I've had so many conversations about this with librarians and educators recently -- and everyone that I'm talking to is landing heavily in on the books side. This may seem obvious, but a New York Times article a year or so ago tried to suggest a counter-intuitive and hopeful argument, that kids are reading more than ever before, but that reading just happens to be on the Internet. No real reason to devalue that, or is there?
And here comes the New York Times columnist David Brooks -- a controversial figure, but a very smart guy -- who argues that the mere presence of books seems to enrich students. He cites a study which revealed that kids who brought home a stack of free books over the summer fended off the traditional summer decline. The books actually did a better job of bolstering the brain than summer school did.
Then he launches into the old Internet vs. Books debate, arguing that authority matters. Books do something different for our minds and our culture.
He says, "A citizen of the Internet has a very different experience. The Internet smashes hierarchy and is not marked by deference. Maybe it would be different if it had been invented in Victorian England, but Internet culture is set in contemporary America. Internet culture is egalitarian. The young are more accomplished than the old. The new media is supposedly savvier than the old media. The dominant activity is free-wheeling, disrespectful, antiauthority disputation."
As exciting as this can be, he says, the Internet keeps us on top of things, but it doesn't enrich us. And there's something to be said for authority and respect for books and writers.
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