Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Creating a Bookless Nation

I had a heated FB dialogue via chat a few months ago. He was upset that his niece did not know how to spell tongue. Though I cannot remember the conversation word for word (and FB chat doesn’t have anything on gchat), I remember the key points I brought up for him to consider.

Him: I’m not one of her friends. She’s not going to be texting to me in that broken English, like I’m one of her friends.
Me: Tongue is a difficult word to spell. It is what educators call a sight word – if you don’t know it by sight, it will be nearly impossible to sound it out or spell it. Where the hell does the “u” “e” come from anyway?! (I’m sure there’s a linguistic, etymological history, like it’s French or something.)

And they are growing up in a text culture. I don’t blame them for short-handing everything. I’ve seen some pretty clever writing due to the need to shorten texts, tweets and status updates.

Him: They can’t write papers like that. They can’t get a job writing like that.
Me: In a January 2010 Stoop, Tina Wells (Buzz Marketing) encouraged one young lady to write her paper from the perspective of a young girl sending texts. I thought it was brilliant. And to be honest, outside of high school and college papers, most Americans are not writing essays. It isn’t necessary for the work most people do.

Him: Are you arguing against children learning to write?! And in my work, even in entertainment, I have to write proposals and coherent e-mails.
Me: I’m not saying we do not need to know how to write. I’m simply saying that we are creating a world where video reigns supreme and we’re asked to keep articles to under 250 words, and our ideas are supposed to be communicated in a certain number of characters.

Him: I’m not buying that.
Me: Look, they do what we do. If we are not whipping out books to read, they aren’t. If we navigate in the world in 140 characters or less, and get our information from CNN video clips, so will they. Do you read with her? I never see you reading, though there are books on the shelf. You watch television.

Him: I know how to write.

I ask you: how do we ensure that our children have mastery over use of the English language, and have the ability to convey their thoughts and ideas in a society that is valuing literature less and less?

(Interesting article - "When a Dad Banned Text Messaging" in NYT)