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Death by technology...

In my work-in-progress, I've tossed in an element over a theme I've been living with in this real world. In my current novel, a small portion of the plot deals with a dream or fantasy of mine. Due to events that I placed in the novel (though I might change how it occurs), all forms of satellite-based technology, from computers on the internet to smart phones to most cable television, cease to work in that America, which is only 2 or 3 generations from ours. The "what if" question, which is the corner stone of most fiction, is "What if this were to happen? Since reliance on technology that we consumers couldn't repair if it broke down (like the cars of the past 20 years or so) has become practically an addiction, what would happen if our drug of choice were to be taken away?" I don't think my answer in the novel is too far-fetched.

As a teacher of language arts (nee English), I'm appalled at the diminishing of what I feel is true literacy. I've seen it over three decades, and I know it's really there. Fewer students read, and why would they when they never see that behavior modeled at home by their parents or guardians? Reading fiction has joined the quadratic equation's place in the world: an activity done only in the classroom, forced upon us by teachers who believe it important. We students have two basic choices. Either we cooperate within the classroom and act somewhat interested, or we disrupt, which is much, much more fun. Either way, we still get the course credit, eventually graduate (albeit with a worthless diploma), and live to party and enjoy our silly videos and games on our smartphones for the remainder of our lives. The education system has responded by creating the kind of testing that proves how great a job we are doing with our new well we are preparing your children for college and career readiness.

I have only a few years before I retire. I will go out saddened for our future. Books are dying...the relationship between reader and favorite author is threatened. Welcome to the new world of instant gratification and 2-minute pleasure. No substance, no lasting feeling of accomplishment when we finish a great work of fiction. No life-long-lingering memory of characters, phrases, or heart-gripping scenes, but like candy, it surely tasted great for that moment. Those seconds of pleasure created quick rushes of dopamine into our brain. That was fun! Give me another shot! And, of course, there's plenty where that came from...because such candy can--and is--created rapidly by people who also don't read.

I believe we are doomed...but I will continue to live in the past. I will continue to write as though my writing mattered. This is one area where I think it would be a far, far better thing to have lived in an earlier time. And, I'm happy to admit, I'd love it if we did lose that technology! At first, chaos, but after time, a return to at least some measurable true literacy.

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