November 20, 2007
With all the emphasis on "reading is FUNdamental" and "standards of learning" over the past decade or two, you would think that most high school graduates would have well developed reading skills. You would be wrong. Actually, most elementary school students are doing well in reading, according to a study by the National Endowment for the Arts, but as today's Washington Post reports, "once they enter adolescence, they fall victim to a general culture which does not encourage or reinforce reading." The study focused on reading literature for enjoyment, but the same trend is observed for reading in general.
That NEA study confirms my general impression of many college students these days, sad to say. Many of them do not seem to be able to grasp the main point of text passages they are assigned, getting lost in the minutiae of sundry isolated facts. Reading newspapers is hopelessly out of style for most of them, and not many of them even bother to read news stories on the Internet. The result is that a huge proportion of young adults today are simply unable to keep abreast with important public issues. They are "civic dropouts," you might say.
Can our precious democratic republic survive for long without a strong majority of reasonably well-informed citizens?