Illiteracy and the modern student

Via Instapundit: DISPATCHES FROM THE SOCIAL MEDIA VIRUS: Minds Destroyed By The Internet.

My students are unable to analyze, follow and understand written text. To be more specific, they are unable to decipher compound sentences, understand relationship between subordinate and main clauses. They can’t grasp the logical relationship between sentences, let alone paragraphs, which are totally opaque to them.

When I started to teach (only 2 years ago), I prepared material written in normal, rational, technical prose — for adults, or as I understood they would be. Immediately, it became apparent that there was zero comprehension. Well, thought I, let’s make it a bit simpler. So I reduced the paragraphs to bullet point lists.

Still nothing? Hmm.

I started to write step by step, basically cut-and-paste instructions, highlighted the important points, wrote in notes and cross references (like NOTE: you did this in step #2 please refer to #2). Abject failure.

So, especially in the exams, I started to write in answers in the follow up questions, like so: “If you correctly answered #1 as ABC what is the cause of …?”. Basically I give them the answers in followup questions, plus cut and paste documents. My exams are open book, open notes, Internet access.

95% of them fail.

It’s too bad that, despite winning that minor bit of unpleasantness called World War II, Churchill has become an unperson in the academy due to doubleplus ungood badthink on issues of colonialism. There’s much to be learned from how he crafted his speeches, as his latest successor at No. 10 Downing Street points out in this 2014 video:

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