U No What I Meen: Technology and Illiteracy

Most college and university professors know that even though students may successfully complete remedial courses and even a full slate of freshman and sophomore classes, many will still be unable to use proper language mechanics or to work with complex math formulas at an advanced level.  It’s an observable fact that many graduate students, some with master’s degrees from highly reputable, scholastically celebrated universities, have no knowledge of rules of punctuation or word usage; worse, there are some active college faculty who will admit, privately, that they never use a semicolon because they have no idea how to do so correctly.

Two decades ago, this problem was seen as symptomatic of a significant failure in the American educational system.  It wasn’t taken too seriously, all the same.  When challenged with the question Why can’t Johnny read?—even when he’s in college—more than one administrator countered that the current generation is always perceived as dumber than the last.  Still, attempts were made to fix what was wrong.  Blue-ribbon panels, government-appointed task forces, and expert committees were assembled to deliberate and hand down recommendations such as smaller classes, better pay for teachers, etc.  By and large, however, what emerged was a system of standardized testing that assumed that learning could be quantified and measured on some sort of numeric...

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