Jose Carillo's Forum


This section features discussions on education, learning and teaching, and language with particular focus on English. The primary subjects to be taken up here are notable advocacies and contrary viewpoints in these disciplines and their allied fields. Our primary aim is to clarify matters and issues of importance to language and learning, provide intelligent and useful instruction, promote rational and critical thinking, and enhance the individual’s overall capacity for discernment.

The big difference between book culture and the Internet culture

A new study among students in Tennessee has shown that introducing books into homes that may not have them produces significant educational gains. In contrast, a separate study among half-million 5th through 8th graders in North Carolina has shown that the spread of home computers and high-speed Internet access is significantly associated with declines in math and reading scores.

These findings were discussed by Op-Ed columnist David Brooks in “The Medium Is the Medium,” which came out in the July 8, 2010 issue of The New York Times. According to Brooks, the research study led by Richard Allington of the University of Tennessee showed that the students who brought books home achieved significantly higher reading scores than other students who didn’t, and they were less affected by the “summer slide” — the decline that especially afflicts lower-income students during the vacation months. On the other hand, Brooks reports, a study by Jacob Vigdor and Helen Ladd of Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy showed that broadband Internet access is not necessarily good for kids and may actually be harmful to their academic performance.

In the face of these findings, Brooks observes that a book culture and the Internet culture foster different types of learning, the first characterized by being well informed and the second by being hip and being cultivated. He says: “The Internet helps you become well informed—knowledgeable about current events, the latest controversies and important trends. The Internet also helps you become hip — to learn about what’s going on, as Epstein writes, ‘in those lively waters outside the boring mainstream.’ But the literary world is still better at helping you become cultivated, mastering significant things of lasting import. [This is because to] learn these sorts of things, you have to defer to greater minds than your own.” 

And Brooks adds: “Right now, the literary world is better at encouraging this kind of identity. The Internet culture may produce better conversationalists, but the literary culture still produces better students.”

Read David Brooks’ “The Medium Is the Medium” in The New York Times now!

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