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03 October 2017 @ 05:31 am
Milt Stevens 1942-2017  
Milt Stevens was an excellent fan writer who said things like, “One might theorize that the decline of literacy in America is the direct result of the lack of unwholesome mind-rotting trash for the kids to read.”

Thanx to File 770
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Elenbarathi: Knowledgeelenbarathi on October 3rd, 2017 04:03 pm (UTC)
"I think you're generalizing from a particular subset."

Fair enough, but so too is everybody else who generalizes about anything. The particular subset of kids and teens with whom I interact is probably more intellectual than the average, but not a lot more - and maybe I only think that because I know them; it's possible that they are actually much the same as the rest of their age-group.

The teenage fanfiction community pre-dates the Harry Potter books, and it is still going strong. The LotR movies were a huge push; now Game of Thrones seems to be the biggie, but there are zillions of other fandoms, and zillions of young fans cranking out stories.

A huge number of people our own age and older can't or won't read, and have never written anything at all of their own free will. I tested out of Comp 101 as a college freshman in 1975 so they set me to grading compositions, and ZOMG! how did those students even get to college with such pathetic writing-skills?!?

Since then, I have taught just about every age and condition of humanity - from infants to elders, from genius-level gifted to profoundly developmentally delayed, from private-tutor privileged to foster-care disadvantaged, from multi-lingual to totally non-verbal. Obviously generalizations across such a wide range would be specious, but from what I have observed of students generally categorized as 'mainstream', I don't see that there has been any notable decline in literacy over the past 40 years.

If teenagers nowadays are suffering from a lack of unwholesome trash to read, blame it on their parents for not having any on their own bookshelves. When I was 10, I read all of Mandingo and most of Valley of the Dolls before my mother noticed. When my own kid was 10, she'd read the first five or six Gor books before I noticed.

I don't think I've ever even known anybody who buys movie-star magazines - unless they keep them hidden, like porn. ^^

Marionweofodthignen on October 3rd, 2017 04:11 pm (UTC)
They were a big thing in the 20s and 30s.

I used to teach, too, though not such a wide range as you. (And I also started with freshman comp, which was a particular shock since the system I came out of used essay-writing as the main means of selection for college.) But except for some of my refugee students, post-HS students are at least partly self-selected. It's hard to be aware how deep the illiteracy goes; I keep having to revise my estimate down.
Elenbarathi: Knowledgeelenbarathi on October 3rd, 2017 05:13 pm (UTC)
I sure hear you about that! But these days I'm mostly encountering the illiteracy of adults my own age and older - not minority, immigrant, cognitively disabled or impoverished; white middle-class Americans with high-school diplomas, some with college degrees. Some of them are avid readers, even - with whole walls of bookshelves filled with brain-candy fiction that wouldn't challenge a literate sixth-grader.

They can't read a contract and tell you what it's asking them to agree to. They don't think critically about what they read, or distinguish clearly between fact, opinion and falsehood. Their vocabularies have big gaps, and they don't look up words they don't know; they just *bleep* past them on a wild guess. Their writing is fragmented, ungrammatical and illogical, when they write at all, and many never do.

A lot of our Boomer generation had/has unaddressed learning disabilities, which haven't gotten better with age, but more than that, a lot were just never educated very well in the first place. How Children Fail was published in 1964; public school then was different (or at least looked different) but it wasn't better than now, and in some ways was worse. If everyone in America took an abbreviated version of the SATs every 10 years along with the Census, I wouldn't bet on the Boomers out-scoring the Millennials.