Is Texting Bad?

This post was motivated by an article in Newsweek1. According to a recent survey done by the National Endowment for the Arts, the proportion of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 who read a book not required at school or at work is now 50.7%. This is the lowest for any adult age group under 75. Twenty years ago this was 59%. The difference in reading ability between the 15 year-olds in the Shanghai district of China and those in the United States is as big as the gap between the U.S. and Serbia or Chile.

Another article2 reported that SAT reading scores had dropped to the lowest point in decades. Nationally the reading score for the Class of 2011was 497. Last year it was 500 and it was 530 in 1972, which was the last year for which these comparisons are possible. This article notes that more students are taking the test and this could account for some percentage of the loss.

Many variables are involved here. Texting is just one of them. Personally, I have difficulty understanding the popularity of texting. I don’t do it. I have a large number of text messages on my phone which are unread and which shall remain unread. The internet and the vast amount of information in cyberspace is another. Although there is much junk on the internet, there is also an enormous amount of useful information on substantive topics. I think the problem is that the junk is accessed much more frequently than the substantive content. By necessity, texting needs to be short. So, although it has the virtue of conciseness, it sacrifices depth and breadth. Moreover, I am led to believe that most of the content is trivial.

So there is much to be said about conventional books. Perhaps electronic books should be added. They also have the virtue of breadth and depth plus the added benefit of search functions, but I am not aware of any research on the topic. If you know of any such research, please point me to it.

I was amused by the recommendations made by the author of the Newsweek article. They were all from what is regarded as classical literature. I have nothing against the classics, but in today’s world to be a truly informed citizen, one needs to read books in both the natural and social sciences, mathematics and computing, business, economics, religion, and history, for perspective. Frankly, I find little time for fiction, but reading should also be done for recreational purposes. There is simply too much good to read. A healthy dosage of quality periodicals and newspapers is also needed.

1Ferguson, N. (2011). Newsweek, Texting Makes U Stupid. September 19, p. 11.

2Chandler, M.A. (2011). SAT reading scores drop to lowest point in decades, 14 September.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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