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We're In the Midst of a Literacy Revolution

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the write-on dept.

Social Networks 431

Mike Sauter sends in a piece from Wired profiling research by Andrea Lunsford, a professor of writing and rhetoric at Stanford, from which she concludes that we don't need to worry about computers and the Internet causing a decline in general literacy. "[Lunsford] has organized a mammoth project called the Stanford Study of Writing to scrutinize college students' prose. From 2001 to 2006, she collected 14,672 student writing samples — everything from in-class assignments, formal essays, and journal entries to emails, blog posts, and chat sessions. Her conclusions are stirring. 'I think we're in the midst of a literacy revolution the likes of which we haven't seen since Greek civilization,' she says. For Lunsford, technology isn't killing our ability to write. It's reviving it — and pushing our literacy in bold new directions."

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Liar. (4, Funny)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 5 years ago | (#29230679)

she concludes that we don't need to worry about computers and the Internet causing a decline in general literacy

lolwut? I c wut shee did thar. Were all loosing r minds, u no?

Re:Liar. (2, Informative)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 5 years ago | (#29230731)

What you wrote is just the (de)evolution of the English language

Re:Liar. (5, Insightful)

ChefInnocent (667809) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231087)

In linguistics, we discussed how the older generations always think the young people are ruining the language. How language is always in a state of devolution from when the one pondering it remembers their youth. So, ever since the first speakers, language has devolved. Just for the record, your Proto-Indo-European is horrible. By the same token, your great great grand children will have no idea what you are mumbling.

Re:Liar. (2, Funny)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231225)

Yup... Ever since them young-us started building that tower at Babel, I can't understand a word those hoodlums are saying.

Re:Liar. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29230761)

I can't tell if that's textspeak or retard speak.

Re:Liar. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29230843)

That's like saying, "I can't tell if that's Paris Hilton or a skanky white girl."

Re:Liar. (2, Funny)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231319)

I can't tell if that's textspeak or retard speak.

All it means is that the good professor Andrea Lunsford has based her conclusions on incomplete data. If she hangs around on Slashdot for a while, she'll realise that literacy is a thing of the past.

*ducks* ;-)

Re:Liar. (4, Interesting)

Kokuyo (549451) | more than 5 years ago | (#29230769)

I think you have a point but:

As an avid fanfiction reader I can say that I see both sides of the spectrum. Sure, a lot of it is abysmal but there are some masterpieces among them that overshadow even the originals from whence they are derived.

I believe the truth is this: The internet doesn't influence literacy all that much. I just think it puts both ends of the spectrum in starker contrast.

Also, I think chat logs can not serve as evidence. Just as spoken language differs greatly depending on who you are talking to, the purpose of communication has a big influence on the level you are using to bring your thoughts across. You seldom chat with your superior. You usually chat with peers. Few of us would use the same phrases, figures of speech and abbreviations in a professional document, yet most of us have at one point used such language, to a degree.

Re:Liar. (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#29230861)

Just as spoken language differs greatly depending on whom you are talking to

See?. The Internet isn't affecting literacy at all! What utter nonsense!

Re:Liar. (1, Flamebait)

bakawolf (1362361) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231137)

Whom is dead. Get over it.

Re:Liar. (4, Interesting)

jandrese (485) | more than 5 years ago | (#29230963)

I've always thought the "the internet is going to destroy literacy" argument was strange at best. I mean what do you do on the internet? You read, and write, and read. Then you look at porn. But still, kids are reading a lot more now than they did back when I was young. Back then they talked on the phone for hours instead. In some ways this internet culture is a throwback to Victorian times when people wrote letters to each other constantly.

Re:Liar. (1)

Abreu (173023) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231141)

In some ways this internet culture is a throwback to Victorian times when people wrote letters to each other constantly.

Now we only need matter compilers and we will be ready for the Diamond Age!

Re:Liar. (3, Insightful)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231015)

An interesting point! Is the internet simply making writing of others which might otherwise be hidden away in a personal diary somewhere actually accessible to others for the first time?

If nothing had ever happened to Anne Frank, probably none of us would have seen her writing, ever - she'd just be a normal girl too embarrassed to let other people see what she penned in her free time. Now through the internet, anyone with a will to write can be published.

It may be it's always been there, but now it's more visible.

tl;dr nt (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231085)

i sed tl;dr nt

Re:Liar. (4, Insightful)

purpledinoz (573045) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231175)

lolwut? I c wut shee did thar. Were all loosing r minds, u no?

I really hate people who type in this manner. It saves almost no time, so what's the point in purposely making the spelling error? What does it prove? That you're some sort of Internet badass? I don't think so, it makes that person look like a complete moron. One time, I ran into a message board where the whole thread was like this, my head almost exploded.

Re:Liar. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29231309)

it's ok, there's help for you out there on the net. if you try here [4chan.org] yu will find that there is a board made for the betterment of the world. It is descriptively labeled /b/, for a better tomorrow.

Were in the mist of a literal revolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29230739)

And dis is how people wil writ in da future.

