The Dumb Side of a Smart Society

by Melissa Brunner

Author Stephen King shared some interesting thoughts in Sunday's Parade magazine. Responding to whether he thought reading is as important to today's kids, he talked about a writing seminar he did last year with high school students. He said they were really bright kids, but they couldn't spell! The problem, King said, is that spell check won't help if you don't know "through" from "threw."

It's a good point. I admit, spell check had bailed me out a time or two (or 10!). I do a lot of reading in my job and can't tell you how many times there are news releases where a writer for their organization mixes up word forms in relating what they're doing. (See what I did there?) When it comes to grammar, it's as if we downplay its importance. (I did it again!)

It's not that Americans are getting dumber. Several data reviews found that, since the early 1900s, Americans gained an average three points per decade on standardized IQ tests. One researcher has theorized it may be because we've become more adept at compartmentalizing information and developing the skill sets needed for such tests.

No doubt our world is a lot more advanced than it was in prior centuries. But the basics of reading and writing - of communicating - are the foundation upon which all the rest rests. King said in the Parade interview, "If you can read in the 21st century, you own the world." I tend to agree. If we forget the basics, we risk the rest of it crumbling.

I think that's a principle with which most principals would agree!

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