We Got To Learn To Read

I did it. It took me six months, but I did it. For the first time in over two years, I read an entire book for pleasure. What was this book about? How we, as a population, can’t read anymore. Definition of irony.

I’m a college student. I’m obviously literate.  This book isn’t discussing the loss of the actual ability to read; it’s about losing the ability to focus our entire attention to a single piece of literature, or anything for that matter, for an extended period of time.

The book is called “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains,” by Nicholas Carr, and it says the Internet is what is causing our inability to read. I think he makes a very interesting point. The Internet is feeding our need for information input on a level that books, or any other medium, cannot provide. How many different links do you hit when surfing the Internet for ten minutes? 15? 25? Even 50? Books can’t keep up. They’re too boring.

“I can’t get my students to read whole books anymore,” says Katherine Hayles, a Duke University professor- an English professor. She teaches literature.

Personally, I know I haven’t ever read an entire class’s reading assignments for the whole semester. I would love to hear from a student who has. I’ve had classes based on reading books and writing papers on these books. Never read all the assignments.  I can’t do it. When I do try to read, my mind can’t focus on the page. I find myself with that “What did I just read about?” thought at the end of many pages.

“Sitting down and going through a book cover to cover doesn’t make sense,” says Joe O’Shea, a philosophy major, former student body president of Florida State, and a 2008 recipient of the Rhodes Scholarship. “I don’t read books. I go to Google where I can absorb relevant information quickly.”

If the Internet is changing the way we read, it’s certainly changing the way we write.

When was the last time you checked out a book from a library? In my four years at Mizzou, I’ve checked out a total of two books for two paper assignments, and that’s only because a hard reference was required.  I’m a humanities major and I just flat out don’t check out books for references. Google is just way too efficient.

“I stopped assigning traditional research papers after the Internet boom,” says Bob Flanagan, who has been a professor of Religious Studies here at Mizzou for over 25 years, “and began assigning essays requiring critical reflection on more specific aspects of the course.”

Carr compares the Internet to technological advances like the map and the clock that have completely changed the way we perceive the world around us, but with much more negative consequences. We don’t need to think any more because computers do it for us.

“As we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence.”

Want more information on this subject? Google it.