Internet is for porn (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29230743)

"In bold new directions."

I've written and enjoyed reading more porn^w adult fiction than I ever have in school.

Ya! (1, Redundant)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 5 years ago | (#29230757)

I M glad 2 c this iz happening. I wuz so verrrry conserned about teh litteracy levels in r schools.

Now wen pepl complain 2 me abt kitz not bein litterate, it will give me lolz, the suxors.

Re:Ya! (3, Funny)

idontgno (624372) | more than 5 years ago | (#29230823)

You accidentally the English Language.

Re:Ya! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29231103)

the whole thing?

Re:Ya! (0, Offtopic)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231029)

Ah.. so my post is redundant because I didn't hit submit fast enough.

Post was started when no one had posted anything. People should think before they moderate. Go ahead and give this a -1 Offtopic... but something needed to be said.

What About Plagiarism? (4, Insightful)

bezenek (958723) | more than 5 years ago | (#29230765)

The Internet facilitates easy plagiarism. I assume papers for sale on the 'net generally have good grammar. Is it possible an increase in Internet plagiarism caused the increase in literary quality?

We certainly know no-child-left-behind did not help the early stages of the pipeline.

Just a thought...

-Todd

Re:What About Plagiarism? (4, Insightful)

Krneki (1192201) | more than 5 years ago | (#29230801)

Or maybe the spell checking software is getting better and better. I can see more and more AI filters between our thoughts and the final expressions.

Re:What About Plagiarism? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29230917)

Umm...no.

The last time that was tried was something called 'Clippy.' That didn't work out so well. Spell checking is just spellchecking.

Re:What About Plagiarism? (1)

bezenek (958723) | more than 5 years ago | (#29230997)

Or maybe the spell checking [and grammar checking] software is getting better and better.

Excellent point!

-Todd

Re:What About Plagiarism? (4, Interesting)

Entropius (188861) | more than 5 years ago | (#29230999)

"The batter pushes currency through the wire." ... even with spellcheck my students manage to sound like dipshits (college EM lab)

Re:What About Plagiarism? (2, Funny)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 5 years ago | (#29230849)

so.. wow.. you're saying that a huge percentage of papers being turned by my students are plagiarized? Maybe like over 50%?

I guess you shouldn't answer that. I probably don't want to know the answer...

Re:What About Plagiarism? (2, Insightful)

Deag (250823) | more than 5 years ago | (#29230901)

I think you are missing the point, she was not just examining class work but "everything from in-class assignments, formal essays, and journal entries to emails, blog posts, and chat sessions."

It is that people actually are producing a significant body of work outside of formal education that did not happen before.

Re:What About Plagiarism? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29230967)

The Internet facilitates easy plagiarism. I assume papers for sale on the 'net generally have good grammar. Is it possible an increase in Internet plagiarism caused the increase in literary quality?

You really shouldn't assume that. Most of the papers you can buy on the Net to hand in are garbage at worst, so unusable that you may as well have done the work yourself. Every teacher has their own standards and requirements, and just buying one from a starving grad student is just as likely to cost you marks because the margins don't meet the instructor's requirements, or the direction the paper was written from was sufficiently different from the teacher's that they're not going to like it.

Re:What About Plagiarism? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29231047)

The Internet doesn't facilitate easy plagiarism. Papers for sale on the 'net generally don't have good grammar. It is not possible an increase in Internet plagiarism caused the increase in literary quality!

We certainly know no-child-left-behind did help the early stages of the pipeline.

Just a thought...

Re:What About Plagiarism? (1)

dintlu (1171159) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231111)

These are productivity gains, not gains in intelligence or literacy. (or plagiarism)

The abundance of similar material written about virtually every topic in existence provides the neophyte writer with organizational ideas and pre-organized information they wouldn't have had access to just ten years ago.

Combine this information superiority with the compositional tools that today's college students have been using their entire lives, and the result is better papers, and more of them.

Re:What About Plagiarism? (2, Funny)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231147)

The Internet facilitates easy plagiarism. I assume papers for sale on the 'net generally have good grammar. Is it possible an increase in Internet plagiarism caused the increase in literary quality?

We certainly know no-child-left-behind did not help the early stages of the pipeline.

Just a thought...

-jolly

Re:What About Plagiarism? (1)

bezenek (958723) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231337)

Awesome! But, are you sure my grammar was correct? :-) -Todd

Re:What About Plagiarism? (1)

Jawn98685 (687784) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231169)

Did you even read the...
Silly me. Of course you didn't. Otherwise, you'd have known that the author was talking about a good many mediums and applications of "writing", not just term papers.
Left behind, indeed.

Re:What About Plagiarism? (1)

bezenek (958723) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231379)

Yes, there were many media. But, I expect the focus was on term papers as that is what academics care about. I might be incorrect.

Inquiring minds want to know.

-Todd

Re:What About Plagiarism? (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231251)

We certainly know no-child-left-behind did not help the early stages of the pipeline.

