Value of Higher Education - Ron Marken
By Ron Marken on Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Re: Is our students learning? by Margaret Wente (referencing the U.S. book “Academically Adrift”), published in the Globe and Mail on June 16, 2011:
Arshad, I think yours is a valuable and nicely measured response ... What you say needs saying...and you foreground teachers and students, not systems. And you don't demonize research …
My view is this ...:
If parents want their kids to succeed/excel in school, they have to take full responsibility, early. Your kid can't or won't read? Put the TV in the furnace room and make him watch the screen, standing up, for a maximum of one hr/day. We limited our five kids to Saturday TV only, for 2 hours. Then, over dinner, they were asked to describe and evaluate what they had watched. They stopped complaining after about 8 days. Among them, they have 8 degrees.
If he won't read, then make him do his own laundry. His future wife will thank you for it! And I mean reading anything, anything, anything in printed form: newspapers, comic books, magazines, mysteries, biographies. Reading is as much a physical skill as riding a skateboard; if you don't do it you won't do it and if you won't do it you can't do it. Get him a library card and drive him to the library.
Screen reading is delusional because the seduction of surfing at every 10 second attention lurch is as irresistible as a gambling addiction: "I'll bet there's something really cool just behind the next Click..."
Good reading (I'm very conservative on this) is ritualistic. It takes quietness, good lighting, a comfortable setting, and a committed willingness to enjoy the textures of paper and binding, words and phrases, and the extraordinary theatre of the imagination thus inspired. I'm convinced that a vast percentage of youngsters would benefit hugely from university if they acquired the reading habit when they were six, and if parents read aloud to them every day from the time they were one, or younger.
"Screen time and computer technology bring back the joy of learning. School can be fun." This may be one of the great cons of the last 50 years. "Fun" is not an educational virtue, actually. The real fun of Shakespeare comes from being swept away by a live Stratford production, which has been enhanced by the decidedly not-fun hours you spent in school trying to figure out what the Bard was saying. The great magic of Calculus is not, in its early stages, fun. It's brutal. Successfully asking a French girl for a date, in French, is fun. Conjugating French verbs is not fun.
Screen time dumbs down reading and evaporates writing. In my generation, television was heralded as the "educational window on the world!" Instead, it gave us "Let's Make a Deal," "Jerry Springer," Don Cherry, and Kim Kardashian. People who say they watch only the Book Channel and National Geographic are lying. Period.
Without the acquired discipline and attention to task which book-study demands, few adolescents have the will power to resist the siren seduction of net site surfing. And the net rewards them with "WarCraft," Paris Hilton, and cute Youtube kittens. Shakespeare, Latin, and nineteenth-century history don't stand much of a chance.
And reading is one of the few activities you can undertake which will improve another activity - writing. There is no such thing as a good writer who doesn't read.
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Ron Marken, Professor Emeritus, Department of English, University of Saskatchewan, and 3M National Teaching Fellow.
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I unfortunately is a reader who can't write. I love reading novels and such, but my writing is often vague, unfocused and possibly confusing.|
Posted on Dec 09, 2012 at 11:18
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