Reading at Risk from Library – um, I mean Internet

Dana Gioia, chair of the National Endowment for the Arts, writes in his preface to this report:

Reading at Risk merely documents and quantifies a huge cultural transformation that most Americans have already noted our society‘smassive shift toward electronic media for entertainment and information. most electronic media such as television, recordings, and radio make fewer demands on their audiences, and indeed often require no more than passive participation. Even interactive electronic media, such as video games and the Internet, foster shorter attention spans and accelerated gratification.

The funny thing is, the report does not document such a shift. There are no results pertaining to the effects of video games or the Internet on literary reading, only rhetoric without foundation.

The executive summary similarly asserts:

Literature now competes with an enormous array of electronic media. While no single activity is responsible for the decline of reading, the cumulative presence and availability of these alternatives have increasingly drawn Americans away from reading.

The report later admits that ?frequent readers watch only slightly less TV per day than infrequent readers? and that ?[i]n some cases, TV watching may have a positive impact on literary reading.? The conclusion is that ?television does not seem to be the culprit.? But one must be found?

Nick MontfortReading at Risk from Library – um, I mean Internet (Grand Text Auto)

My wife read about the NEA report in the local paper, and hit me with it before I read about it online, so I was unprepared to respond.

Thanks, Nick, for noting the F.U.D. factor here.

3 thoughts on “Reading at Risk from Library – um, I mean Internet

  1. I’m with Mike on this. I’m reading about it online too and the bias it suggests reminds me of the chapter on ?The Problem of Polemic: Representations of Technological Literacy in the Popular Press? I read in Cynthia Selfe’s book. Here’s the link to that annotation

    The labelling of electronic media as the culprit or any media for that matter is NOT the answer. Continually finding ways to encourage the reading of both and raising one’s critical consciousness of both (Selfe’s suggestion) is the answer.

  2. … and I forgot to say how ironic it was that I read (and learned about) the “Reading at Risk” document ONLINE!
    — Mike A.

  3. Print culture biases strike again! Nonetheless, this appears to be an important document — thanks for turning me on to it. Despite some issues with its treatment of the internet, there’s no doubt to me that print is “competing” against electronic media; I think the question the document raised — “What factors are at work in the decline in reading literary works among people ages 18 to 45? Are we losing a generation of readers?” — is a crucial one, one which English teachers very well should be inquiring into, if only by reading this article.

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