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« Can't keep names straight? | Main | Paglia and standardized tests »

April 22, 2004


language hat

So does this mean there's going to be another guest blogger?

Semantic Compositions

No, this is a serious research piece which will be coming out in 3 or 4 parts. I've got scome interesting statistics on test scores, some data on the shifts in the cirriculum that high schoolers are actually taking, and as Mark Liberman helpfully suggested, there's some work out there indicating that reading material for young people is gettind dumbed down.

I think Paglia's thesis is a bit exaggerated, but I do believe that reading skills have become devalued in our culture, and the story isn't just the usual hand-wringing of the same people who have thought English is dying for the last 500 years. This isn't an area I'm expert in, by any means, so it's taking a while to put together a coherent defense.

Nicole Wyatt

So it sounds like you are intending to defend her claim about the trend - decreasing literacy - and not necessarily her claim about the cause?

Semantic Compositions

Yes, that's correct. I don't think there's much evidence to suggest that TV = shorter attention spans, or at least I haven't found anything that strikes me as a great argument for it; however, I think there's a fairly strong case to be made that reading skills are taking a dive.

E M Bloom

I doubt anyone is still reading this post but I came across it by a related search. To "defend" Camille seems utterly superfluous. If you have any love for the English language and have paid any attention from either side of the teacher's desk her basic assertions are depressingly self-evident, at least in the U.S.. Global literacy as such is increasing as far as I've read. This a predictable correlary of ongoing industrialization and urbanization, but has nothing to do whatsoever with the quality of that literacy in places where there was a very high percentage to begin with. The real point is the drop off from parent to child in middle and upper class America. I believe no small part of the blame falls on what I call the regime of self-esteem, which always places education and actual skill level second, and often a distant second. There are exceptions of course, and we should all aspire to be one, rather than attack (typically in ad hominum fashion)those who call attention to the problems that we face and teachers in particular.

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