A new study says…”yes”.
Honestly, I’m not terribly shocked. The level of engagement with language has gone down so far that any textual use is likely to increase fluency. What is sad to me is that text messaging is likely the only word play these tweens and teens are using on a regular basis.
Saying that text messaging improves a teen’s spelling more so than, say, watching 5 hours of sitcoms and violent movies every day, is not all that surprising. As one of the commenters on the story at ABC notes:
“I think you have to compare the benefits or harm of texting compared to the alternatives…what they would be doing instead. Actively organizing and composing of a message in text is likely to have a better effect than passively watching TV. The mental effort of encoding a message into a written textual form (writing), and decoding a text message (reading) helps the student’s ability and fluency in writing and reading, better than watching cable TV? It makes sense to me.”
I am also on board with Clare Wood, a senior lecturer in the psychology department at Coventry University in the U.K., when she states, “Sometimes, there’s an assumption that kids are more stupid than they actually are, to be quite blunt, and it’s just not the case.”
I agree that intelligence is not diminishing.
However, I believe the ability to communicate is. Even over the short course of five years in the high school classroom, I watched the facility with both the written and the spoken word deteriorate. Assignments I had once given to a class of freshman were a struggle for “honors level” sophomores and juniors. Even worse, students would raise their hands to give an answer and all that came out was a string of “well…it is kinda like…y’know…when…he said…that…yeah.”
I only wish I were exaggerating.
I’ve spoken with other friends and relatives who have taught or currently teach–at Harvard and at Columbia–and some of the papers they read are truly horrific.
Most are in agreement that the students are impressively knowledgeable, technologically savvy, and driven. The one area that undermines it all is their ability to communicate.
Yes, social media, even texting can help people refine their message and communicate more efficiently. Brevity is the soul of wit and all that.
With any tool, however, we need to make sure its medium doesn’t supplant the message. When the mere act of texting becomes more important than the content, we are losing our ability to interact through language in a meaningful way.
And the assertion that, “…students perceive a ‘firewall’ between their texting and their formal writing,” is laughable. Tell that to the professors who receive papers littered with “2 B or not 2 B”.
No, text messaging is not the end of civilization as we know it but nor are those who draw attention to the deterioration of written language merely Luddites holding fast to anachronistic rules in a land of living language.
If we lose our ability to communicate through language, what are we?
Photo credit: Zawezome
Shared at: Sunday Best at No Time for Flashcards