balladeer of moons
Amy Goldwasser begins her argumentative essay “What’s the Matter With Kids Today?” by trying to take a Nobel Prize Laureate down a peg. She emphasizes Doris Lessing’s eighty-something age as if to earmark her as dated and out of touch. Lessing had indicated in her acceptance speech that she was of the opinion that teens today are illiterate because they read little that is of true literary or historical merit. That seems to me to be an empirically true enough statement. Goldwasser continues to expound that we are to take the students as they are, in the ways that they “voluntarily communicate.” Reading and writing have evolved into social activities, not art forms. “We are talking about 33 million Americans who are fluent in texting, e-mailing, blogging, IM’ing …”
The fact is most of the language contained in these lauded communications is severely anemic English, featuring phrases like “sooo it’s official,” “that’s what’s up,” “shit just got real, #just saying … not gonna lie” and “love u 2.” It is a new kind of lazy speak that is self-indulgent and has no form or eloquence. While Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is truly elegant and memorable, and identifiable by most young people by Goldwasser’s accounting, most political speeches considered great by this generation (Obama’s Grant Park speech after his victory for example) are rather plain and mediocre. Again, if the purpose of language is to communicate, it is not necessary to talk like Lincoln or Sandburg, but it would be nice to be able to produce someone with some greatness and stature in this country (JKF and RFK perhaps), so that we are not totally despised by most Europeans.
This writer's adducements are weak. She cites Common Core and goes on to suggest that the generation that grew up with and on the Internet does not particularly have to remember dates and facts because these insignificant things are stored in retrieval systems and now teenagers can concentrate on concepts and probing larger meanings. I guess it doesn’t matter to her if her children sound like idiots in conversation because they can’t carry one without constantly resorting to their phones. Plato had a reason for lamenting the invention of writing. He thought it was retrogressive because people didn’t have to remember anything anymore. They just had to write records down and store them somewhere convenient. The implications here are endless, but hey, that’s “just how we roll.”