Chris Webb" />
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Thursday, September 28, 2023


Future of U.S. literacy endangered

Reading is fundamental. Reading not only informs and entertains, it stimulates the imagination. Unfortunately, Americans are becoming increasingly uninterested in reading – and this may lead us into catastrophe.

Reading is an activity that requires awareness and active participation, unlike watching television. For learning about current events, it is highly preferable to television, because of the variety of outlets available. From magazines and newspapers to books, the opportunities to explore different viewpoints and aspects of a subject are unlimited. Television news programs all cover the same stories with the same amount of vagueness and superficiality. Their chosen role is to deliver as little information as possible, while appealing to the short attention span of the masses. They report what they want you to know.

Knowledge and enlightenment are not only in the printed media. Many reputable and useful news outlets also publish their content online. For example, The Economist, a world-renowned leader in international politics, economic news and culture, hosts a Web site full of their insightful and well-written articles from their magazine. Their coverage is the type that can never be found on CNN or Fox News. To become fully informed on issues that affect the U.S. and the world, one must learn more than what is doled out by Joe Scarborough and Bill O’Reilly.

It’s true that newspapers only contain words and none of the fancy and distracting graphics that television outlets throw at us, but concerning meaningful and up-to-date information, they are superior. Now that most newspapers have started publishing full issues online, and adding blogging capabilities, their articles can provide the most current information and encourage reader responses. This sort of interaction is sorely missing from television news outlets.

According to the National Endowment for the Arts, literary reading has suffered a steep and increasing decline in the past few years. One report states that less than 50 percent of American adults read literature, be it novels, poetry or short stories. The most drastic decline is among the youngest age group and is yet another symptom in the crisis of our collapsing culture. Reading has many benefits such as increased focus and vocabulary, and this decline, if it continues, will help to drive this destructive trend of cultural insulation and declining intellectualism plaguing the U.S.

Reading literature helps to foster independent thinking and mental growth, which are arguably the most important traits for children. As adults increasingly lose the skills developed by reading, their importance will be less emphasized to our youth, thus perpetuating the intellectual downturn of our nation.

The U.S., as a world leader in free and creative thought, must escape the traps thrown in our paths by the entertainment media. Our society’s relentless pursuit of distraction and instant gratification will be our undoing if allowed to set the norms and priorities of parents and children. Popular culture and its moron-worship must be counteracted with a healthy dose of literacy. Children and adults alike must be taught that reading is the basis for a fertile and cultivated mind, for it is the mind that moves and shapes the world.

Webb, a political science and creative writing senior, can be reached via [email protected].

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