In response to the comment on my last post, I suppose I should give a little more background to my thoughts on this matter. First of all, I don’t intend to criticize the many inspired teachers and professors (among whom are some of my greatest heroes) who are giving their best to education. Nor do I have any judgement for the wonderful students (my best friends being among them) who are faithfully pursuing an education at their respective schools. There are, of course, many excellent colleges teaching subjects that I could never hope to comprehend.
However, this study (no matter how faulty it may be, and there is some truth in it) merely confirms a cultural trend that I have observed and studied in the last few years, and it deeply concerns me. As a culture, and as generation of students, we are reading less and less. Dana Gioia, the head of the NEA initiated a study of “literary reading” in our culture, and his findings were alarming. Literary reading is in dramatic decline with fewer than half of American adults now reading literature, according his survey. Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America reports drops in all groups studied, with the steepest rate of decline – 28 percent – occurring in the youngest age groups. And those age groups include college students.
So, whether or not that study of reading comprehension in students is entirely accurate, there is an in depth, far-reaching study that would suggest it holds some truth. And frankly, I think this is something that needs immediate attention. I don’t criticize the schools, but I ask what needs to be done to mend this. We are living in an age of media and entertainment which has no doubt contributed to the decline of good, old-fashioned reading. It is understandable that our attention is turning more and more to TV, movies, media, internet. But the ability to read is basic to a well-lived, purposeful life, especially if you desire to have any influence or lead in any capacity whatsoever. Dr. Jeff Meyers (Professor of Communication at Bryan College and founder of the summit worldview program at that campus) is always saying to his students;
“if you want to be a leader, you have to be a reader.”
This is a vital skill. The ability to read and fully comprehend what you have just read is how you understand and implement the complex ideas that can change the way you live. Reading forms your perception of reality, opens doors of thought and possiblity that are simply closed otherwise. Reading is necessary to the formation of great minds and souls.
And education obviously has a lot to do with it. Without judging colleges or schools, it has to be said that something is going wrong somewhere. I don’t have a cemented argument or plan yet, but I think that these trends and findings should deeply concern anyone interested in a healthy future. In the words of Dana Gioia:
“America can no longer take active and engaged literacy for granted. As more Americans lose this capability, our nation becomes less informed, active, and independent minded. These are not qualities that a free, innovative, or productive society can afford to lose.”