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Challenge: Open Discussion

Reading and writing must not become dead skills.

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Communication is changing, there can be no doubt about that. The current generation may never know the perils of trying to walk from room to room with a corded phone or trying to figure out how to follow driving instructions that by all accounts seem to have been written by someone who wants you to never be found. While language has always changed over time, it is clear that technology is speeding that process along. Is this a natural development, or something we should be resisting as parents and teachers and anyone who enjoys being understood when they speak or write? I say yes, we must resist it on all fronts. And while this whole conversation could be had about spoken communication as well, we're in a written medium here that's where I will focus my attention.

Is it really so bad?

The short answer is, no, it isn't as though we have decayed into barely decipherable gibberish that fans of A Clockwork Orange or Riddley Walker would recognize. But we are in a decline and if we don't make an effort to arrest that, we may find our droogs poking about with speak viddy well. Or whatever the emoji equivalent to that is.

Young people are reading less, that is an observable trend. This is a problem on two fronts. Whatever the type of reading a young person does, be it fiction or non-fiction, being exposed to books as a child shows a strong correlation to success later in life. Economically and scientifically speaking, humanity needs its children to be strong readers so it can continue to move forward. This is also true in social and interpersonal terms as reading has been shown to make people of all ages more empathic and compassionate. We simply cannot allow all these benefits to continue withering away.

What can we do?

If you are convinced that a decline in reading is a problem, then we have all arrived at the point in the program where we must decide what can be done about it. There are simple solutions (not necessarily easy, but simple) like reading to our children, reading in front of our children to demonstrate the value, and exploring their interests with books instead of technology. There is no getting away from technology, but if it really is so closely bound to the decay of written communication, we have to keep a close eye on how we're using it.

A more abstract solution that I propose is to not only encourage reading, but writing as well. These two skills feed into each other and instill a self-reinforcing appreciation for written communication. It is no argument that reading makes you a better writer, but writing also makes you hunger for more and more challenging things to read. Emphasizing strong writing skills is also a tremendous way to bend technology to our goal of protecting and improving communication rather than allowing it to decay.

The only way to protect our written communication for future generations and even those currently growing up in a world of shorthand text language, gifs, memes, and emojis is to show them its value. Demonstrating and passing along a passion for reading and writing is absolutely critical to leaving a better world than we found.

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