Which Is More True?: Students Have No Time to Read, or Students Have Crappy Taste

From The California Aggie, UC Davis’s student newspaper:

Parsa is not alone. Though reading textbooks and articles is high on many UC Davis students’ to-do lists, reading books purely for pleasure? Not so much.

A 2007 study conducted by the National Endowment for the Arts found that in 2005, 65 percent of college freshmen said they read little or nothing for pleasure. Among adults, only 38 percent said they had read a book for pleasure the previous day.

Students frequently cited intense course loads and a lack of “free time” as reasons why they rarely read books purely for fun, a position UC Davis English professor Matthew Stratton sympathized with. [. . .]

The perception that reading books not only takes too much time but is also less accessible than watching videos or surfing the Internet was common among students. Books may seem more challenging to digest and require more attention than online articles and videos.

“Videos are so much more accessible, especially with Netflix. You can search for movies and watch them instantly, instead of going to the library and getting a book,” said junior biochemistry major Thomas Cayton.

No one reads . . . it’s too hard to find books . . . blah blah blah. All written a million times before, and all pretty obvious. I’m 99% sure that vast majority of students are more familiar with viral YouTube videos featuring cats than they are with European/American/Whatever books.

But the thing that actually struck me about this article was the books that college students actually admitted to reading: The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, and Mitch Albom.

What the fuck?

Not that there’s any judgement being passed here (yes there is), and not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with reading these books, but holy shit, these are the future leaders of America and they’re reading books that 13-year-olds find compelling. Just saying.

Seriously though, maybe if college kids actually read a few really good works of literature (in contrast to tolerable movies in word form) they’d be able to pause the video of James Earl Jones reading Justin Bieber long enough to experience the pleasures that are only available in books . . .

Coda: Instead of calling out the end of taste or whatever, publishers will fling themselves without abandon into capturing this market via Vooks and game apps and socially networked “novels” and videos of monkeys tearing apart the classics . . . Actually, seeing Joe Ape go crazy on Finnegans Wake would be sort of cool, no?

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