Wednesday, December 26
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Wednesday, December 19
Even more alarming are the indications that Americans are losing not only the will to read, but the ability. The Department of Education noted that although our nation's fourth and fifth graders have moderately improved their reading skills in the past decade, America's twelfth graders are, as a whole, mimicking the general adult population; their reading skills dropping five proficiency points between 1992 and 2000 from forty to thirty-five percent. Sixty-five percent of our nation's graduating high school seniors lack the basic comprehensive reading skills to effectively and productively compete in today's marketplace. The percentage of Americans who read literature is steadily declining not only in every age group, but in every generation. "We are reading less as we age, and we are reading far less than people who were our age ten and twenty years ago."
"Why?" In a word, television, the world-wide elixir of the masses whereby we are spoon fed what we are to perceive about the world and our place in it. Critical analysis has given way to five second sound bites and thirty minute situational comedies. Nightly news broadcast are packaged in generalized, pre-scripted monologues and digested as uncontested truth. No matters of public import can ever be considered "fair and balanced" when consumed in three minute increments. Conversations around the water cooler elevate themselves no higher than the latest Hollywood scandal, American Idol contestant results, and the Sopranos. We have turned our minds over to mass media outlets who make it their business to know more about us than we know about ourselves. We are manipulated into opinions and mindsets not of our own devising, but calculated to obtain a desired end result based on carefully crafted focus groups. It is far easier to nod in agreement than to question the basis on which we are being asked to consume the fodder to which we are being relentlessly bombarded.
Entertainment for entertainment's sake is not to be considered detrimental to our intellectual well-being in and of itself. It is only when the consumption of these offerings become the only means by which we weakly stimulate our minds that we run the real risk of losing touch with what it real and of value. My sixth grade teacher challenged me to explore the world beyond my very limited rural North Carolina understanding by presenting me with her personal copy of Victor Hugo's Les Misearbles. "Read this," she said. "It will change your life." At 520 pages in length, I was convinced that if I lived two life-times I would never finish that "stupid book!" I couldn't put the book down once I began. She was right. That book changed my life. I have been exploring distant horizons through the written word ever since. It is my hope that when I take my last breath upon this earth, those who find me will discover that I am clutching an open book upon my lap. Read! The whole world lies within the covers of a good book.