Why is it you can’t come up with a clever comeback at the very time you
I was sitting in an airport terminal last fall, reading a book while I was waiting for someone, when I looked up from the page for a moment to give my eyes a rest. Glancing around, I could see only one other person reading: an elderly lady whose youth probably pre-dated television. Everybody else – if they weren’t talking or just staring off dull-eyed into the middle distance – was staring at the tiny screens of their mobile phones, accessing the internet no doubt.
I can’t do that on my phone because it isn’t a smartphone. I don’t think of my phone as a stupid phone: Ignorant would be a more politically correct description. My phone’s lack of smarts allows me time to read, not fritter my life away tweeting, checking my Facebook account, or whatever else people do on their little mobile devices.
We have passed the age of books now that all this new communication technology has become available to most people. Libraries have become lonely places. A lot of those who might have actually picked up and read a book just don’t bother anymore because it’s too labor-intensive and seems like yesterday’s diversion. (And don’t give me that argument about reading books online.)
There are many more complex reasons why nobody takes the time to read books these days, but I think there is simple answer that people don’t realize. We don’t read books because, from the very beginning of our schooling, educators had us read books that were both boring and stupid. Here’s what I had to read in first grade:
Oh, oh, oh, oh,
Look, Dick. Look, look, look.
See Spot run.
Run, Spot, run.
Run, run, run, run.
Oh, oh, oh, Jane.
See Spot wee wee.
See him wee wee
all the way home.
I still confuse Dick and Jane with the Three Little Pigs. Those books were a drag and forced many of us to read comic books to develop our language skills. Not a good choice, but if we had stuck with Dick and Jane, we’d have sounded like idiots.
It didn’t get any better as we went from Dick and Jane to boring history books in junior high and then to Shakespeare and Chaucer in high school. Shakespeare: Now, afore God, I am so vexed, that every part about me quivers. Scurvy, knave! Pray you, sir, a word: and as I told you, my young lady bade me inquire you out; etc. etc.
Chaucer: In a somer sesun whon softe was the sunne
I kylled a younge birde ande ate it on a bun.
The wording might not be exactly correct, but my point is they really needed spellcheck back then.
My point is it’s no wonder so many of us turned to loud music and drugs in the ‘60s and stopped reading books. Anyway, that’s part of the reason, in my opinion, why people don’t read books anymore.
Maybe the new Tax Bill the Trump administration passed will have a tax exemption for every book report you attach to your income tax return. (Me quivers at a fool’s thought, scurvy knave!)
Whatever we do, we should do it soon, to keep people from reading poorly written newspaper columns.