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Raising a generation of Really Bad Readers?

  1. Nov 23, 2007 #1

    Chris Hillman

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    In another thread, ZapperZ wrote something which reminded me of a concern I have harbored for some time:

    I have noticed--- or think I have noticed--- a steady decline in the reading and writing skills of PF newbies who appear to belong to the juvenile cohort, biologically speaking. Many pundits appear to have noticed--- or think they have noticed--- this phenomenon in public web forums generally. These commentators typically blame these alleged changes in on-line "normative behavior" on the adoption by many juveniles of new technology such as text messaging. And I have in fact noticed--- or think I have noticed--- quite a few PF newbies who appear to be posting (inappropriately, in my view) using "TM style", just as some years ago, on moderated UseNet newsgroups I encountered posters posting (inappropriately, in my view) using L33t ("chat room style"). More to the point, this abbreviated style of writing appears to be accompanied by an inability to carefully read sometimes complicated texts, or to try to follow intricate and sometimes technical discussions. Assuming this phenomenon is not a collective hallucination, I have to wonder: can forums like PF have any long-term future, if future generations are unable or unwilling to read carefully any text longer than a few sentences?
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2007
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 23, 2007 #2
    I think you are taking a few bad posts too far.
     
  4. Nov 23, 2007 #3

    Chris Hillman

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    I hope so. Certainly my fears that L33t might take over the newsgroups was completely wrong; in fact, they were taken over by something worse, the trolls :yuck:
     
  5. Nov 23, 2007 #4
    Most of the time I find the people who post like that are the ones taking intro physics but just want answers, not engineers or physics majors. People forced to take it but dont care one way or another about the subject.
     
  6. Nov 23, 2007 #5
    I'm with you. Here's a perfect example of people not being able to follow simple directions:

    A few weeks ago, I hosted one of my BBQ's; I always invite people using the events app on facebook. here's the invitation, word for word (well, I took out all the swear words, dirty jokes, and personal info):

    - NO ONE brought food.
    - 5 uninvited strangers showed up without warning.
    - 3 people showed up on the wrong week.
    - 3 people called me on the wrong week, thinking it was that week.
    - it did get too cold, and we did end up going to the bar: like 10 people called me that week saying "I showed up at your house and there was nobody there! where were you guys??"

    ugh.
     
  7. Nov 23, 2007 #6

    Math Is Hard

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    Chris, you'd also be dismayed at the number of new members who use the Report Post button to reply to threads (and do it repeatedly). Some of them never figure it out.
     
  8. Nov 23, 2007 #7

    Chris Hillman

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    :uhh: <--- That means I'm flabbergasted
     
  9. Nov 23, 2007 #8

    Mk

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    I just think it's the same thing that's been going on since society started: Old people like to say how the next generation is being raised wrongly and have behavioral problems, and are being raised dumber and dumber. But the thing is, civilization tends to get smarter, every generation. In this thread we've blamed 1337 and "AIM-" and "txt" speak, but it's those very communications technologies (computers, internet, telephones) that help spread information and understanding of information.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2007
  10. Nov 23, 2007 #9
    Your post makes no sense MK. What does computers, the internet, and telephones (invented in the early 1900s, BTW), have to do with short hand notation? None of these things were invented because of that type of speech, so it does not make your point. Its really more of a soundbite than anything else.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2007
  11. Nov 23, 2007 #10

    Evo

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    We have always insisted that members type in regular English, not text messaging or chat room format.

    If you run across someone that doesn't, feel free to report them so a mentor can explain it to them, or tell them that until they use real English...no help.

    This, of course, has nothing to do with non-English speakers that are making an effort.
     
  12. Nov 23, 2007 #11
    I don't think it is that they are bad readers, or that they cannot understand, in my opinion it is just lazyness. Why bother typing out those big long words in full sentences when you can just use txt speak? Why bother reading the directions? If you do it wrong someone will tell you. Txt language is one of those things that really irritates me, I'm not asking for perfect spelling and grammar just a real sentence that makes you look as though you made an attempt at appearing as an intelligent human being.
     
  13. Nov 23, 2007 #12

    mgb_phys

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    How many of us have read "Eats shoots and leaves"?
     
  14. Nov 23, 2007 #13

    Evo

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    That's a great book. :approve:
     
  15. Nov 23, 2007 #14

    Chi Meson

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    Nothing is as bad as reading the comments under any...just about any Youtube video. Very few posts on PF even approach that level.

    My speculation is that these are the folks that would have been completely illiterate in a previous generation. It might be progress, even.
     
  16. Nov 23, 2007 #15

    Evo

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    AAAARGHHH!!! I want the ability to anihilate these people.
     
