For those who insist that we are in a downward spiral in which our youth read and write less and less, I would like to offer this up. Since the early 1900’s, the way in which information has been transferred has shifted from a largely written text to radio and then television. This transformation has lead to a society of consumers. We passively accept information from multiple sources. We have no avenue to question its authority. There are no letters to the editor. Only recently has radio begun a discourse in which listeners call in to speak about their viewpoints. Unfortunately, many of these radio stations are highly biased programs that solicit one-sided debates. They are capable of sifting out callers, allowing only those who they choose to get through. They can also cut off callers at any point. Not very democratic. Television is even less democratic. Channel after channel of information (I use this term loosely) is streamed into our homes in a solely one-sided fashion. We accept the information, but no public debate is formed, no discourse is furthered.
But the Internet is changing that. For the first time in a century, the primary source of information for our citizens is democratic in nature. Blogs, wikis, and other Web 2.0 tools invite a discourse. Our citizenry is encouraged to read and write in order to discuss a whole range of topics.
Therefore, it is the responsibility of us, the educators, to further this opportunity. If this vehicle for social discourse is to be powerful, we must teach our youth how to use it responsibly and effectively. We must promote this public conversation and empower our students with knowledge, thinking skills, communication skills, respect for different opinions, and technical skills and access to be able to participate.