“The problem with democracy is the assumption that my ignorance is equal to your knowledge” – Isaac Asimov
Apparently, I am a snob. Last semester my instructor pointed out that most of the citations for my papers came from books. An odd statement, but as my school is online it provides us with access to a cybrary (I loath that word) where we can look up scholarly articles, download them as PDF documents, or read them online. Most students do all of their research using the cy… I can’t say it. Don’t make me type it again.
The instructor wasn’t complaining — none of my teachers so far have groused, and I am well within the rules — but in addition to pointing out that it was odd, he also noted that it made my papers harder to grade. It is far easier to check, you know, that online resource to verify a citation than to check print publications. He did note that a lot of the journals and magazines I used, as well as a lot of the books, were available in electronic format. He suggested that it might be easier for me to do my work that way, rather than going to a brick and mortar library and reading through dead-tree books.
I responded by pointing out that I have a 3.89 GPA, and have made the Dean’s List every semester since I began this degree program. I also pointed out that those achievements are largely a coincidence; I’m more interested in learning the skills than in getting a piece of paper that proves I’ve served my time. I go to the library and pour through books — I read 3-5 books per week from cover to cover, on average, and probably skim a half dozen more — because I am interested in mastering the topic. I don’t get that level of immersion from reading articles online.
Studies are now showing that technology is killing our attention span. We want to Google the answers. We want to skim short articles and blog posts. If you can’t express a thought in 140 characters or less, people tune out. The internet is an amazing tool, but the problem is that it’s only a tool. We’re starting to take a tools-first view of education. We’re not saying “we need to build a house, we’re going to need a hammer”. We’re saying “look at this nifty new hammer, what can we build with it?”.
Am I some kind of genius? Not really. Do I sometimes feel like the smartest guy in the room? Yes, but not due to an excess of hubris on my part. I feel like Luke Wilson’s character in the movie Idiocracy. I’ve been told that I think I’m sooo much better than other people because I read a lot. What is the assertion here, that I should read less, or that I should keep the fact that I’m a reader to myself? Are you saying that there’s now a social stigma attached to wanting to be educated and informed? I weep for humanity if that’s the case.
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