Literacy vs. THE TELEVISION

January 4, 2011
Have you ever heard that America is becoming illiterate, that as a nation, we are allowing technology take over and books and reading become obsolete? Larissa MacFarquhar has. She shares her opinion on the matter in her article “Who cares if Johnny can read?”

Her view is straightforward; books are overstated. She compares books to nothing more than television in our heads. “We have to use the same things,” she points out. Imagination, creativity, visualization…what makes it so different from television? She states that even the books that are read are not the “classics” instead it’s the romantic, drama filled stories that have as many readers as a romantic-comedy on television. Her frustration is more clearly explained: “Why it is that the imaginative work done by a reader is more strenuous or worthwhile than that done by a viewer--or why watching television is more passive than, say, watching a play--is never explained.” Her point is not to explain whether reading is worse or better than television, it is to decide which reading and which television shows “actually matters in the first place.”

Books are a part of the American culture, they help grow and cultivate the mind. Although perhaps the books being read are not from classic authors like John Milton, Fredrick Douglass or Mary Wollstonecraft, they are still able to stretch minds. Need an example? Best-selling author Dan Brown. He wrote the FICTIONAL novel The Da Vinci Code, which over-flows with strenuous vocabulary and historical facts that allow knowledge to flow into the minds of over 40 million readers in a creative and influential way. Many books out there that are like this, yet how many most watched television shows allow viewers to expand their knowledge? Not very many. Need some examples? According to ABC Eyewitness, New Two and a Half-Man, Glee, and Desperate Housewives are among the top 20 most watched television shows in America. They each gather over 15 million viewers every week. Now, the question is what do these shows help us gain as a society? Knowledge on how to react to unrealistic drama? Thank you Hollywood, that will definitely help me get far in life.

Literacy in America is important. While it is not going extinct, considerably fewer amounts of people are choosing to pick up a book; instead, they head straight for the television. Where as a person’s most treasured possessions used to be their libraries…it is now the 5, 6 or even 7 TVs found in their small one-floor house. People have stopped expanding their creativity and imagination, instead they watch a screen where all that is done for them. All visualization of characters is zapped away in a box where every detail is shown. But what about plays? How is that any different from watching the TV? First off, it is an art form you are being educated in the way things are done in the past, present and future. You’re mind is able to soak in more of the actors; everything is real, not photo shopped and cookie cutter perfect. Mistakes are made and interactions with real live people are happening. It’s amazing but you can actually communicate with the person, face to face. The fundamental difference between reading and watching plays versus staring at a television set… it makes you use your thought process; your mind has to work harder to grasp concepts. Your mind has to work.

If Americans want to continue to learn and grow and succeed as a society, we MUST be literate. We must be able to educate our minds cultivate then so they can imagine and expand and grow. Without that progress will stop.


http://www.slate.com/id/3128/





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