All reading is a GOOD thing…right?

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Reading is generally seen as a primary source of information and intellectual growth. The sophistication of the language we find in books leads to an increasingly strong ability to express ourselves, and our understanding of life and the world.

Book reading, in particular, is a clear indication that readers are up to something interesting, even if they are simply enjoying a wild, solemn, joyful, or sad ride through some wonderfully imaginative fiction. And books are typically vetted by thoughtful publishers who have taken them through serious editing and refinement processes to get them into that venerable format. Therefore, books are a wonderful source of educational content for readers–young and old.

Instead of that, what if it turns out that readers–young and old–are mostly (or worse, only) reading the often self-serving, ill-conceived or negative content that is emblematic of social networks? An article in PC Magazine addresses the troubling truth that huge numbers of us get so-called “news” from the constant noise on Twitter, Facebook and the like.

While social media has its place in the world of reading or at least entertainment, we need to teach kids that amusing* cheap laughs, half-truths and outright lies are not actually news worthy. Every child (and adult) needs to understand that.

It seems to me that social networks merely provide vague connections, like people nudging each other, less than alone, but without eye contact.

If we receive a letter in the mail (when was the last time that happened?) with an identifiable signature at the bottom, we are provided with a sense of context, a vision of positive or at least productive intent.

Consider what happens when kids receive messages containing something silly, or inflammatory or bizarre or forbidden that are sent to someone else then simply forwarded by that remote acquaintance? All of the rich social context, cultural connection, and personal history with the forwarder that is needed to establish any truthfulness–any reliable value–is blurred and becomes vague endorsements of the forwarded message.

Evidently, a huge percentage of us only read that kind of blather and are walking around trying to make sense of life and the world while seeing it through a cloud of partial or plainly wrong “information.”

Actually, no. It shouldn’t be called information. It’s MIS-information, which is more destructive than NO information.

Parents and teachers are committed to teaching children about the world as it is, not as an unknown or questionable source makes our lives and society out to be. Children must be taught to protect themselves from misinformation and boldfaced lies that are a huge percentage of what gets shared through social media and other non-authoritative sources.

I urge you to consider your reading material’s source…please!

*The word “amuse” comes from the Latin word for “staring stupidly” (a=without and muse=thinking) and then filtered through its French meaning: to “divert the attention, beguile, delude.”

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3 Responses to “All reading is a GOOD thing…right?”

  1. Kerney M. August 16, 2020 at 2:02 pm #

    I completely concur with your insights! Though digital media has it’s downfalls, I also believe that, when used correctly and appropriately, it can be used to enhance their academic, social, and emotional skills. As a graduate student, I am learning that it is very essential to incorporate student responsibility and information technology knowledge before implementing digital resources and media into the classroom. In other words, teachers must acquire the skills necessary to distinguish between beneficial information and harmful information and resources, as well as model for the students how to research content that is appropriate. What other steps can we take to ensure that students are benefiting from digital resources and literacies?

    • Mark Condon August 18, 2020 at 11:10 am #

      Thanks for sharing, Mercedes. I agree that the sophistication of hidden agendas of various so-called “contributors” offer challenges to teaching digital research and exploration. The best teaching in this area comes in the form of demonstrations of adults questioning an author’s authority and agenda. Teachers who can share such thinking and invite their kids to engage their online research in similar ways help protect children and young adults from being manipulated and mislead.

    • Mark Condon January 26, 2021 at 8:06 am #

      Mercedes I’m so sorry to have only just now enjoyed your comment here. Your points are perfect in my view…and in response to your final query, the best teaching is always demonstration. Showing the kids how WE are careful and thoughtful in our online research is powerful for them.