As Ray Kurzweil says, 
Books constitute such an integral element of our society—both reflecting and shaping its culture—that it is hard to imagine life without them. But the printed book, like any other technology, will not live forever. 
And he is correct. Unfortunately, Kurzweil makes the same mistake as most other people in thinking that this means converting to digital books. He believes that, 
With books a fully mature technology, the false pretenders arrived about twenty years ago with the first wave of ‘electronic books.' 
This is a very shortsighted view and a mistake that too many people are making.

The most confusing part of all of this, however, is that it’s not like we don’t already have the next step in our evolution and have to struggle to find it. It’s not like we haven’t already seen the future and are having trouble figuring it out. Video is this next step. And yet we are refusing to utilize it as much as we can. There is nothing we can learn from reading and writing that we cannot learn from video, better and faster; except how to read and write. 

It is so much better to hear someone speak than it is to read a transcript. With speech you get all the things that go along with it, that reading and writing cannot capture; tone of voice, inflections, hand gestures, facial expressions, etc. It is just like Donald McKenzie once said, 
...too great a preoccupation with writing and printing as technologies of literacy may lead us to forget the superior virtues of speech. After all we did not stop speaking when we learned to write nor writing when we learned to print nor reading writing and printing when we entered the electronic age. For those who market texts in those forms some of them may seem mutually exclusive. . . but for the speaker, auditor, read or viewer the texts tend to work in complementary not competitive ways. . . (Eisenstein, 327).
If you don’t believe in the power of the spoken word over reading and writing, just look at the most successful men of our age. In January of 2011 Jeffrey Sonnenfeldwrote an article for Newsweek titled, The Genius Dilemma.  In it he talks about Howard Schultz, who is responsible for the success of Starbucks. In the article,Sonnenfeld states, 
Schultz advocates face-to-face conversations with as many people as possible. 'Especially in our digital age, the power of talking to people in person is exponential,' he told me. 'When I came back, I could not communicate enough.' (Sonnenfeld, p. 16) 
Schultz is not the only modern day success story that preaches face-to-face conversations. Look at Steve Jobs. We have seen and read loads about Steve Jobs, especially since his death; and all we keep hearing is how great a speaker he was. We don’t hear anyone praising him on how well he read and wrote. Something else worth noting is the fact that he dropped out of college. So did Bill Gates. What does this say about our education system and how well it prepares people for the future. And what do schools focus mostly on? . . . reading and writing.

For those of you that are still skeptical, we suggest reading a very interesting article, which can be found in The Washington Post, titled Revealed: School Board Member Who Took Standardized Test. It is a follow-up to an article originally written by Marion Brady. It is about a school board member named Rick Roach who decided to take a version of Florida's standardized test. According to the follow-up article, Mr. Roach "is in his fourth four-year term representing District 3 on the Board of Education, a district with 180,000 students." He is also
the father of five children and grandfather of two, was a teacher, counselor and coach in Orange County for 14 years. He was first elected to the board in 1998 and has been reelected three times. . . [Mr. Roach] has a bachelor of science degree in education and two masters degrees: in education and educational psychology. He has trained over 18,000 educators in classroom management and course delivery skills in six states over the last 25 years.
A success by just about anybody's standards. Yet when he took a version of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT), a test which "is the bedrock of what is regarded as one of the nation's most extensive and widely studied school accountability systems," he did not do well. In fact, he received a 62% on the reading portion; which is considered a "D" in Orange County. That was good compared to how he did on the math section. Roach admits that while knowing none of the answers, he managed to guess correctly on 10 out of 60. These scores do not reflect the intelligence of a man who has two masters degrees.

So what does all of this mean, exactly? Well, according to Roach, the FCAT "tests information that most people don't need when they get out of school." He also claims "Instead of connecting what we learn in school with being successful in the real world, we are doing it in reverse. We are testing first and then kids go into the real world. Whether the information they have learned is important of not becomes secondary." The same can be said of all standardized tests. And what exactly do these standardized tests, test? Reading, writing, and math skills. Skills that really do not translate into success in the real world. At least not any more. And if this is the case now, how much worse do you think it will be when the current generation of middle and grade school students enter into it?

Even if you do not believe that video is better than reading writing, try looking at it from another perspective. What happens when technology gets so advanced that we are able to download information directly into our brains, like we do with computers? Yes, just like the movie, The Matrix? Do you honestly believe that people will still be reading and writing at that point? We know, “but that was just a movie.” “But that won’t happen for a very long time if ever.” 

Well, it is already happening with lab rats. Scientists have already, succesfully, installed computer chips into the brains of lab rats that stored information. Specifically, "The chip mimics the cerebellum, a small region of the brain which plays an important role in motor control and movement." This chip was designed by Matti Mintz, from Tel Aviv University in Israel, and was used to teach a lab rat how to blink. However, when the chip was turned off, the rat's damaged cerebellum couldn’t remember how to do it. The rat only remembered certain skills with the chip on. How much longer do you think it will be before humans are doing the same with everything they want to learn? And before answering this question, keep in mind that, "In recent years, neuroscientists have developed implants that allow paralyzed people to move prosthetic limbs or a computer cursor, using their thoughts to activate machines."

