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Destroying literacy

July 14, 2009

Destroying literacy

By Denise Scammon

Some social critics are of the opinion that the spread of the electronic media is destroying literacy. Standardized test scores of reading and writing ability have in fact gone down in recent years. Are the new media the main cause? If so, is the slow destruction of the printed media by the electronic media necessarily a bad thing?

According to Rudi Volti, the number of hours spent watching television declines as the education levels of viewers rise, but education-related differences in the amount of television use are not large and they have been narrowing (232). So does this mean that television has a negative effect or not on literacy? As a college student, I do a lot of reading from text books, but I also get a lot of information from the Internet. I’m educated and I’m literate. Volti notes that the same argument is used with income levels: those with higher income levels watch less television, but the difference has been getting smaller in recent years (233).

Volti notes that Marshall McLuhan was of the opinion that television affected viewers by requiring they use all their senses, that viewing television was not like reading, which is linear. Television is less concerned with sequence than reading. McLuhan thought that television actually helped young children develop visual perception, but this has been shown to be questionable (242). Studies have shown that television viewing may actually be detrimental to the perceptual development of children who are not already deficient in language ability and visual skills (242).

It is my opinion that reading works the brain. I know that when I read, I can use my imagination, I can draw on information I already know, I can absorb new facts and ways of thinking about things. Volti says that reading fosters “imaginative continuations” that televised stories do not (242).

Finally, Volti states “There is also a fair amount of evidence that television watching may contribute to underdeveloped reading skills in children” (242).

But, I feel that the SAT scores may not accurately reflect a problem. I did a little research and found this article.

“SAT stays at lowest levels in nearly a decade: Some say the higher volume and broader cross section of test takers are keeping scores depressed,” from eSchool News staff and wire service reports, “For a second straight year, SAT scores for the most recent high school graduating class remained at their lowest levels in nearly a decade–a trend some attribute to a higher volume and a less elite population of students now taking the exam.”


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  1. July 15, 2009 6:44 pm

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