Tag Archives: education

Good News Monday: Fiction Isn’t Rotting Teen Brains After All

Researchers at University College London’s Institute of Education recently reported that teens who read novels rather than non-fiction are six months ahead of their peers in reading skills.

After analyzing data from 250,000 teens in 35 Western countries, they concluded that the 15-year-olds had significantly stronger reading skills than those who read non-fiction, magazines, comics, or newspapers for pleasure. The lead researcher pointed out that fiction requires a person to focus on long, continuous text, which improves not only reading skills but learning to avoid distractions.

This apparently holds true even when a novel is poorly written.

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The Curmudgeon Chronicles

Although I believe in putting less negativity into the world, sometimes you just need to bitch a little. So today I’m going to sound like an old fuddy-duddy (a wonderful expression that first appeared in print around 1871) and share some observations that trouble me.

1) The dumbing-down of language. I should first admit that years of writing advertising copy have destroyed my prior knowledge of grammar and punctuation. (I now rationalize any errors as part of my “style”.) Some pet peeves:

  • The inability to differentiate “its” (possessive) from “it’s” (contraction of “it is”) and “lose” from “loose”
  • “I’m bored of…” vs.“bored with” – and why are you bored? You’re 22!!
  • “A couple” days/fuddy-duddies/etc. Where’s the “of”?
  • “Thanks for having me” vs. “inviting me”, unless it was indeed a sexual encounter
  • The overuse of “awesome”, which should be reserved for references to Yosemite, the pyramids, or God—not a latte with an extra shot

Check out the following job requirements I received from a recruiter:

“…High intellectual curiosity and hunger to learn in ambiguous environment.” Does this mean I’d be working in a place that looks like a dry cleaner but is actually a front for organized crime?

“Excellent written and vertical communication.” Are they asking the candidate to write while standing on a ladder? Having sex in a shower?

Also, when did “work stream” become a thing? Let’s reserve that for trout fishermen and gold miners.

2) The sorry state of education. In a recent survey, students at a Texas university did not know the name of our current Vice President, who won the Civil War, or when the American Revolution was fought (one student suggested 1677). However, all of these students knew the names of Brad Pitt’s current and former wives and what show Snooki was on. (Oops, I’ve ended with a preposition. It’s not easy being the Word Police!)

3) Breathless weather reportage. Haven’t we always had floods, snow, etc.? Today’s descriptions remind me of olives: “huge”, “gigantic”, “colossal”….

4) Hold times so long I could bake a cake from scratch while I wait for my utility, bank or Internet “provider” to pick up. Adding insult to injury, when I finally reach a human, he or she usually can’t “provide” a solution so I have to call back.

5) AT&T. You sign up for a monthly plan. Yet somehow every bill remains different, despite the fact that we never order a single movie or call exotic countries. WTF?!

Whew; venting is hard work! Please share your own pet peeves below and once you’ve gotten them off your chest, let’s all enjoy another glorious day!