Technology is Creating Idiots


Whoa?  Did I really just say that?  The woman who writes all her novels on a laptop?  The woman who owns a Kindle, an iPhone, and couldn’t go a week without either (or *gasp* my laptop!)?

Yes, yes I did.  Over the weekend, I heard a story about a woman who was in college and worked as a temp with someone I know.  The woman didn’t know her alphabet and therefore, couldn’t alphabetize files.  Why didn’t she need to know the order of the alphabet?  Because the keyboard isn’t set up that way.  It’s set up to put the letters we use most often in spots where they are easily accessible.  If the alphabet started with “Q” and ended with “M,” she might have been able to do it.

My college experiences helped me form this opinion.  I was “older” when I started college and by that I mean 22 and not 18.  However, something had happened in those four years.  I paid part of my tuition by helping students write papers because most had never had to do such a thing in high school.  My freshman English teacher actually asked me one day after class why I was there.  I understood paper writing, had a grasp of the English language, and knew what the hell punctuation was (his exact words).  He passed me without requiring much… turn in homework and for everyone’s sanity, please don’t peer edit, you make your fellow students cry.  (I only did this four times that semester and in my defense, they needed to be taught how to spell and what quotation marks were)

Later, in a lit class, we had an assignment where we were required to turn in an outline by the end of class.  No problem.  Twenty minutes later, I had an outline and I spent the rest of the time reading a book.  I was the only one to hand in my outline by the end of the period because we didn’t have a printer in the class and no one seemed to be able to figure out that notebook paper and pens were all that was required for the assignment.  I got bonus points for it.  At the time, it seemed odd to me that I got bonus points.  My professor had to explain it to me.

Then there was the harrowing experience with my nephew in school.  He was in fifth grade.  His assignment was to write a one to two page short story and then have a parent or other adult read it and critique it.  Which I did.  The following week, the teacher asked me to come to the school so that we could have a chat.  I agreed.  The chat was about my critiquing him on spelling, punctuation, and grammar.  That wasn’t what I was supposed to be critiquing on, I was supposed to critique on how well the story written: did it have a plot?  was it easy to understand and follow?  I responded by informing her that I had trouble following it because the spelling was atrocious (my nephew was later diagnosed with dyslexia which explained some, but not all, of it) and I couldn’t make out entire sentences as a result.  I was told these were “minor issues” that could be “fixed” when he used “spell check” at a later time.  Um, what?  He was in fifth grade!  The boy should know how to spell a decent percentage of the vocabulary he used!  Yes, we all make errors when we write; spelling and grammar… but he shouldn’t be misspelling words like “worst” in the 5th grade.  This didn’t concern the teacher, it did me.  For the record, spelling is still not his strong suit.  I realize that he has dyslexia and it is an impediment, but I also know others who have dyslexia and do not spell as badly as my nephew.  Luckily, he’s great at math, however, getting him through word problems was an issue because he couldn’t freaking read it because he couldn’t freaking spell.  But “spell check” would “fix” it… pity “spell check” doesn’t teach you to read or spell.

Also, I will admit that I hate “txt speak.”  That’s right, all those stupid abbreviations to keep people from having to spell out words drives me nuts.  I don’t know if my nephew knows how to spell “by the way,” but he can sure abbreviate it.  Reading a text from him is like trying to decipher hieroglyphics without a Rosetta Stone.  My responses are usually “Um, what?  Use your words, I don’t understand what you’re saying.”

Technology is a great tool that has enriched our lives.  It has made my job soooo much easier.  I wouldn’t be writing if it weren’t for computers or typewriters (I am not Jane Austen, I will not have hundreds of sheets of loose paper with my scribbly handwritten prose on it and yes, I do remember typewriters and I know how to use them, all of them, including the “old” ones without a backspace and whiteout ribbon that requires you to keep a bottle of the messy Liquid Paper on your desk that you use to paint your fingernails when your bored as well as the digital ones).  But, it’s still just a tool and I am beginning to believe that it is making us all idiots.  And did you catch that purposely left out most of the punctuation?  It was difficult, but I was trying to prove a point about how important it is.

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2 Comments

  1. Maria D.

     /  August 4, 2014

    Good point!

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  2. Worry about future generations

     /  August 4, 2014

    I blame things like No Child Left Behind and our current mania for not hurting a child’s self esteem. Never give a child bad marks! It will hurt their self-esteem! So, a child will go all the way thru school and never be told that their spelling is bad (I am thinking of a college graduate that we know, that can’t even spell college (Hint: it isn’t collage)). And with no child left behind, the teacher will teach to the lowest common denominator — make sure ALL kids understand the lesson, never mind that the bright kids are bored and the slow kids are setting the pace. We also teach to a test, not leeting kids question and explore topics. if it isn’t on a test, then who cares! it isn’t covered so kids come out of school without learning how to learn. They are taught subjects but they don’t know how to gather and understand/digest information that isn’t spoon fed to them. They lack critical information skills. If it is on a webpage, they will believe it, even if it is on a site like The Onion. Hey, I read it online! It must be true!

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