Shrink The World: Irrelevance Is Best, Part 1

In a stack of papers called Instruction.

  • Aug
  • 13
  • 2006

Do we spoil teenagers if we feed them reading that’s only about what limited things interest them at this given time? Sure, that type of reading has its place. It’s key to appeal to a teenager, providing strong and interesting examples of writing. We want to build the idea that not all reading is boring and that reading can lead to a happier life (yes, I honestly believe that).

Speaking from very educated guesses, when raising a child you do not give the kid what he wants every single time he asks for it. Spoiled kids are no fun, both at a young and old age.

Do teachers spend too much time fretting over whether or not the students will find it interesting? Are we spoiling them that way?

A Volcano And A Village

I’m reading Simon Winchester’s Krakatoa right now. A passage about the role the telegraph played in Krakatoa’s big explosion had an impact on me and how I hope to teach.

Millions of people hitherto unknown to one another began to involve themselves, for the first time ever, in looking beyond their hitherto limited horizons of self; they started to inhabit a new and outward-gazing world that these storytelling agencies [telegraph companies], and this event they were relating, were unwittingly helping to create (Winchester 194-95).

Winchester’s idea is that exposure to more information meant a shrinking of the world. He refers to Mashall McLuhan’s idea of the “global village”. From the 1960 anthology Explorations in Communication, McLuhan suggests we’re all connected through information:

Post-literate man’s electronic media contract the world to a village or tribe where everything happens to everyone at the same time: everyone knows about, and therefore participates in, everything that is happening the minute it happens. Television gives this quality of simultaneity to events in the global village (Winchester 182).

Winchester quotes that passage in a footnote and goes on to write “the telegraphic transmission of news about Krakatoa, disseminated simultaneously throughout the entire newspaper-reading world, had much the same effect.”

Winchester’s “limited horizons of self” passage and McLuhan’s “everything happens to everyone at the same time” concept got to me. That’s exactly what I want to be able to do with my students, break down that horizon of self, to urge the realization that events around the world mean something even though they happen miles and miles away. So much of the behavior we battle stems from the idea that “the world revolves around me.” It’s a natural thing to think that as a teenager, but that certainly doesn’t make it true. If there’s a way reading can help abolish that attitude, I’m all for it. Winchester and McLuhan seem to be suggesting that this is possible.

Friday: Read Away Selfishness


1. Laurie says:

[8/18/2006 - 3:54 pm]

We can’t spoil them…that only happens when you give kids ONLY what they want. And too many of them NEVER want to read anything.

2. Todd says:

[8/18/2006 - 4:27 pm]

I just wonder if, by attempting to give students only the things that interest them, we aren’t sending the tacit message that things they cannot connect to aren’t worth reading.