edu-it

education, technology, and everything else

Doris Lessing and the Internet

Posted by Miranda on December 10, 2007

I read with interest a blog post this morning at TechCrunch claiming that Doris Lessing, the author who just won the Nobel prize for literature, said in her acceptance speech that the Internet makes us dumber. (And I have to say that the title just goes to prove Ms. Lessing’s point.
There’s plenty more such as this article in the Sydney Herald
Net dumbs us down: Nobel prize winner.

New Nobel laureate Doris Lessing has used her acceptance speech to rail against the internet, saying it has “seduced a whole generation into its inanities” and created a world where people know nothing.

I read the full text of Ms. Lessing’s speech and it doesn’t read to me as if she’s railing actually. Her comments about a generation seduced by the Internet are a tiny proportion of the speech.
There seems to be a certain defensiveness in many of the on-line comments.
And I think Ms. Lessing has a point.

Information literacy isn’t literacy.

It is my experience, speaking with my son’s high school friends, that the friends who read books appear to be better educated than the friends who don’t. I thought that might just be my generational bias, so on the drive to school this morning I asked him:

“As a general question” I asked him ” do you feel that the kids you know who read books are better educated?”

” I have two types of friends” my son said “preppy friends and stoner friends.The preppy friends read books and the stoners don’t. The stoners come across as dumber. They don’t have the vocabulary for one thing,” he said,” and you need vocabulary to express yourself. I know my vocabulary is way better than most of the people I know, and it’s because I read a lot, mostly novels.
“It’s just like the NewSpeak in 1984” he said ” if you take words away from people you can regiment their thoughts just the way you want, because if people don’t have the words to express what they think, they don’t think those things.”

The Internet is not all bad. I don’t believe it makes me dumber. If it wasn’t for the Internet I might not even have know that Ms. Lessing won the Nobel and I probably wouldn’t have been able to read her speech. But I do think there is a tendency to believe that if we have access to the Internet we have access to everything we need to educate ourselves and that just isn’t true.

As Frank Zappa said

“If you want to get laid, go to college. If you want an education, go to the library”

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