Thursday, September 17, 2009

The New Literacy

I've been meaning to share this link to Clive Thompson's Wired piece about the Stanford Study of Writing. As you may recall from the shrieks of shock emanating from English departments near and far, the Stanford project has reported that today's students write more and write better than generations past. Here's project leader Andrea Lunsford's money quote:
"I think we're in the midst of a literacy revolution the likes of which we haven't seen since Greek civilization" (cited in Thompson)
According to the Stanford Study, today's students are particularly adept at kairos, the ability to structure messages according to the expectations of varied audiences. How could this be, many professors may ask, when so few students seem interested in writing meaningfully (or coherently) in class?

In his summary, Thompson offers one reason why: most students write for audiences (in blog posts, in tweets, on Facebook walls, and in countless texts per day) far more than they write for professors. All those social networking messages, all those lengthy screeds about life posted on MySpace, all those videogame walkthroughs... They've got to count for something.

The responses to the Stanford Study, and to celebratory reviews such as Thompson's, have stirred up a mob of academic townspeople looking to storm the castle. And I'm inclined to pick up a pitchfork of my own. But first, I've got to read this study for myself.

Read the Report: Stanford Study of Writing

Read Thompson's Summary: The New Literacy

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