Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Kids These Days, Part CMLXXVIII

Roger Ebert shares this correspondence he had with the eminent David Bordwell:

"In an email the other day, Prof. David Bordwell of the University of Wisconsin responded to a piece I wrote about American education: 'Actually, based on what my colleagues tell me, it's worse than we thought at the college level. Students WILL NOT, and absolutely refuse, to [sic] read anything. Give the assignment, and they just ignore it, even if there's a quiz on the reading.'"

Ebert then replies, "I have no doubt of this."

Wow, I sure do. I love these outright panic attacks based on nothing more than hearsay. I have four children. Two are currently in college. All of the children, down to the youngest at 11, are voracious readers. They love reading for pleasure but also will read what they're assigned. I offer this up not as counter evidence, as all I'm doing is introducing my own personal, unscientifically tested story about what kids read or don't read, but simply to provide another perspective. Then, when Ebert later writes this - "Today the tuition is unimaginably higher, I am informed by Epstein. You want bangs for your buck. Incoming students are pragmatic and ambitions [sic]" - it feels like a contradiction. In other words, students are majoring in what can make them money with a good career. To those ends, they need to do well. To that end, they need good grades. Don't read what you're assigned, no good grades. Not very pragmatic.

Ebert makes several good points in the piece and I agree that the liberal arts ain't what they used to be but let's not sell college students completely down the river as arrogant jerks who refuse assignments like spoiled little princes just because we don't deem them to be as cool as we were in college. All that does is make you look like a giant asshole.


Dennis Cozzalio said...

I gotta agree with you, Greg. So much of this kind of response can be boiled down down the phrase you used as the headline of this post, or that oh-so-popular grumbled variant of "Keep off the grass." It's hard to worry too much about the reading habits of an entire generation when I see my own girls' noses buried in any book they can get their hands on every single day. Of course they watch TV and play video games too, just like I did (TV) and probably would have if I'd had the means at my disposal (pinball, Galaga and Space Invaders were of my time, and I wiled away many an hour at those temples of destruction). But I'm not quite ready to give up on the brains of "Generation Zzzz," or anyone else's, based on that. (And psst, don't tell anybody, but I occasionally skipped a reading assignment in college too... Not proud of it. Just saying.)

Greg F. said...

Exactly. I watched tv and movies all the time and I played video games (same ones you did) and, on top of all that, I read. Still do. And like you, I skipped assignments and used Cliff notes for certain ones. And my world didn't end and I willingly write and read every day out of sheer love.

Roger, David - Take it easy.

RayRay said...

For me, Roger has been consistent for decades. I almost never agree with him on any given subject.

For what it's worth, my 21-year-old niece, an art major now in her senior year, works in a strictly visual medium. Yet she can read a 400-page novel from cover to cover within a week.

I wish I could do that.

Greg F. said...

Me, too. I read short stories and novellas much more often than a full novel. When I do, I go for length over topic far too often. David Bordwell must hate me.