That is only a recent mistake. US education certainly took a turn for the worse under Reagan but it appears to have already been in decline prior to that. After listening to Rumsfeld and various other leading figures I really feel a sense of embarrassment as to how poorly they understand their native language let alone anything else. Being able to buy a degree or get it on the wrestling mat trickles down to poor standards for everyone. I think it has led to the very annoying habit of US academics redefining commonly used words to mean something completely different and the advertising industry behaving as if it is functionally illiterate AND on drugs.

tl;dr (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29230775)

tl;dr

Re:tl;dr (4, Funny)

purpledinoz (573045) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231079)

tl;dr

tl;dr

Re:tl;dr (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29231207)

Being to write concisely and/or being interesting is something people should learn how to do no matter how much those idiot professors don't like it.

I think... (4, Interesting)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 5 years ago | (#29230777)

I think that is what has been the definition of the modern society over the past four or five decades. We are no longer in a period where "revolutions" happen every so often, divided by long periods of stability. We are now in a period where the revolution is continual.

From material sciences to the internet revolution, we are seeing things happen on a monthly basis that have huge impacts on us. We are mostly numbed to this because we are used to seeing it. Yet go back three or four generations and look at how life was. Certainly nothing like today.

My mind still boggles at the fact that I can talk with people half way around the world without leaving my house. That I can collaborate with people with more ease than I would have been a decade ago who lived only fifty miles away. This ability to communicate easily, I think, is the foundation for all of the other revolutions we are seeing.

I wonder what this world will be like in fifty years. Will these revolutions help make this a much better place to live? Or will we find a way to fuck it up?

Re:I think... (2, Interesting)

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#29230885)

I like the "continual revolution" thing, but I think it's been going on for longer than you might think. I would argue the Industrial Revolution was the last true "revolution", and it's been virtually continuous change ever since then. We've had a fairly steady flow of life-changing technologies ever since then, and there's no particular sign of that stopping in the near future.

Re:I think... (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231097)

Perhaps you are right. It is hard to define when it began. From my standpoint, I see it as the period after the major countries began to really recover from World War II. At least from my not-so-educated on the subject perspective, I don't see a whole lot of advancements during the period of time between the two world wars. Granted, certain technology did as it supported the wars. It is also possible I am just ignorant on the subject.

Re:I think... (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231329)

Consider the evolution of transportation, which started in the industrial revolution with the invention of a practical steam engine and continued unabated thereafter. First steam engines went in to large, heavy vehicles -- ships, then trains. The internal combustion engine made smaller engines more practical, enabling the development of automobiles and, in the early 20th century, aircraft. Along the way were many advancements in rail and road systems, and air traffic control.

The big wars did briefly (but hugely) accelerate advancements in these fields, but steady progress was made in peace time as well.

Re:I think... (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231421)

Well The industrial revolution and electricity were barely within a lifetime of each other, and computers were another few generations later - wheras technology sort of creeped along at that stage, I mean if you consider the lightbulb a piece of technology (Basically just applied electricity).

Though with the same sense of thinking the Internet is just applied computer technology, and its definately world changing.

I can't think of anything to have come out IN MY LIFETIME (Last 20 years) that's really been WORLD changing for me, though you would say I'm numbed to it. Aside from the internet blowing up into what it is, what revolutions have taken place?

I tend to think of it as - its not a continuous revolution, just the current one hasn't ended yet. The industrial revoltion didn't occur overnight. I think the Dawn of computer technology has just barely started.

Eventually we'll break it down into Quantum computers, and we probably won't be able to get computers any stronger (except by brute force methods like larger chips). And then there won't be much advancements in computer technology.
But Biotechnics are exciting, and there are advancements that I'm hearing about but haven't directly affected me. And Like XKCD says, this may be the root to immortality, but it won't happen within my lifetime.

I mean, maybe if we wait long enough, far enough into the future - they'll release IPv6!

Re:I think... (3, Insightful)

SputnikPanic (927985) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231133)

I wonder what this world will be like in fifty years. Will these revolutions help make this a much better place to live? Or will we find a way to fuck it up?

I sometimes think it'll be the latter. Maybe I've been watching too many dystopian movies, but technology, for all its benefits, can also change societies for the worse. Assume that 50 years from now we have the capability to put chips into people's brains. What will governments do with that sort of capability? I can easily see a proposal being introduced that would allow remote brain monitoring of sex offenders, for example. Science and technology will continue their advance and fifty years from now, I think we'll all be less likely to die from cancer, less likely to be mentally debilitated by Alzheimer's, and physically healthier overall, but I think we'll also have less freedom.

Re:I think... (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231163)

Ever heards about the concept of the Technological Singularity ? ;-)

Re:I think... (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231313)

Yes. However, we are talking about the existence of an actual phenomenon. TS is most likely a fantasy.

College students? (4, Interesting)

Jhon (241832) | more than 5 years ago | (#29230783)

Stanford Study of Writing to scrutinize college students' prose

Why not study the "prose" of high-school students? Particularly the "prose" of the ever increasing number of high-school drop outs?

