Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death makes a perfect reading for Introduction to Humanities this semester, particularly Chapter 4 (“The Typographic Mind”). Unable to find a free PDF or DOC version online, and unwilling to scan one myself, I opted for the Sparknotes because I am a lazy, bankrupt educator. But SparkNotes are better than a YouTube claymation right? I ran into this amusing, ironic, and depressing exchange on a forum. The exchange is started by a desperate student trying to locate a free copy of the book. The haters accuse him of thievery, point him to the library, or recommend he ask a cute
Students stumped me this week over my information literacy quest about how to peel a hard-boiled egg, which is now a homework activity for public speaking. First, a bit about the activity: The homework requires the students to follow a list of the sources and determine the best way to peel an egg. The point of the assignment is to evaluate the credibility of internet cites and learn that (1) the first Google hits aren’t necessarily valid, and (2) credibility isn’t necessarily obvious at first blush. A colleague who is a librarian mentioned once that people rarely look past the first page of search engine
No one knows the right way to peel a hard-boild egg. Ages ago I had a dispute with a friend over this issue. She swore by her mother’s wisdom that the freshest eggs were the easiest to peel. I swore by my grandmother’s wisdom that cold water does the trick. The debate was heated and emotional, probably due to our investment in our maternal relatives’ kitchen knowledge. Food and family, as we know, is a potent combination. So, this morning my hard boiled eggs came out sort of eh, reminding me of the disagreement with my friend. Time to turn to the eggsperts (lame pun).
Today in class, students were supposed to bring an editorial from a newspaper. More than half the students didn’t know what an editorial was or where to find it. What kind of education system do we have in this state? When students can’t tell the difference between an editorial and a news article, I get scared. I’m not talking about the more sophisticated position that questions the difference between information and persuasion, either: “there’s no such thing as information; all information is perspectival.” The students simply didn’t know the kinds of writing in a newspaper. It means that our educational system is not teaching students