The background, with links, is at David's post, "Do Not Blog About Something If You Haven’t Adequately Studied It. Why is This a Hard Concept?" Lisa has been hammering Ayn Rand's theory of objectivism, although she's never read Ayn Rand. To which David tweets:
Sorry Lisa but I can't respect your analysis of Objectivism until you read more of Ayn Rand's books.Lisa says she's able to form an intelligent opinion based on Ayn Rand's Wikipedia entries and her television interviews, including this one with Mike Wallace:
Lisa's response at her own blog is here: "Dave Swindle Accused Me of Fervent Anti-Intellectualism?"
I'm not invested in this debate personally, although the topic is fascinating. I'd argue that Lisa is certainly and rightfully able to opine on the moral validity of Ayn Rand's theories. The problem is that the program at the David Horowitz Freedom Center is essentially a scholarly one. The debates are about books. And it's kind of inappropriate to be a representative of that problematique while being out and proud about not having read books you intend to criticize. Thus, I'd have to agree with David's point on anti-intellectualism, although all of this reminds me of an article at the Washington Post almost ten years ago: "The No-Book Report: Skim It and Weep: More and More Americans Who Can Read Are Choosing Not To. Can We Afford to Write Them Off?" As a professor, my job is to get folks to read more, much more. But I was especially interested in this discussion at the Washington Post, since I'd just recently finished my Ph.D and started my academic career:
Jeremy Spreitzer probably wouldn't read this story if it weren't about him.More at the link. (And food for thought, in any case, especially for armchair intellectuals who don't read the books they're claiming to criticize.)
He is an aliterate -- someone who can read, but chooses not to.
A graduate student in public affairs at Park University in Kansas City, Mo., Spreitzer, 25, gleans most of his news from TV. He skims required texts, draws themes from dust jackets and, when he absolutely, positively has to read something, reaches for the audiobook.
"I am fairly lazy when it comes to certain tasks," says Spreitzer, a long-distance runner who hopes to compete in the 2004 Olympics. "Reading is one of them."
As he grows older, Spreitzer finds he has less time to read. And less inclination. In fact, he says, if he weren't in school, he probably wouldn't read at all.
He's not alone. According to the survey firm NDP Group -- which tracked the everyday habits of thousands of people through the 1990s -- this country is reading printed versions of books, magazines and newspapers less and less. In 1991, more than half of all Americans read a half-hour or more every day. By 1999, that had dropped to 45 percent.
A 1999 Gallup Poll found that only 7 percent of Americans were voracious readers, reading more than a book a week, while some 59 percent said they had read fewer than 10 books in the previous year. Though book clubs seem popular now, only 6 percent of those who read belong to one. The number of people who don't read at all, the poll concluded, has been rising for the past 20 years.
The reports on changes in reading cut to the quick of American culture. We pride ourselves on being a largely literate First World country while at the same time we rush to build a visually powerful environment in which reading is not required.
The results are inevitable. Aliteracy is all around. Just ask:
• Internet developers. At the Terra Lycos portal design lab in Waltham, Mass., researcher William Albert has noticed that the human guinea pigs in his focus groups are too impatient to read much. When people look up information on the Internet today, Albert explains, they are "basically scanning. There's very little actual comprehension that's going on." People, Albert adds, prefer to get info in short bursts, with bullets, rather than in large blocks of text.
• Transportation gurus. Chandra Clayton, who oversees the design of road signs and signals for the Virginia Department of Transportation, says, "Symbols can quickly give you a message that might take too long to read in text." The department is using logos and symbols more and more. When it comes to highway safety and getting lifesaving information quickly, she adds, "a picture is worth a thousand words."
• Packaging designers. "People don't take the time to read anything," explains Jim Peters, editor of BrandPackaging magazine. "Marketers and packagers are giving them colors and shapes as ways of communicating." For effective marketing, Peters says, "researchers tell us that the hierarchy is colors, shapes, icons and, dead last, words."
Some of this shift away from words -- and toward images -- can be attributed to our ever-growing multilingual population. But for many people, reading is passe or impractical or, like, so totally unnecessary in this day and age.
To Jim Trelease, author of "The Read-Aloud Handbook," this trend away from the written word is more than worrisome. It's wicked. It's tearing apart our culture. People who have stopped reading, he says, "base their future decisions on what they used to know.