The act of reading fosters habits of analysis, questioning, comprehension, and rationality. Television, with its emphasis on emotion, image, and speed, fails to contribute to the development of these key skills.

- The NCES (2000)

Our high respect for a well read person is praise enough for literature.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Post-Literate Society

"Journalism in a Post-Literate Society" -  Outside The Beltway (May 2008)

"The Lost Book Generation" - The New York Times (Jan 1991)

Aliteracy - Wikipedia

"Twilight of the Books" and Excerpts from "Twilight of the Books"

"The Printing Press as an Agent of Change" - Amazon

"The Printing Press" -

 "America the Illiterate" - Truthdig (Nov 2008)

 "Secondary Orality In a Post-Literate Society" - Orville Boyd Jenkins (2005)

"Over the past dozen or so years, television and movie-makers have managed to blur the border between fact and fiction to an unprecedented degree. They pretend increasingly that their film is based on a true story. Every device possible, from computer-generated imagery to place names and dates thrown onto the screen seek to suspend the disbelief of historically illiterate audiences. Alarmingly, the new technology has coincided with a dramatic growth in conspiracy theories. " - Times Online (Jan 2009)

"Web to rescue society from television?" -  Kuro5hin (Dec 2000)

"... welcome to post-truth politics." -  The New York Times (Dec 2011)

"Susan Jacoby, author of The Age of American Unreason, says in an article in the Washington Post, "Dumbness, to paraphrase the late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, has been steadily defined downward for several decades, by a combination of heretofore irresistible forces. These include the triumph of video culture over print culture; a disjunction between Americans' rising level of formal education and their shaky grasp of basic geography, science and history; and the fusion of anti-rationalism with anti-intellectualism.""  -   Psychology Today (July 2014)

In an Illiterate Society, Does Truth Matter?

"Critics have for many years inveighed against "false equivalence" or "false balance" in the mainstream press. This long crusade has finally achieved its grail, or at least a version of it: In this campaign season, political reporters have been shucking the old he-said-she-said formulation and directly declaring that certain claims are false. This new approach was signaled on Sunday, when, as James Fallows has noted, The New York Times, in a front-page story, flatly stated that a Romney ad was "falsely charging that Mr. Obama has 'quietly announced' plans to eliminate work and job training requirements for welfare beneficiaries."

But what if it turns out that when the press calls a lie a lie, nobody cares?”  -  The Atlantic (August 2012)

Reading & Democracy

A new study by the National Endowment for the Arts suggests that reading transforms lives. "Regular reading not only boosts the likelihood of an individual's academic and economic success -- facts that are not especially surprising -- but it also seems to awaken a person's social and civic sense,"

Twilight of the Books and Why Undecided Voters Can’t Make Up Their Minds (Maybe)

Reading = Less Cruelty

"All these questions, at first, hinge on another: can anything diminish injury? In his recent book The Better Angels of Our Nature, Steven Pinker argues that, over 50 centuries, many forms of violence have subsided. Among the epochs he singles out for special scrutiny is a hundred-year period bridging the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries during which an array of brutal acts—executing accused witches, imprisoning debtors, torturing animals, torturing humans, inflicting the death penalty, enslaving fellow human beings—suddenly abated, even if they did not disappear."

"Attempting to account for “the sweeping change in everyday sensibilities” toward “the suffering in other living things” and for the protective laws that emerged during the Humanitarian Revolution, Pinker argues that the legal reforms were in some degree a product of increasing literacy. Reforms were immediately preceded by a startling increase in book production (e.g., in England, the number of publications rose from fewer than 500 per decade in 1600 to 2,000 per decade by 1700, and to 7,000 per decade by 1800) and by an equally startling surge in literacy, with the majority of Englishmen literate by the end of the seventeenth century, French by the end of the eighteenth, and Danish, Finnish, German, Icelandic, Scottish, Swedish, and Swiss by the end of the nineteenth century."

Boston Review (Aug 2012)

Reading & Voting

From the study "To Read or Not To Read":   "It also found that the better a person's reading skills, the more likely that person voted in the 2000 election. The Education Department study showed 84 percent of proficient readers voted, compared with 62 percent of those with basic skills and 53 percent of those with poor skills."

People Reading Less

"The latest National Endowment for the Arts report draws on a variety of sources, public and private, and essentially reaches one conclusion: Americans are reading less." 

Are Americans reading less? 

The Decline of Reading. Leisure Reading Trends in the Netherlands (1955 - 1995)

The Long Decline of Reading 

Reading for pleasure falling among US adults 

More and More Americans Who Can Read Are Choosing Not To. Can We Afford to Write Them Off?

