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Like it or not, analog literacy is incomplete
Sharing a snapshot of his child's summer reading packet instructing the student to "compose four tweets to tell about a book you read", economist Joshua Goodman asks, "Anyone else worried that their kids are being exposed to social media at too young an age?"
■ The question is certainly fair game, and the particular exercise in question is certainly too cute by half. Considering that Twitter itself is only 15 years old, most adult parents would be within reason to find the very assignment unrelatable.
■ The notion of normalizing social-media interaction as part of a reading assignment is prone to feeling forced -- and perhaps even a bit unhealthy. Young people can be impulsive and easily harmed by the hazards of social media, especially if they aren't practicing good technology hygiene or learning healthy boundaries between their digital and real-world lives.
■ But on the other hand, Benjamin Franklin continues to reach us nearly three centuries later via the pithy quotes in his Poor Richard's Almanack. Franklin's aphorisms were, effectively, 18th Century tweets. And we are better off for having them.
■ Discovering a subject-matter expert with a lot of interesting things to say -- but no social-media presence -- is a lot like finding a book you can't read on a Kindle or a movie you can't stream. Convenience matters more than it rightly should. Yet the other side to that same coin is that there are people devoting far more writing to social media than they do to long-form published works, when they really could do a world of good by piecing together thousands of scattered thoughts into coherent works.
■ So the reality is that educators (and parents) probably should teach a balanced approach: Yes, young people should read books. But they should learn how to be digitally literate, too. They should learn how to write critical essays. But they should probably know how to compose a clever tweet, too. Literacy is bigger in both its reach and its consequences than it used to be -- and if you doubt that, consider going through the Cuban Missile Crisis with a Twitter-addicted President at the helm. As uncomfortable as it often makes generations older than the digital natives, there's no going back.