  17. Nov 23, 2007 #16

    Mk

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    Good ole xkcd.
    youtube.png
     
  18. Nov 24, 2007 #17
    Hahahahahaha! That was an uncanny satire. Brilliant stuff.
     
  19. Nov 24, 2007 #18

    Ivan Seeking

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    :rofl: Hah, yes, at least they are trying to read and write!!! :biggrin:
     
  20. Nov 24, 2007 #19

    Moonbear

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    The downhill trend in writing and reading comprehension began well before texting started. I noticed it close to 15 years ago when I was a teaching assistant. College students could not write complete, coherent sentences in response to short answer/essay exam questions. Their writing in lab reports, where they actually had time to think through what they were saying and could proofread was just as bad, so it wasn't the time pressure of the exams. I was shocked at how atrocious their writing skills were. I asked some of the professors who had been teaching a long time if this was a recent development, or if there have always been students who write that badly, and I've just been unaware not being on the grading side before. They said it was only in the few years prior to that that the writing skills started to deteriorate so badly.

    And, no, they couldn't follow instructions either. When a short answer question says, "In the space provided..." and they write their answer continued onto the back of the page, they clearly are not following instructions (I was annoyed that the course coordinator still expected me to grade the part on the back of the page...I thought that if they didn't put it in the space provided, I shouldn't have to waste time reading their answer...and I think "softies" like that only perpetuate the problem...all it takes is a '0' on one question because you didn't follow instructions to start to get the point you need to follow them).

    I would try to emphasize this point in lab reports. At least 50% of their grade on lab reports required no understanding of the subject at all, it just required following instructions (because that's part of learning formal scientific writing). You should have heard the students squawking when I took off 2 points for excessive spelling/grammar errors! I didn't deduct points for the occasional typo, everyone slips somewhere when writing a long assignment, but when there were spelling errors in every paragraph, or the paper was riddled with incomplete sentences, I deducted points for that. I should have taken off more than just 2 points considering how painful it made the grading for me.

    Anyway, yes, there is also a proliferation of poor writing/reading comprehension skills online, but one must also keep in mind that ANYONE can post online today, even those whose writing you would never need to read if you were talking in person. So, yes, it's bad, but I don't think it's necessarily due to text messaging so much as that there has been a steady decline in writing skills for some time now. It seems to have a different source.
     
  21. Nov 24, 2007 #20

    Chi Meson

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    Television, and its bloody spawn.
     
  22. Nov 24, 2007 #21
    I'm not going to lie, I'm 17 and I use "u" for you when I send a text. It's only becuase it takes too long otherwise, but I do think it's rediculous when people use language like that on things like PF.
     
  23. Nov 24, 2007 #22

    Moonbear

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    On the rare occasions when I use text messaging, I'll use shortcuts as well, mostly because I have got to be THE SLOWEST text messager on the planet, and because you are limited to the number of characters you can use, so it makes sense in that medium. It doesn't make sense when you have a full keyboard and no character limits.
     
  24. Nov 25, 2007 #23
    I plead guilty to using shortcuts online (which should be obvious from my previous message)... I don't see it as anything wrong... language evolves, and the way we communicate online or by text will be different from the way we communicate verbally (just as the way we speak is different from a formal essay or a novel).

    My concern is with people's inability to to understand and follow that language, and their inability to express themselves properly when it's necessary to do so. I think this comes as a result of apathy, rather than anything else.
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2007
  25. Nov 27, 2007 #24

    mgb_phys

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    Posted in the Mathematics survival kit book review - this has got to be a wind-up!
     
  26. Nov 27, 2007 #25
    While "shortcuts" in text communication annoys me in a "I like using big words, so you should too" kind-of-way, I see absolutely no reason to be offended by or scared of them.

    Language evolves. The fact that posts here are not filled with "thou" and "thee" is proof enough of this. To say that the quote of "mgb_phys"'s is in some way inferior to the "proper" English form with the same content is - in my humble opinion - false.

    The only downside to such shortcuts - again in my humble opinion - is the resulting barrier between younger and older generations. Those unfamiliar with the concept may find themselves having a difficult time understanding that which seems like second nature to those like myself who have unwittingly found themselves growing up around such practices.

    On another note, referencing Moonbear's post: "in the space provided" has never, throughout my academic career, implied (directly or indirectly) "and only in the space provided". I have always been instructed to use any additional space (such as the back of the sheet) needed to properly convey what it is I'm trying to say. The login behind this was simple: some people write big, some write small. It's foolish to think that everyone will be able to write a response in the same amount of space. Perhaps it's just a matter of the time's being different.
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2007
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