Is It Real – Or Is It Spark Notes?

Vicki Sherouse posted a request for help today on LM_NET.

Our curriculum office wants our English teachers no longer to teach entire novels, just excerpts. Needless to say, the teachers are horrified. They have been given articles to read that support this idea. Does anyone know of books or articles that support the now “crazy” idea of reading the whole book rather than passages!!!!!!!!!!! As librarians, this is particularly ironic–our selection review process requires objectors to read the whole book, rather than excerpts!

I was horrified by this situation. As much as I LOVE the new web 2.0 technologies, web research and broad access to multi-media – I have always feared that people will become so used to the lack of depth in internet articles, videos, video games, excerpted works of fiction, spark notes et al, that they will no longer be able to follow a line of reasoning or a plot presented in book length. We are dumbing down the curriculum big time in this country.

Here are some quotes from an intriguing book – Killing Time by Caleb Carr:

“The human brain adores it [Information] – it plays with the bits of information it receives, arranging them and storing them like a delighted child. But it loathes examining them deeply, doing the hard work of assembling them into integrated systems of understanding. Yet that work is what produces knowledge… The rest is simply – recreation.” (p.235)

Some more lines taken from a section where the characters are talking about societal changes brought about by the internet:

“The flood gates were thrown open, and human society, already saturated with information, began to drown in it…. And the very nature of that technology means that there is no real knowledge anymore…because what those custodians do allow to slip through their deliver systems is utterly unregulated and unverifiable. Mistaken facts – or, worse yet, deceptions on a simple or a grand scale, supported by doctored evidence and digitally manipulated images – become commonly accepted wisdom before there’s even been a chance to determine the validity of their bases. And remember that we’ve now raised not one but several generations of children who have been exposed only to that kind of questionable data” (p.62-63)

I hope Vicki & the English teachers are able to convince the “powers that be” to drop this terrible idea.

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