Those troubled that the advancement of technology is turning our kids into imbeciles should take a look at this article from Wired magazine: Clive Thompson on the New Literacy.
Anna Lunsford, who is a professor of writing and rhetoric at Stanford University, has put together a large project called The Stanford Study of Writing. Lansford has collected over 14,000 student writing samples from 2001-2006. She has concluded that students write more today than in any generation before them.
How can that be? As Thompson puts it: those Twitter updates and lists of 25 things about yourself add up. People socialize more online than ever before and therefore they are writing more than ever. Facebook, Twitter, Skype, e-mail, MySpace: these online tools are actually promoting and even spreading literacy at a faster rate than anything has in the past.
But what about the quality of writing? Lunsford states, remarkably, that the prose she has received is good. Really good. Students, depending on who they are writing to, have become especially adept at what rhetoricians call kairos. And here is your new word of the day!
The opportune time and/or place, the right or appropriate time to say or do the right or appropriate thing. Adjective: kairotic.
"Kairos is a word with layers of meaning; most usually, it is defined in terms of its Classical Greek courtroom nuances: winning an argument requires a deft combination of creating and recognizing the right time and right place for making the argument in the first place. However, the word has roots in both weaving (suggesting the creation of an opening) and archery (denoting the seizing of, and striking forcefully through, an opening)."
(Eric Charles White)
So, when your sixteen year old is on the computer and you believe he’s wasting time, he is actually possibly developing complex writing skills. (Unless, of course, he’s playing Warcraft.)
Perhaps he’s on a movie site, constructing a trenchant review of a film he recently watched. Maybe he’s thinking of a pithy update for his Twitter status. Perhaps he’s writing a technical essay (though he would never call it that) on a site that instructs others how to GET to the next level in Warcraft. (Does Warcraft even have levels?) You get my point.
This is great news for boys, who, let’s face it, are less likely than girls are to pick up a pen and notebook and, say, keep a journal. Boys are just as likely as girls to get all of the benefits from this technological literacy revolution. Remember this when you get anxious that your child is spending way too much time updating his Facebook page: he’s actually just developing a systematic, Greek tradition of rhetoric that has been dormant for hundreds upon hundred of years. Good for him!