Technology doesn’t improve education. Technology, and the speed at which we live, doesn’t improve our grasp of the English language. In fact, it does the opposite.
Literacy Limps Into the Kill Zone
— reported by Wired News
Welcome to the comic-book generation, the post-literate society. The stories that excited my news editor’s imagination then — the ones packed with lurid sex, vapid celebrity shenanigans, fallen idols — are merely the plat du jour of journalism these days.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re reading your local rag, surfing the net or trying to make heads or tails of someone’s inane blog — the quality bar is set lower than ever, which is saying a lot considering it was never set very high to begin with.
The very nature of e-mail (which, along with first cousins IM and text messaging, is an undeniably handy means of chatting) encourages sloppy “penmanship,” as it were. Its speed and informality sing a siren song of incompetent communication, a virtual hooker beckoning to the drunken sailor as he staggers along the wharf.
Technology conspires against language in another, more insidious way: The sheer speed with which things move these days has given us the five-second attention span, the 10-second sound bite and the splashy infographic that tells you very little, if anything, while fooling you into thinking that you are now somehow informed. (Of course, if you need more than 10 seconds to “get” Mariah Carey, well, shame on you.)
Sadly, this devalues the thoughtful essayist and the sheer linguistic joy of the exposition. And the language dies a little more each day.
Then there’s the havoc wrought on spelling and punctuation by all this casual communication. You can’t lay all that at the feet of technology, of course. Grammar skills have been eroding in this country for years and that has a lot more to do with lax instruction than it does with e-mail or instant messaging. (Math is a different matter. No student should be allowed to bring a calculator into a math class. Ever.)
I wonder if this comes as a surprise to anyone?