"Reviving [out ability to write]"? Yeah. And if I did a study that only looked at NASA engineers, I'd think we were all rocket scientists.

Re:College students? (1)

Jhon (241832) | more than 5 years ago | (#29230821)

Ug... wish there was an edit function.

[OUR ability to write]

Re:College students? (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 5 years ago | (#29230899)

Hmm...having read NASA engineers' writing, I can safely say that education has no correlation with ability to express oneself in the written word.

Re:College students? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29230987)

I would be perfectly comfortable studying college students. What seems like a bad idea is extrapolating Stanford students out to other college students. From her evidence, I would conclude that Stanford students are in the midst of a literacy revolution, not that everyone else is. She's obviously not a Statistics professor.

Really? I don't think so. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29230789)

"has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like" I rest my case.

And Today is Reading Rainbow's Final Broadcast (5, Informative)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | more than 5 years ago | (#29230793)

But you don't have to take my word for it!

"The show will cease airing on PBS on Friday, August 28, 2009 after 26 years on the air."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reading_Rainbow [wikipedia.org]

duh duh DUH!

Re:And Today is Reading Rainbow's Final Broadcast (2, Funny)

bugeaterr (836984) | more than 5 years ago | (#29230891)

Reading Rainbow has been in decline since Geordi ditched them for that Chief Engineer position.

we all love to be heard (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231057)

far more than we love hearing

Re:And Today is Reading Rainbow's Final Broadcast (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29231075)

It didn't ruin my day or anything, but it is kind of a downer that another of the good and actually educational kid TV programs is going off the air. I know it's partly because I used to watch it when I was a small child, but it's also because I really don't see any of the modern kid's programs stressing reading can be fun like Reading Rainbow did.

Well at least LeVar Burton [wikipedia.org] is new finding projects to work on.

Re:And Today is Reading Rainbow's Final Broadcast (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231095)

This is just sad. Worst news all week...

Re:And Today is Reading Rainbow's Final Broadcast (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231371)

It really is a shame. The story on NPR about this said that it was being dropped in favor of shows that focus on giving kids the tools for reading (spelling, phonics, etc.) instead of inculcating a love of reading itself. That is important I'll grant, but once kids know how to read, they also need to know why to read.

If kids aren't motivated to read by realizing that it opens doors in the mind, that it can transport you to other places, reading will be just another menial exercise. I'm sure you've heard people complain about algebra "I'll never use this, what effect could it have on my life?". Well that's where reading is headed if people aren't shown what reading can do for them. There's more to literacy than just converting shapes into sounds. PBS members with kids should be up in arms over this.

What do you mean the sky isn't falling? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29230799)

But... but... societal decline! The good ol' days! My generation and my recent ancestors' generations were the best, not like these spoiled rotten immoral kids! Everyone knows that Generation $NEWEST_BUZZWORD has been been corrupted by $NEWEST_MORAL_PANIC! This is obviously just some... some ivory tower elite INTELLECTUAL manipulating statistics (which every God-fearing American knows are less reliable than unexamined personal biases) to justify violence and sex in $NEW_MEDIA (which is much worse than the $OLD_MEDIA that I consume).

I agree (4, Insightful)

Deag (250823) | more than 5 years ago | (#29230815)

I found this interesting:

Of all the writing that the Stanford students did, a stunning 38 percent of it took place out of the classroomâ"life writing, as Lunsford calls it. Those Twitter updates and lists of 25 things about yourself add up.

It's almost hard to remember how big a paradigm shift this is. Before the Internet came along, most Americans never wrote anything, ever, that wasn't a school assignment. Unless they got a job that required producing text (like in law, advertising, or media), they'd leave school and virtually never construct a paragraph again.

It makes a lot of sense. This idea of their being a golden age of people hand writing letters to each other is bullshit for the vast majority of the populace.

She might not be popular with some people in actually praising a new generation. I remember watching a discussion on some TV show once where a professor stated that in his experience the current young people were much more diligent and hard working than previous generations. It didn't go down well at all with the rest of the tut-tuting panel.

Re:I agree (3, Informative)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231039)

I

It makes a lot of sense. This idea of their being a golden age of people hand writing letters to each other is bullshit for the vast majority of the populace.

l.

There was such a golden age. It's just that no one is alive from that time anymore (nor has been in my lifetime). According to several historians, the armies that fought in the Civil War were the most literate armies in history up until sometime right around the year 2000, and possibly since (the show I watched discussing this was produced between 1996 and 2004--I don't remember more accurately than that).

Re:I agree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29231107)

>She might not be popular with some people in actually praising a new generation.

Heheheheheheheheeee.

BWAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAA.

cough,cough,cough

AAAAHAAAAAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAAAAHAAAAAAAAAA

signal-to-noise (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231215)

This idea of their being a golden age of people hand writing letters to each other is bullshit for the vast majority of the populace.

