As I prepare to teach one of my spring courses, I am re-reading a book about 19th-century writer Mary Shelley, author of essays and novels, the most famous of which is "Frankenstein." When she and her husband, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, were not working on their respective writing projects, they and their friends read aloud to each other, discussed philosophy and studied foreign languages. They also took long walks, enjoying nature.
Today, however, we live in a different world. Few students study foreign languages, let alone Greek, as Mary Shelley did. And discussions of philosophy? Nature walks? Not likely.
College boards have been revamped, eliminating vocabulary "not in everyday use." And their scores have gone down, precipitating the "dumbing down" of the test, since high school students stopped routinely studying Latin, which is the foundation of language and provides good clues to uncommon words.
I know I sound like a curmudgeon; nevertheless, young people seem to spend all their spare and not-so-spare time with their smart phones. Talk about an ironic name; how smart are these devices?
They text, they Facebook (now a noun and a verb, like Google), tweet, and blog. How does this increase their knowledge, stimulate their brains? I recently had a young community college student helping me while I recovered from a hip replacement. Whether she was in the laundry room emptying the clothes dryer, in the kitchen rinsing dishes or in my bedroom changing the linens — three different floors — her smart phone was always at her side. The cell phone simply has become an appendage to many young people — who line up at 6 a.m. outside the Apple stores when a new version of an iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch, comes out.
How many people know about history, government, literature or science today? I still remember former Texas Gov. Rick Perry running for president in 2012. (He also threw his hat in the ring for 2016 but quickly dropped out.) When asked how many people serve on the Supreme Court, he hadn't the faintest idea. How many people can answer that question today?
Many of those same people obviously have no idea of the role Congress (the House and the Senate) plays in passing legislation. A Bernie Sanders president can no more fulfill his promise that every college student will get the $100,000 to $250,000 tuition paid for by the government for his or her education than can a Donald Trump president assure that millions of undocumented immigrants would be forced back to their countries of origin. (We don't have enough attics where people can hide!) A president Ted Cruz had not the faintest idea how many Muslims there are living in the United States; he just promised to police them "where they are." When New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton explained that there are nearly 1,000 Muslim police officers on his force, it must have been a shock to Senator Cruz. Indeed, knowledge can be helpful.
And speaking of knowledge and college educations (with easier college boards, even more students can go), I have spoken to English and history majors who say a seminar on Toni Morrison's novels is equivalent to one on William Shakespeare's plays. Doing a community service project gets a history major the same amount of credits as taking a course in Western Civilization. As important as those things may be, shouldn't community service and modern novel reading be spare-time activities? Think how much more, with a strong background in literature, one can get from reading a Pulitzer-prize-winning novelist — a novelist who, herself, possesses a strong background in literature.
College should provide a strong background to develop intelligence, to provide knowledge and to encourage creative thinking so its graduates can read more analytically and provide services more sensibly. Most of all, a college graduate should be able to contribute to society, to the increasingly complex world in which we live.
Lynne Agress, who teaches in the Odyssey Program of Johns Hopkins, is president of BWB-Business Writing At Its Best Inc. and author of "The Feminine Irony" and "Working With Words in Business and Legal Writing." Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is Technology Dumbing Us Down or Wising Us Up? Essay
2097 Words9 Pages
Since the Internet has emerged from society, access to information has been made readily available for anyone to discover. The Internet connects us to the world everyday, whether at work or at home. It helps us communicate with others; via email, social networking, or blogging. With the absents of the Internet, our society would be missing out on a vast amount of knowledge. Therefore, the Internet is unmistakably beneficial for society to use as part of their daily lives. Also, cell phones have evolved from being solely in place for emergencies, to searching the Internet and paying bills. People of all ages are using cell phones, whether for work or pleasure. There are so many technological devices in our society; however, this technology…show more content…
For example, I enjoy cutting hair for my family. I can go to the popular website YouTube and type in “how to cut hair” and videos come up that show steps for cutting hair. Therefore, I can learn and see all the tricks pertaining to a good, quality haircut. Unlike reading a book, I was able to watch several professional barbers cut hair and see the step by step process, rather than reading the words in a book. Quote IN PARAGRAPH
Clay Shirky, an adjunct professor at New York University’s graduate Interactive Telecommunication Program and graduate from Yale with a degree in Art, teaches courses on the interrelated effects of social and technological network topology; as well as consulting individuals with the Internet (Shirky). He has vastly written about the Internet for well over fifteen years (Shirky). Shirky believes that the Internet makes us smarter and is forcing us to learn and think for ourselves (Shirky). He states that the Internet allows anyone to learn and better themselves (Skirky). The abundance of information on the Internet allows individuals to endure a better opportunity for learning. Shirky explains we must accept the challenge to figure out how to apply the Internet knowledge we gain to better ourselves (Shirky).
Along with the knowledge we can gain, we also communicate and connect with people all over the world. This can be either work related or for pleasure. On the working side it can be