The Lost Book Generation 


Literacy Decline

People Less Able to Read

"When the test was last administered, in 1992, 40 percent of the nation's college graduates scored at the proficient level, meaning that they were able to read lengthy, complex English texts and draw complicated inferences. But on the 2003 test, only 31 percent of the graduates demonstrated those high-level skills. There were 26.4 million college graduates." -  The New York Times (Dec 2005)

"However, as Fred M. Hechinger points out, young students may be sounding out the words better, but they are actually understanding less. Children cannot comprehend, remember, and apply what is read. The 1986 NAEP report found, as have other recent assessments, that students' related problems in reading and expressing ideas in writing stem mainly from difficulty with verbal reasoning." -  Excerpted from Endangered Minds: Why Children Don't Think And What We Can Do About It

"What, Me Read? A literature professor discovers that his students exist in the fog of a post-literate world." - The John William Pope Center (Jan 2009)

"Can't Read, Can't Watch, Can't Comprehend. Today's post-literate students don't read movies any better than they read books." - The John William Pope Center (Jan 2010)

"Literacy Lost. University faculty are finally noticing that college students don’t read very well, but Neil Postman and Jacques Ellul saw it years ago." - The John William Pope Center (Feb 2010)

Uninformed Electorate

Only one in four Americans can name more than one of the five freedoms in the First Amendment, but more than half can name at least two family members of "The Simpsons"

Our uninformed electorate - Bennett's research found that "most Americans were 'out to lunch' when it came to basic information about politics" in the most recent election year.

..young people are increasingly saying that they are learning about the campaign from comedy shows such as the Daily Show and Saturday Night Live. "But the poll finds that people who say they are learning things about politics on comedy shows don't know much about the current campaign."

How TV Teaches Stupidity

Dumbing-Down of America

As noted in Amusing Ourselves to Death, books brought about the "Age of Reason", TV on the other hand has brought about the "Age of Entertainment".

Attention-Deficit Citizenry. As Amusing Ourselves to Death points out debates, during the 1800's would last hours. The example he gave was a 7 hour debate between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas (and this was considered a short debate). Each speaker given at least one hour to speak at a time.  Nowadays, debaters are allowed at most three minutes (so the audience doesn't get bored).

Good God, it isn't as simple as just picking up a book you laid down half a century ago. Remember, the firemen are rarely necessary.  The public itself stopped reading of its own accord.  You firemen provide a circus now and then at which buildings are set off and crowds gather for the pretty blaze, but it is a small sideshow indeed, and hardly necessary to keep things in line. So few want to be rebels any more. And out of those few, most, like myself, scare easily. Can you dance faster than the White Clown, shout louder than 'Mr. Gimmick' and the parlor 'families'? If you can, you'll win your way, Montag. In any event, you're a fool.

People are having fun."

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

I cannot live without books.

- Thomas Jefferson

Beware of the person of one book.

- St Thomas Aquinas

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.

- Joseph Addison

Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.

- Richard McKenna

No one can read with profit that which he cannot learn to read with pleasure.

- Noah Porter

The man who does not read books has no advantage over the man that can not read them.

- Mark Twain

What we read with inclination makes a much stronger impression. If we read without inclination, half the mind is employed in fixing the attention; so there is but one half to be employed on what we read.

- Samuel Johnson

Recommended Books

Amusing Ourselves to Death (1986)

About "Amusing Ourselves to Death"

Tuned Out: Why Americans Under 40 Don't Follow the News (2005)

Brave New World (1942)

Fahrenheit 451 (1966)

From Death of Reading: 

For example, the following statements were presented to members of a mostly preliterate tribe in a remote area of the Soviet Union: "In the far north, where there is snow, all bears are white. Novaya Zembla is in the far north, and there is always snow there." Then these people were asked what color the bears are in Novaya Zembla. A typical response, as reported by Father Walter Ong in his book "Orality and Literacy": "I don't know. I've seen a black bear. I've never seen any others. Each locality has its own animals." These people could not solve this simplest of logical problems.

It is not that such preliterate people are less intelligent than we are. They simply think differently -- "situationally." When words are written down, not just enunciated, they are freed from the subjective situations and experiences ("I've seen a black bear") in which they were imbedded. Written words can be played with, analyzed, rearranged and organized into categories (black bears, white bears, places where there is always snow). The correspondences, connections or contradictions among various statements can be carefully examined. As investigators such as Ong and anthropologist Jack Goody have explained, our system of logic -- our ability to find principles that apply independently of situations -- is a product of literacy. This logic, which goes back to the Egyptians, Hebrews and Greeks, led to mathematics and philosophy and history. Among its accomplishments is our culture.

And when written words are set in print, they gain additional powers. Our sentences grow even less connected to our persons as they are spelled out in the interchangeable letters of movable type. Our thoughts grow more abstract, more removed from the situations in which we happen to find ourselves. Superstitions, biases and legendary characters like dragons and kings have difficulty fitting into these straight, precise lines of type. Charts, maps and columns of figures can be duplicated exactly for the first time. According to seminal media theorist Marshall McLuhan and historian Elizabeth Eisenstein, the scientific revolution and the Enlightenment were both products of the printing press.