Agreed. More communication is generally good. But there are a few major problems. For one, the signal-to-noise ratio has increased massively. Granted, an old-style letter had pretty poor latency and round-trip times. However, a hand-written letter between penpals or lovers about everything of import that happened in the last two months is, in some ways, a LOT more efficient than a thousand tweets about coffee and confusion and "wtf? moments" and stress, with only one huge and easily missed insight into your current project buried amongst it.

Re:I agree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29231349)

"where a professor stated that in his experience the current young people were much more diligent and hard working than previous generations"

Well, of course you are. How else are you going to afford those tuner upgrades?

Or escape the neighborhood with the repeatable bass?

The "old" generations can't think with that noise, so of course you get more shit done. It's just USELESS stuff--working at call centers, distribution plants, etc. They aren't tech jobs, scientific improvements on par with the last generation, etc.

Hard work is not smart work.

Young people always work harder than the last generation; you have more opportunities to given the previous--it just doesn't last because you're doing useless crap because there isn't much else good shit to do left because you aren't enabled to. This is why things are so often "reinvented" or "discovered" on /., only to have posters point out someone did it 30 years ago a la NASA vs. Goddard.

The written word (0)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#29230825)

When on the one hand our letters are soon forgotten in the pile of loose papers including the stack of newspapers that we once subscribed to but never read and just folded in half and put into the corner to gather dust like the Jefferson memorial and on the other hand our personal correspondence in digital form lives forever on servers and hard drives and websites recording not only each worthless word but also each visit by us the authors as well as them the audience for seemingly ever until the password is forgotten or the account expires like our aforementioned newspaper subscription, we proud and vain humans find that having a little historical impact in our own way is better than nothing and are reacting as such.

Not that anyone cares what we are writing.

Education. (1)

MaWeiTao (908546) | more than 5 years ago | (#29230827)

Well, considering how the vast majority of people today, at all social levels, are educated to one extent or another, even compared to a mere 100 years ago, it certainly is very impressive.

On the other hand, judging from the quality of writing I see online and work submitted by my own college students I beg to differ. But then, the more people we have going through the educational system the more likely the overall standard will decline somewhat.

The sins of youth... (3, Insightful)

stagg (1606187) | more than 5 years ago | (#29230829)

One thing that is important is to remember that in nearly every generation for at least the last three hundred years there's been a tendency for a certain kind of comfortable intellectual to shake their heads and decry the downfall of civilization, the irreverence of youth and the death of literacy and wisdom. Noticing that trend does not necessarily make it incorrect, but it certainly makes it suspicious. I suspect it says more about a certain type of person than it does about our culture. With that said however, there is change going on, although unlike Dr Lunsford I think that any judgment of what is going on exactly is a bit premature: it's all guesswork right now. Her analysis isn't too bad, but it's not necessarily better than anyone else's guess. What Dr Lunsford has undertaken is very subjective, and it's almost impossible for her to get any kind of objective research or testable results. Given a century or two of distance and perspective that may become easier. (If we're still around then. ha)

Re:The sins of youth... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29231109)

I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words... When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly disrespectful and impatient of restraint.
- Hesiod, 700 BC

Our earth is degenerate in these latter days; there are signs that the world is speedily coming to an end; bribery and corruption are common; children no longer obey their parents; every man wants to write a book and the end of the world is evidently approaching.

- Assyrian tablet, 2800 BC

We live in a decaying age. Young people no longer respect
their parents. They are rude and impatient. They frequently
inhabit taverns and have no self control.
- Egyptian tomb, 4000 BC

Re:The sins of youth... (1)

syrinx (106469) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231295)

As they say on Wikipedia, [citation needed].

Exposure (4, Insightful)

Alaren (682568) | more than 5 years ago | (#29230833)

This has long been my suspicion, ever since reading Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death. The "Web" is only now becoming video-heavy; for over a decade, using the Internet was always in large measure an act of reading, and continues to be heavily so. And the best way to improve your writing is to read, and to write.

I do wonder, too, if there is something to be said for the availability of complex material to children. When I was in First Grade, my father took the school librarian to task for cordoning off the "big kids" section when lower grades were in the library. I was the only one in the class permitted to venture into the "big books" after that, which sort of missed my father's point, but the availability of challenging materials is the first step to mastering them.

I give my children free (if subtly monitored) access to the Internet. My son used Starfall.com to teach himself to read at 2 1/2; he is now 4 and when he wants to calm himself down often asks if he can "do math" from a 1st grade workbook we acquired. We did have to have a chat with my daughter (age 6) about some of the search terms she was entering into YouTube (nothing obscene, but often crass as children are wont to do), but she has gravitated toward searching for cartoons on various subjects. Her spelling, typing, and comprehension of search functions is fascinating to watch.

It looks like playtime, most of the time, but it is clearly a much more literacy-oriented playtime than, say, watching television (which my children are rarely interested in doing, though we do have television and do not generally forbid it). I will be interested to see how this study or studies like it look in another ten years--especially those that look for the existence and effects of the "digital divide."

