Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Still “bookish” after all these years ...

PHOTO: The author's father at his desk in high school, Latin textbook at the ready, Saint Gregory Minor Seminary, Cincinnati, Ohio, circa 1940.

It happened at my high school reunion. One of my classmates was a girl who had been from my hometown, whom I had known since we were in kindergarten. But going to a Catholic high school in the city put us on different paths, and she ran with the "popular crowd." But here we were, thirty years later, and she introduced me to her husband. Imagine my shock to learn of how he had looked forward to seeing me, a guy whose wife barely spoke to me in high school, and hadn't much after that. It seems I reminded her of the younger of their two sons, who always had his nose in a book. He just had to meet the man himself. We've been good friends ever since.

They say that computers and the internet have lowered attention spans in children, and according to a recent article by David P Goldman, “a moron with a computer is still a moron.”

“In the Classroom of the Future, Stagnant Scores” is the headline of a New York Times account of the uselessness of high-tech education. Since the Clinton administration, liberal “experts” have argued that giving every kid a laptop, “educational” software, and Internet access will produce a generation of geniuses. That has to be the stupidest idea in the history of education. Of course, it hasn’t worked. But that doesn’t discourage the New Age nerds who run the Obama adminstration’s education policy.

Goldman also points out that children who learn to play a musical instrument are more likely to excel in traditional academic subjects, and are much more likely to be accepted into -- get this! -- medical school. Can you believe it?

I can. My smartphone has four e-reader formats; Adobe Reader, Amazon's Kindle, Barnes & Noble's Nook, and Borders' Kobo. Some books I can get from one and not the other. I'm reading one of four or five books at any one time, in a wide variety of subjects. (One is about Friedrich Nietzsche's sister. Go figure.) What else can I do; there are too many real books in the house as it is. I'm also re-learning computer animation, digital photography, and web development in my spare time, I hope for future career prospects at the age of fifty-six, a time when most in the civil service are thinking about retirement.

Why do I do this? From the time I was young, I have been driven by a force beyond even my own comprehension, never to go through life being average. Is there a cost? Well, I'm not much of a "schmoozer" at parties, unless it's a small group and I'm holding my own in conversation. Not much occasion to mingle in that setting. And (perhaps worst of all) I don't play the guitar as often as I used to.

I might have to remedy that someday soon. But first I have to master Tagalog -- probably.

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