English 111, Essay #1
12 Feb 2013 1,026 Words
An Incomplete Picture of Life
Mitchell Stephens, a professor of journalism and mass communications at New York University, has traveled around the world writing about many topics including globalization. With his articles appearing in famous newspapers such as the New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times, Stephens has become a well-respected and renowned writer. In his Los Angeles Times article, “The Death of Reading,” Stephens believes that reading is missing from the pictures of our everyday lives. He explains how people are too busy “working or working out or playing or…watching TV” to engage in reading (170).
Neil Postman, a popular and controversial scholar and critic, explains how “A mode of thinking is being lost” (170). We are losing the way that we challenge our brains to think as well as how we once allowed reading to expand our knowledge. We are simply giving up something that a number of people did just for enjoyment and are not looking forward to it more than ever before. We even complain over the simple task of reading something as small as an article. We don’t know what it means to truly enjoy an article or a good book. It seems as though our priorities are not what they have been and should be.
With our dens being invaded by technologies such as television sets and video game consoles and additionally architects designing entertainment centers rather than bookshelves, Stephens describes how homes aren’t even suitable for reading.
Although authors and publishers continue to do reasonably well, he credits this success to mainly movie deals and holiday gifts. The money from books is made from authors motivated in turning their books into movie scripts and people buying these books, but not at all from people actually reading them. He states a statistic according to the Gallup Poll, “the number of Americans who admitted to having read no books during the past year…doubled from 1978 to 1990, from 8% to 16 %” (172-173).
Stephens goes on to say that people have lost their passion for reading and it doesn’t just appear in books, but magazines and newspapers also. Magazines require much less of a time commitment than books, but the percentage of the population that read a magazine on an average day has dropped. Reading newspapers, something “that almost everybody did” is becoming less popular.
He generates some very good points about the passion people once had for reading being lost. It is extremely rare to hear of a teenager reading books for pleasure. The only reading these teenagers participate in is usually assigned to them by a teacher. Stephens feels that reading isn’t something a person should feel obligated to do, but rather something a person wants to do. He adds that education should be inspiring in the students the desire to read more but that doesn’t appear to be the case. He says, “If education stimulated the desire to read, all the statistics on reading would be shooting up. That they are not may say something about the quality of our educational system and about the interests of the students it now attracts” (174). Not only can reading expand our knowledge, but it can also enlighten us with new information. People have overlooked just how valuable reading is and the idea that without reading, our society wouldn’t exist as it is today. He also talks about how technology is a reason why people don’t read a much. They are too occupied with “alternatives to books” (As historian and former librarian of Congress, Daniel Boorstin puts it) such as being on the computer or watching TV (174). The more technology increases, the more reading will decrease. As a result of this, students will continue to score lower on basic reading and comprehension tests. Neil Postman also addresses the effect that technology has on education. Just as Stephens explains how “the largest threat to reading, has been