Temporary phenomenon? (2, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#29230841)

I can see why the Internet would have increased literacy in the short term. After all, it's still primarily a text-based medium, and so you need some level of reading and comprehension skill to be able to participate.

However, as the Internet moves more toward video, from youtube to video blogs to more and more stories on news sites being offered only as videos, will that jump in literacy be sustained? We're quickly moving from an Internet where large volumes of text were passed back and forth to an Internet where videos are passed around, and commentary on them is in the form of very brief twitter-length comments. So, I'm skeptical that people using the Internet in 10 years will be doing any more reading (or writing, for that matter) than people watching TV do now.

Re:Temporary phenomenon? (1)

AlHunt (982887) | more than 5 years ago | (#29230943)

> I can see why the Internet would have increased literacy in the short term.

Don't forget the study looks only at writing produces by college students. I did not RTFA yet, but I have to wonder about the rest of the world at large.

Re:Temporary phenomenon? (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231127)

I can see why the Internet would have increased literacy in the short term. After all, it's still primarily a text-based medium, and so you need some level of reading and comprehension skill to be able to participate

That level being "borderline illiterate" for the most part.

LOLZ.

Re:Temporary phenomenon? (2, Insightful)

royallthefourth (1564389) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231243)

However, as the Internet moves more toward video, from youtube to video blogs to more and more stories on news sites being offered only as videos, will that jump in literacy be sustained? We're quickly moving from an Internet where large volumes of text were passed back and forth to an Internet where videos are passed around, and commentary on them is in the form of very brief twitter-length comments. So, I'm skeptical that people using the Internet in 10 years will be doing any more reading (or writing, for that matter) than people watching TV do now.

I can't imagine video will become much easier to put on the web than it is now (but don't quote me in the future!). I suspect most of our communication will remain text-based if only because it's much easier for me(and undoubtedly others) to produce an intelligent sounding text comment than it is to produce a (good) video or audio clip. For the last two cases, I'd ramble on and on and need to re-record many segments of it rather than just fixing typos and changing words for clarity. Also, many of us here are fast readers and would prefer to take in the information at our reading pace rather than a slower talking pace.

I hammered this comment out in about a minute; I imagine a video of comparable quality would've taken me ten times as long.
One more thing: if you've ever used Xbox Live, you understand why someone would rather read text than hear the author's voice. Most people's voices just don't sound very good and it gets in the way of the message.

Re:Temporary phenomenon? (1)

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231413)

I hammered this comment out in about a minute; I imagine a video of comparable quality would've taken me ten times as long.

And just think how much longer it would take to record a GOOD comment!

Sorry, nothing personal. I just couldn't let such an easy opportunity get by. Seriously though, I do mostly agree with you, but compare the quality of the comments on a site such as this and the comments on a site like youtube. I also prefer to read things on the Internet rather than watch them, because usually it takes less time to get more information that way, but the number of people who think like that may shrink as generations coming up experience the Internet as a medium primarily concerned with video-based content.

Also, discussion forums, most of which feature comments that are barely intelligible, will probably remain text for the foreseeable future. However, longer blog posts and news articles -- in which sentence structure, grammar, and things of that nature are generally give more attention -- may move largely to video. This alone could reduce or eliminate this so-called "literacy revolution."

i has good literacy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29230883)

j/k

Bold new directions (1)

MonsterTrimble (1205334) | more than 5 years ago | (#29230903)

Actually, I think she's right in most ways. It's silly that people believe a technology whose use is based on the ability to write and comprehend written word would hurt literacy. Has it been changed? Absolutely. But I think it has evolved into a less 'fluffy' version.

In my last year of high school there was english lit and english tech. Lit was first and involved prose, allegories, 'What is the author really trying to say?', etc. Tech involved being as clear and concise as possible. Nothing fancy, just "Git 'er done". I think we're now where people are not interested in the fluff - show me what I need to know and let's carry on.

Please cite specific examples. (2, Informative)

stainless-steel-vash (1290528) | more than 5 years ago | (#29230911)

I am going to have to call BS on this one. Two things: 1. Just because all your friends speak the same level of garbage doesn't make you more "Literate." It just means everyone you know speaks like an idiot. It's great that you speak to your audiences level, now let's raise the caliber of that general level. 2. While studying editing for my Degree in Writing (Business and Technical) I had to edit a paper from an Honors level student. I couldn't even understand what point he was trying to make. So, what papers, and from what colleges/universities was she reviewing? I've seen some doozies even up to last month. It's hard to edit for grammar and not touch the content when the content is a turd.

teachers love Google too (1)

hoarier (1545701) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231149)

While studying editing for my Degree in Writing (Business and Technical) I had to edit a paper from an Honors level student.

What, there are universities that hand out degrees in "Writing (Business and Technical)"? I'm less worried about students' alleged illiteracy than I am about universities' lack of ambition. [sepia]Back in my day you'd study business or technology and get your writing practice while drafting your term papers.[/sepia]

My own students sometimes write swathes of immaculate prose. These swathes come without the Google ads and other distractions that accompany the exact same swathes that Google obligingly finds for me. Definitive proof of plagiarism is blessedly simple.

