July 20, 2024

Dude, where is my attention span?


This archived article was written by: Erik Falor

Yeah, it’s trendy, and everybody, like, totally cares about what happens on “The Real World.” But it has turned your brain into Cream of Wheat, and it’s too late. Let me repeat myself. MTV has already caused irreparable damage to your cognitive faculties.
Perhaps it isn’t entirely MTV’s fault, but we can’t rightfully blame VH1 until it is proven that people watch it. Somehow the folks at VH1 have failed to implement the ‘sexual innuendo/hipster VJ/more innuendo’ formula of success that has taken MTV to the top. MTV has to be the most successful thing marketed to the mindless masses of minors since the Slinky or Atari. It is “Teletubbies” for teenagers.
Everything that MTV does underscores how deep their depravity of concentration runs. Whatever became of Video Jockeys Kennedy, Adam Curry and Matt Pinfield? The only thing shorter-lived than Carson Daly’s taste for music videos was his month-spanning career as a VJ. MTV doesn’t even have a tribute page for the VJs that once were as popular as the videos themselves. As the saying goes, “those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it,” which is why nobody over there noticed that the second Backstreet Boys CD was just the first one repackaged with new cover art.
This problem goes deeper than cable television. Textbooks have taken on a confusing webpage-like design that doesn’t allow for much information to be displayed on any one page. It follows that if you want to get students to read their textbooks, you should make them more visually appealing. The popularity of webpages does not come from the freedom to put many frames on one screen. People like webpages because they randomly pop up pictures of severely hot tennis players, a gimmick that doesn’t quite work for a medium that doesn’t plug into a wall.
Because publishers have adopted a schizophrenic-page design, textbooks have become bigger than ever. Rosie O’Donnel is even suing the publishers over the right to use “thick and heavy.” At expense of being factual, they have become so jam-packed with ‘info boxes’ and ‘graphic learning aids’ that there is little room for the lesson. I would like to see less of my textbook dollar go to graphic artists and towards researchers who can make sure that my book isn’t full of nonsense. Anymore, advanced math textbooks are likely to be lacking in the basics, and science books are full of pictures of things that don’t happen in real life, much like a Penthouse magazine.
What kinds of misleading “facts” permeate our textbooks? A lemon “battery” will not make a light bulb glow. Raindrops don’t have sharp little points on top, and Ben Franklin’s kite was never struck by lightning. I was in high school before anybody bothered to tell me that George Washington never cut down a cherry tree and delivered his “I cannot tell a lie” line. That was just as traumatic as the time I found out that Vanna White is as old as my mother.
Furthermore, history textbooks are at the frontline of the political correctness battle, with accuracy taking a back seat to more appealing representations of historical events. The problem is that textbook publishers are becoming concerned with what big school districts want them to say about controversial issues. States with large education budgets such as Texas and California dictate to publishers, and to the rest of the country what books will be printed. All kinds of special interest groups have their hands in the pot, and the result is a mishmash of nonintellectual rubbish replacing facts. That is no good excuse to confuse and intimidate kids who need to learn pre-algebra so they can become professional video game testers someday.
Michael Hodges, on his website about education reform, poses an important question: “If 200 mathematicians and scientists, including four Nobel Prize recipients and two winners of a prestigious math prize, the Fields Medal, deplore math teaching methods saying they are ‘horrifyingly short on basics’ – should we care?”
Does anybody know what an old textbook looks like? They were like Harry Potter books; words on the inside and one picture on the front cover. They were made when the American education system was the envy of other nations. Unlike today when we are the laughing stock of Asia and most of Central America.
It seems like nobody can concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes, or remember things for more than a few months. When the Sept. 11 attacks occurred, many people reacted to the “first terrorist attack on American soil.” Do the names Timothy McVeigh or Theodore Kaczynski ring any bells? Sept. 11th, 2001 wasn’t even the first attack on the World Trade Center. In 1993, a 1,500 pound, urea-nitrate bomb was detonated by an Islamic jihad group in the parking garage of the complex. If Sept. 11 wasn’t declared a national holiday, the attacks of two years ago would be completely forgotten by all but a few grumpy veterans by the end of this decade.
But because much of my intended audience isn’t going to stick around any longer, here is a picture of J-Lo and Ben Affleck.