As Kevin Kelly states, 
...we won’t go on as we are. That’s what we never do. We always change what we do and we always get much more efficient at using things—energy, resources, etc.
Do you really believe that if someone came up to people back in the 1450s, and gave those people a choice between the printing press or video, they would have chosen the printing press? I doubt anyone would have. Why? Because it is not as efficient as video. According to an article in Discover Magazine, the part of the cerebral cortex that is used in processing visual data 
...is by far the most powerful and complex of the sensory systems. The retina, which contains 150 million light-sensitive rod and cone cells, is actually an outgrowth of the brain. In the brain itself, neurons devoted to visual processing number in the hundreds of millions and take up about 30 percent of the cortex, as compared with 8 percent for touch and just 3 percent for hearing. Each of the two optic nerves, which carry signals from the retina to the brain, consists of a million fibers; each auditory nerve carries a mere 30,000.  
If this is true, then it appears that the human brain places a vast amount of importance on vision over other senses. 

Yet, for some reason, people today are hesitant to make this switch. Why? Again, as Kevin Kelly states, 
When we spy our technological fate in the distance, we should not reel back in horror of its inevitability; rather, we should lurch forward in preparation.
If indeed we created ourselves as Kevin Kelly states, language was our invention.  It is part of our evolution and therefore not necessarily a permanent feature of our humanity.  We post this video from Kevin Kelly on What Technology Wants.  If you cannot see the embedded video, here is the link: http://bit.ly/fMwHka.

Kevin Kelly: What Technology Wants from Commonwealth Club on FORA.tv

It is time for us to leave reading and writing where it belongs. . . in the past, and lurch forward into our future. Let us leave you with one final question. Which skill would you rather your children have in order to ensure their future success? Reading and writing to able to serve  a now outdated industrial era model where printed text reigned supreme or how to use, design, or program a computer, the emergent model in a new digital age?

Works Cited
Computer Chip Restores Brain Function in a Rat. . . but Could it One Day be Used in Humans?|Mail."Home\ Mail Online. N.p.,5 Jan. 2012. Web. 5 Jan. 2012. <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2040099/Computer-chip-restores-brain-function-rat--day-used-humans.html>.
Eisenstein, Elizabeth LewisohnThe printing revolution in early modern Europe. Second ed. Cambridge: Cambridge university press, 2005. Print.
Grady, Denise. " The Vision Thing: Mainly in the Brain | Senses | DISCOVER Magazine." Science and Technology News, Science Articles | Discover Magazine. N.p., 15 Jan. 2012. Web. 15 Jan. 2012. <http://discovermagazine.com/1993/jun/thevisionthingma227>.
Kelly, Kevin (2010). What Technology Wants. VIKING ADULT. Kindle Edition.

Kurzweil, Ray (2005). The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. Penguin. Kindle Edition.

"Learn To Read." Learn To ReadN.p., 30 Dec. 2011. Web. 20 Nov. 2011. <http://www.learn-to-read-prince-george.com>.
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"Literacy Education - Teaching Literacy." Literacy Education - Teaching Literacy. N.p., 30 Dec. 2011. Web. 20 Nov. 2011. <http://www.caliteracy.org>.
"National Endowment for the Arts ." National Endowment for the Arts. N.p., 30 Dec. 2011. Web. 20 Nov. 2011. <www.nea.gov >.
New, Melvyn. The Life and opinions of Tristram Shandy, gentleman, Laurence Sterne. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992. Print.
Petroski, Henry. The pencil: a history of design and circumstance. New York: Knopf :, 1990. Print.
Richtel, Matt. "Idaho Teachers Fight a Reliance on Computers - NYTimes.com." The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. N.p., 14 Jan. 2012. Web. 14 Jan. 2012. <http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/04/technology/idaho-teachers-fight-a-reliance-on-computers.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2&ref=todayspaper>.
"Speed Reading, Reading Software - Improve Your Reading Speed, Comprehension and Recall - The Literacy CompanyThe Literacy Company." Speed Reading, Reading Software - Improve Your Reading Speed, Comprehension and Recall - The Literacy CompanyThe Literacy CompanyN.p., 30 Dec. 2011. Web. 20 Nov. 2011. <http://www.readfaster.com>.
Strauss, Valerie. "Revealed: School BoardMember Who TookStandardized Test - The Answer Sheet - The Washington Post. "Washington Post: Breaking News, World, US, DC News & Analysis. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Jan. 2012. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/revealed-school-board-member-who-took-standardized-test/2011/12/06/gIQAblcxZO_blpog.html>.
Swift, Jonathan. Gulliver's Travels. London: George Newnes, 1905. Print.


MatthewJPrice said...

without reading and writing, you could not have read your sources or created this article (which i notice is not video) nor could I have read it

Laurence Sanders said...

Please keep in mind that this article is professing that reading and writing WILL go away in the future. Unfortunately we are not quite there yet. However, I appreciate your comment and hope you enjoyed the article.