The end of reading . . . books?

The Pew Research Center reported last week that nearly a quarter of American adults had not read a single book in the past year. imgres-3As detailed in a follow-up article in today’s The Atlantic,

“They hadn’t cracked a paperback, fired up a Kindle, or even hit play on an audiobook while in their car. The number of non-book-readers has nearly tripled since 1978.

“If you are the sort of person who believes that TV and the Internet have turned American culture into a post-literate scrubland full of cat GIFs and reality TV spinoffs, then this news will probably reinforce your worst suspicions. But buried beneath it, I think there’s an optimistic story to tell about American book culture. It’s about the kids.

“Without question, the American bookworm is a rarer species than two or three decades ago, when we didn’t enjoy today’s abundance of highly distracting gadgets. In 1978, Gallup found that 42 percent of adults had read 11 books or more in the past year (13 percent said they’d read more than 50!).  Today, Pew finds that just 28 percent hit the 11 mark.

“But here’s why we shouldn’t proclaim the death of the book quite yet (aside from the fact that the vast majority of the country does still read them). First,  the number of books an American reads tends to be closely associated with their level of education. Even those with just a little bit of college read far more, on average, than high school grads or less. That may be because people who grow up reading are far more likely to enroll in higher education. But it seems at least somewhat likely that reading books in class conditions people to read books later in life. And the good news (for publishers, at least) is that today’s twenty-somethings, as a rule, go to college. A recent Department of Education study found that 85 percent of the high-school class of 2004 had at least some postsecondary education. Continue reading “The end of reading . . . books?”

Assault on Reason, revisited

With the approaching elections in the US, the nation’s polarization is getting more and more attention. Similar divides persist in many countries, causing those on both sides to wonder why their opposition seems so entrenched in its opposition. How can they not understand? Why are people so wrong-headed? What causes people to vote against their own interests?  One infamous figure in American politics has given this matter a lot of thought––and for good reason. Let’s not forget that former Vice President Al Gore actually was elected by the popular vote when he ran for the nation’s highest office, Continue reading “Assault on Reason, revisited”