Here is that thought: Students may not open many books, but they know how to text-message while watching TV.
This thought was brought to mind when I received a press release a while back from Rachel Friedman, print campaign manager for News & Experts with offices in Clearwater, Fla. Rachel was writing to promote a new book titled, “KISS — Keep it Short and Simple,” by Jacquie Ream. It contains easy steps for better writing (term papers, reports, essays, short stories, book reports, outlines, endnotes, footnotes and bibliographies).
Ms. Ream, a former teacher, says we are raising a whole generation without communication skills. She contends that text messaging and the Internet are destroying the way our kids read, think and write. A recent National Center for Education Statistics study reports that only one out of four high school seniors are a proficient writer.
Jacquie also says, “These kids aren’t learning to spell. They’re learning acronyms and short hand, but they are not writing letters; rather, they are typing into their cell phones one line at a time. In short, text messaging is destroying the written word.” Now, that’s worth thinking about.
Here is the real tragedy of all of this activity: Feelings aren’t communicated with words when you’re text messaging; emotions are sideways smiley faces. Kids are typing shorthand jargon that isn’t even a complete thought.
At this point you may say, “What difference does it make? If the other person understands what I am saying, isn’t this the real purpose?” Well, not exactly, and I will tell you where the rubber meets the road at the end of the column. There is another dimension in excessive text messaging and spending too much time reading articles on the Internet that one should consider, especially students while they are still in school.
This has to do with critical thinking which is necessary for success in most any endeavor you care to name. Unfortunately, teachers in American schools today are forced to use what little classroom time they have to teach to the standardized tests. The kids learn how to regurgitate information to parrot it back for the correct answer, but they can’t process the thought and build on it.
School system money is often tied to standardized testing results. Many teachers complain about being pressured to spend so much time teaching to the test that they don’t have the time to guide the children into true, thought-provoking learning.
Ream then adds, “This generation, however, isn’t a complete ‘write off.’ Parents can make a big difference in the way their children communicate.” She suggests reading the same book your teenager is reading — then trying to open a dinner table conversation about it. Every generation has great minds with great thoughts that can guide the rest of us. If teenagers aren’t taught to groom their opinions and ideas so they can write effectively, society will lose out on a whole generation of creativity.
She concludes, “If we let these kids get caught up in technology, if we let politicians get caught up in testing, it’s America as a whole that loses out on great words, thoughts and novels that will never be written.”
As promised, here is where the rubber meets the road. It’s when these kids get a job and their employer insists they know how to spell and how to write and speak clearly, in full complete sentences. This is the real test.
You can order Jacquie’s book from Book Publishers Network, P.O. Box 2256, Bothell, Wash. 98041. Phone: 425-483-3040. It’s short, but it has tremendous ideas.
(Editor’s Note: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To support literacy, buy his book: “Learning, Earning & Giving Back.”)