Re: snapshots

Steve Krause (skrause@BGNET.BGSU.EDU)
Sat, 6 Jan 1996 17:57:06 -0500

I'm not sure I agree with the presumed visual literacy that our students
have, or about the "increasing" illeteracy of the current generation.
Students aren't getting dumber, or, if you prefer, they've always been in
the process of getting dumber. For an interesting example of what I'm
talking about, I'd suggest Isocrates' _Against the Sophists_ where he
complains about those damn kids in Athens more interested in "chilling
their wine at the Nine Fountains'," gambling, and hanging out with flute
girls then their studies. So I'm pretty confident that "kids today"
are just as dumb/smart as they were about 3,000 years ago.

As to the visual literacy: I think our students are obviously more
familiar with TV and movies and such, but it seems to me they are quite
passive about the forms. I've always found it a challenge to get
students in a fy comp class to talk about what their favorite TV shows
mean because quite frequently, it doesn't seem to mean _anything_ to
them. "It's entertaining," "it's a good story," "it's funny," "it's
something I can relate to" is usually about all I can get. And typically
when I suggest that a TV show like _Rosanne_ is making all kinds of
comments on race or gender or class or whatever, my students frequently
roll their eyes and sigh deeply and say "it's just a story!" And then I
sigh deeply and roll my eyes....

So maybe that's the difference between teachers and students in most
cases: as teachers, we're more experienced and _critical_ readers, able
to recognize in or impose upon texts (written, visual, and oral)
implications and meanings suggested by the writers or by the audience
reactions. We realize that texts connect to each other in obvious and not
so obvious ways, and that we shouldn't always take things so literally.
Students tend to be less experienced and _passive_ readers, unable to make
connections as easily, not as concious about how a text connects to a
larger culture, or what implications a text might have beyond school or
sheer entertainment. To me, education in the broadest sense is an effort
to teach people to be critics and and active readers, to "wake up" as
readers. I guess that's why teachers have always been seen as important
and hated at the same time. ;)

Steve Krause * Department of English * Bowling Green State University
Bowling Green, OH * 43403 * (419) 372-8934 *
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