Reading and Thought by Dwight MacDonald: Essay

What is the nature of the “printed matter that in s us daily,” and what connection does this kind of reading have with thoughts? What do you think about the position he takes here?
According to MacDonald, the “printed matter that inundates us daily” has been reduced to being flimsy and overwhelming and the reading materials available in today’s modern society purports “shallow thinking” (MacDonald). This supported by Carr’s opinion that he could no longer read a book fully because he could no longer concentrate reading on the book blaming the blast of information brought about by information technology. According to him, the “linear, literary mind” has become “yesterday’s mind” (Carr). In short, these assessments state that today’s reading materials are making our reading attention shorter and making us dumb.

I disagree with these positions because they are an exaggerated and overstated assessment of today’s literature and “printed matters”. MacDonald and Johnson failed to recognize that while there is a lot of flimsy literature available today, the mere availability of this information has empowered the modern readers today. True, there is a lot of “flimsy” literature available today. But equally important also is that there is also an equal number of worthy and enlightening literature. The student or the reader will just have to make a wise choice of what sort of material he or she will read. The reader can choose to read the flimsy literature as McDonald has described or the student can choose to read the useful literature. Both materials are readily available to him or her. The reader can chose either to be become dumb by inundating himself or herself with flimsy and useless information or he or she can educate and empower himself by reading academic materials.
We can take this assignment for example where the student can do the research work right at the comfort of home and finish it accordingly without leaving home. The materials are readily available which could be accessed through Google and the school library to complete the assignment. Of course, in the process of doing this assignment, there were also distractions such as visiting Facebook or Googling nonsense that could prevent completing the work. The student, however, has to make a choice. If the student will do the right decision, the assignment can be done in a breeze since everything is already at the disposal of the fingertips.

Unlike before, the choice to become smarter is not readily available. One has to physically go to the library and go over the books and journals which could take forever. The challenge was doubly hard because, in addition to the usual distractions that haunts a teenager, there is also the inconvenience and limitation of the physical library (i.e. limited library hours, a limited number of books that can be borrowed). So I disagree with the position of MacDonald that today’s literature is flimsy. If he only went to university today and he would realize how empowering technology is in the life of the student. Of course, it could also be abused when not used properly.

I also disagree with the position of Johnson that Google makes us dumb. On the contrary, I think it makes us smarter and more critical. Google is like fire it has no intrinsic value by itself. Its value depends on how the user will make of it. It is a tool that can be used either to foster stupidity as Johnson has described that would make us dumb, or it could also be a source of empowerment for the user by being a tool to make the needed information readily available. Again, using this assignment as an example, Google served as an empowering tool to search those articles needed as an input to complete the work. On the other hand, Google could also be used to search other dumb things that would distract from completing the work. Again, it is a matter of choice and Google is just a search engine, a tool whose value depends on how it is used. It also enables the student to develop a critical mind because it teaches us to evaluate which sources are valid and which are “flimsy”.

MacDonald and Johnson may be referring to the literature of the distant past where literature can generally be had through books, magazines and printed materials where most of the writings were given thought by their authors considering the high cost of print then. But those materials were not readily available and more often have to be unearthed in the library. Today, they are readily available if we wanted them but of course, together with other flimsy materials that inundate us. The key is, to choose critically which kind of information we are going to digest.

 

Works Cited
Dwight Macdonald. “Reading and thought”
Carr. “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”
Johnson. “Yes, People Still Read, but Now It”s Social” (Johnson 145-147)

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