Who would've thunk it? (2, Funny)

monoqlith (610041) | more than 5 years ago | (#29230931)

It's weird how communicating by reading and writing many more times over than we did during the 20th Century would have somehow made us better at it....

In other news, 500 gamers in Seattle = good sample (5, Insightful)

bmcnally (1333283) | more than 5 years ago | (#29230957)


This sound familiar to the wonky research that was showcased a couple of weeks ago - that gamers are fat, depressed, and have an average age of 35. Data collection is everything. A sample of students taken only from Stanford, or Harvard, MIT, CalTech, is hardly representative of the nation as a whole. Those who get into these schools typically have SAT and ACT scores well above average - in both Math and English (viewing the demographics page at the study's homepage [stanford.edu] confirms this). In fact, if other research is to be believed, these are the types of people that are least likely to use Twitter, Facebook, etc excessively.

A more comprehensive study would grab a frequency weighted sample that looked at a larger number of students at large public universities, as well as a significant number of students from community colleges.

Unfortunately, when I go to the site, all of the pages under "methods" are giving me 404s.

Re:In other news, 500 gamers in Seattle = good sam (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231401)

A more comprehensive study would grab a frequency weighted sample that looked at a larger number of students at large public universities, as well as a significant number of students from community colleges.

Don't forget to sample those who don't attend traditional universities at all. Vocational schools and trade apprenticeships are less used than in the past, but they haven't disappeared by any means.

Language is fluid, let it flow (4, Interesting)

Laxitive (10360) | more than 5 years ago | (#29230975)

I was happy to read this article. It reflects what has slowly become my perspective on online use of language.

Speaking as an immigrant who originally struggled with the English language for the first few years I spent in North America, I love English. I love how some parts make no sense, and how it's infused with slang from cultural experiences gathered from far and wide. Formal english is completely different from slang english, pigdin english, or online english... but I don't see the latter examples as _inferior_, simply different... wonderfully different.

People often confuse the notion of "writing English in a way that I can relate to" with "writing good English". This is not so. Language is most exciting when it is adulterated, compromised, and infused with the particulars of its speakers. I spent 3 years of adolescence in Louisiana, back in the 90s. While others were scoffing at the notion of ebonics, I was lapping up inner city slang: that beautiful, musical, profane prose. While others bemoan the so-called regression identified with online linguistic idioms, the 4-chanisms, and earlier the Jeff-K-isms, the flippant irreverence which with modern youth take ownership of their speech, I celebrate it.

Who wants to read things in the same way they've always written? Not to say that great writers of the past are stale - I still relish my Twain, Irving, Rushdie, and other masters of script - but I don't see the point in taking an adversarial perspective on the evolution of language.... and have no doubt, language IS evolving online. Literature is evolving online. The presentation is changing, the context is changing, the composition is changing, the references are changing... it's fucking exciting to watch.

-Laxitive

Well.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29230977)

idk my bff jill

Oh Really? (4, Interesting)

mpapet (761907) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231003)

So, her sample of *Stanford* students says we're in a writing revolution eh? Since Stanford's $36,000 a year in tuition from the bank of mom and dad it stands to reason the kids entering the institution have been matriculated to a similar degree before entering Stanford.

Let's replicate her experiment in a State college and see what the outcome is eh?

Exposing what's there (3, Insightful)

martyros (588782) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231007)

I wonder then if the amount of drivel you see is more about the fact that the internet exposes what's there, rather than bringing the level down. The fact is that 50 years ago you wouldn't read something that wasn't written by someone who had specifically developed their literacy. I'm always surprised at how much more ignorant some of my relatives sound on Facebook than they ever did in person. My relatives closer to my own age, however, are very articulate online.

So the internet makes the world seem less literate (by exposing the lack of literacy that otherwise would never be seen), but in fact on average makes the world in fact more literate (by encouraging people to express themselves in words and thus get more practice doing so).

Re:Exposing what's there (2, Insightful)

Psychophrenes (1600027) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231129)

On the other hand, you have to take into account the fact that because people read more and more bad prose containing grammatical errors and such, they get used to it, and tend to reproduce the errors they see.

Re:Exposing what's there (1)

martyros (588782) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231279)

They're usually writing what they would speak anyway. Before they were simply hearing what you call "grammatical errors"* and reproducing them in vocal form; now they're reading them and producing them in written form. I don't see how that's any worse, really.

* I'm of the opinion that language is defined by its speakers, not by a rulebook somewhere. Obviously we need to have and to teach a "Standard English" so that we can communicate effectively. But if a native speaker of English uses words in a way that differs with the grammar of Standard English, I object to calling that a "grammatical error", unless it's in a context where Standard English should be expected, like a school assignment, a book, a newspaper article, &c. Texting, IM, e-mail, and social networking with family and friends is a context where people should be allowed to use a dialect comfortable to them.

