I read an interesting article the other day that I printed out for safekeeping and then promptly lost.
That article is either here somewhere or it is in a trash bin elsewhere starting its decomposition process.
The ideas the article planted within me, however, are strong and growing into seedlings that I will share with you now for watering or cutting down.
The core of the article argued that “The New Research” means students and faculty and others in need of information no longer read what they refer to or quote: Doing online searches has replaced reading the text.
We now rely on Google and Ask and MSN and Yahoo! to do the “reading” for us by pre-scanning texts and websites for our pertinent scholarly returns.
Now I take up the mantle of that argument to make it my own. We have acquiesced our cogent notions of context and meaning to computers and — instead of questioning those returns or being led into the deeper waters of our minds — we just blindly accept, and then copy-and-paste, what the search returns provide us as true and intellectually vetted when they are confessedly not.
We have lost our necessary inborn ability to question authority and the status quo and — I also argue today — the end result of that submission of morality and learning and duty is what directly creates a somnambulistic mentality of following and doing as you are told and not what you think is best.
This sort of “you read it for me” practice of non-learning has been around for many years in the form of Cliffs Notes (born and bred in Lincoln, Nebraska!), and The Skim Every Three Pages Method of self-taught speed reading 30 minutes before an exam on the material and, finally, using the coverall answer “Man’s Inhumanity to Man” as blanket protection when asked to divine meaning from a text you never read.
With the uprising of the Search Engines — note they are not called “Research Engines” out of the necessity to pretend their employment is a beginning and not really an end-all — a new generation of Big Thinkers believe learning begins in fingers typing instead of eyes reading, and our intellectual future rots away before us all as quoting replaces understanding and footnotes replace meaning and the hotlink burns away the branding of original thought.