Wednesday, January 9, 2008

This Is A New One In The Reading Debate

Usually when I bring up the issue of the decline in reading, I am faced with one of two responses: utter indifference or complete denial. Now I can add a new reaction to the argument: nit-pick the data. The blog, if:book, posted the letters by two intellectuals arguing about the data in the decline in reading and it's correlation to to decline in test scores.

Sunil Iyengar, National Endowment for the Arts, said:

Further, unlike the chart in Dr. Kaplan's critique, the NEA's Charts 5A to 5D explain that the "test years occurred at irregular intervals," and each test year from 1984 to 2004 is provided. Also omitted from the critique's reproduction are labels for the charts' vertical axes, which provide 5-point rather than the 10-point intervals used by the Department of Education chart. Again, there is no mystery here. Five-point intervals were chosen to make the trends easier to read.

Nancy Kaplan, University of Baltimore, said:

Plenty of graphs in the NEA report show a variety of time periods, so there is at best a weak rationale for choosing 1984 as the starting point for the graphs in question. Consistency, in this case, is surely less important than accuracy and completeness. Given the inferences the report draws from the data, then, it is more likely that the sample of data the NEA used in its representations was chosen precisely because, as Mr. Iyengar admits, that sample would make "the trends easier to read." My point is that the "trends" the report wants to foreground are not the only trends in the data: truncating the data set makes ...

... blah, blah, blah

Come on already! While intellectuals debate, the country is in real crisis. Something really wrong is happening here and while I appreciate the NEA's reports, I want to see more action. What do we do about the decline in reading? How do we help young people get excited about picking up a book? Do we extend the RIF program or create a new one for young adults? Do we get Congress involved? That's what I would like to see debated.


penandspindle said...

This is a growing problem in more than one country. Please keep the debate going!

jenn said...

I've noticed that Paris is taking action to save their bookstores and the UK just declared 2008 the Year in Reading, so I think that you are right that something is happen in other places. Though it seems that people here in the US are oblivious to the issue or just don't care. I'm sure which. Thanks for the encouragement. Let's all keep the debate going!

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