Literacy is increasing?? (1)

ErichTheRed (39327) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231027)

OMG WTF iz he tlkin about lolz :-D i can rite good 4 realz

OK, back to the real world...there's something a little fishy about this study. The article says that the study author surveyed academic papers, essays and class assignments for writing samples. That's a lot different from everyday communication -- you're writing in a formal style that is usually dictated to you by the assigning teacher/professor.

I'd love to see a study on corporate e-mail communications, or even written documentation. I admit that I'm getting older, but you can definitely tell a person's age from the formality level of their communications. People who are almost ready to retire remember writing memos by hand and physically mailing them or handing them to colleagues. For them, writing was something that required effort, and the content reflects this fact. Even e-mail messages are carefully crafted. People my age (mid-30s) grew up with written communication first, then e-mail shortly after. As a result, we tend to be less formal than the older crowd, but most of us still put some effort into writing coherent documents or messages. For example, it's normal for me to be brief in an e-mail message, but I would never let it go out without proofreading it for spelling, grammar and punctuation. The next generation grew up with e-mail first, then texting. The only "formal" writing most of them do seems to be in school. I'm mentoring a junior systems engineer right now, and trying to explain to him that you cannot send out messages or write documents with texting-speak or other problems in them. I can't tell you how many messages I have received from vendors that look like the author is talking to his friend on an iPhone. In my mind, it's not being an old fuddy-duddy to make yourself sound as polished as possible. You win more arguments than the lolspeak crowd if you can intelligently get your point across.

Damn kids. :-)

Seriously, lolspeak is fine for text messaging, but we should continue to teach formal writing techniques. Sure, the sky won't fall if everyone stops writing formal essays and moves towards a blogging format. However, the death of print journalism is really going to put a damper on news reporting, historical accounts, etc. In my mind, journalism is one of the things keeping traditional writing with the careful thought that goes along with it alive.

Caught in a headline (3, Informative)

joeflies (529536) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231063)

the headline makes an attractive statement - that the computer revolution is improving student's writing.

The headline failed to mention that the students in the analysis were all Stanford students, and the article buried that information in the middle. At first it states that the research was done at Stanford, and then reveals that the samples were all Stanford students.

Given that Stanford is a world class college institution, analyzing the progress of their writing is way too narrow of a sample size to say that all young people are improving their skills.

What about people who don't make in Stanford? What about the kids who don't make it to college? Are they a part of the writing revolution too? Or are they left behind while we make tantalizing headlines about the elite students of America? The article summary would lead you to believe that this revolution is about general literacy.

I still remember... (1)

amn108 (1231606) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231105)

I still remember arguing with a stubborn idiot who kept insisting operating systems are not computer applications. Guess he was one of those students, "pushing literacy in bold new directions".

or just redefine literacy (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231167)

text-speak and ebonics are not "bold new directions", they are corruptions of the language.

Re:or just redefine literacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29231229)

Modern English is not a "bold new direction", it is a corruption of proper Olde English.

Language changes and evolves, often messily. Get over it.

Re:or just redefine literacy (1)

bigbigbison (104532) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231291)

and modern English is a corruption of Middle English and Middle English was a corruption of Old English and so on and so on...

Literacy Revolution... evn if u can rede this (1)

farrellj (563) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231241)

Literacy, the ability to both read and write, is an important part of interactivity. If you want to take part in that interactivity, you need to be able to read and write...you don't have to do it well, but you need a certain proficiency in it , and that is what this new literacy revolution is based upon.

Literacy is not about *correctly* writing, but about both reading and writing. If you look back at how people thought things would come out in the '60s and '70s, they were talking about a coming "Post Literate" world, dominated by the TV. Instead we see the popularity of TV in freefall with a dramatically splintered audience. People are spending more time on interactive computer based games, in "chat", or surfing the net than they do watching tv. The biggest difference between the TV world of the future that never was and our reality is that we don't allow the TV, in any form, to passively feed us information. Harlan Ellison called it the Glass Teat. Thankfully, we live in a different reality.

So ture (1)

ae1294 (1547521) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231273)

These kids today, they sure do know their Greek alpha-bit much better than their parents ever did. I'd image if you ask any 12 year old boy to draw the lambda symbol they would probably have little trouble...

Damn you computer games... STOP teaching your children the Ancient Greek Alpha-bit... I mean whats next? Games that teach them to interact with others for the common good of the group? Pfft....

This is great! (1)

TrippTDF (513419) | more than 5 years ago | (#29231277)

I remember my freshman English teacher (this was 1994). One day she was talking about the importance of knowing how to write, and she pointed to the Mac Classic in the corner and said 'Because the future is in that box!" She was really, really right. I spend most of my day writing emails to clarify ideas for other people, and that ultimatly is what pushes projects ahead. You simply need to have a descent understanding of how to write in order to function well online.

L337 l1tr@Ry 3k1llz (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29231433)

Ch3k 0t th3s sUp@ l77t sk1llzzzzz!!!!!!!1!!! Phd engr1sh !n d@ bawg, h0lmes!!!!!!!!!!!!1111
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