Sunday, February 15, 2009

Why my wife doesn't like social media outlets.....

Social media opposites attract.

Yesterday, I spent Valentine's Day with my wife, doing everything from breakfast to coffee at Starbucks to the movies. While we were at Starbucks, I showed my wife my blog and my Twitter account.

After showing her the number of people who follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn, my wife still doesn't get it. Much is due to the fact that she's a high school science teacher at James Madison High School in San Antonio, and she deals with kids who write essays in "text" format.

In one of her classes, her students responded to a science essay question. One senior wrote: "It's bad for the environment" on a question concerning coal mines. There was nothing else about air quality or other scientific data. In the world of social media, the sentence would have been well under the 140 character limit of a cell phone or a Twitter haiku.

So my wife has issues with social media and texting. In many ways I agree. Today's typical kid can not write a full paragraph of cohesive thoughts, let alone an essay. English teachers are teaching children to express themselves, but they are not teaching them how to pull it all together into an essay.

Now I am going to age myself with "When I was a kid...." but my parochial Catholic and my high school teachers helped me learn how to outline a topic and then write a 500-word essay. Today, kids can't spell and their grammar is poor. Today, they all communicate with their cell phones on in online chat forums.

Has spelling died? Will good grammar die out? Are we left with phrases such as "CU at the mtg today?" as a way to communicate in business? Will future leaders communicate with the context of 140 characters? These are the kinds of things I am asking myself after a long and spirited talk with my wife.

Now, I understand why she hates social media. She deals with it when she grades their essays and lab reports for her five physics sections. Here's hoping that public school English teachers go back to teaching their students the basics of effective writing even when faced with the challenge of dealing with the 140-character mentality.

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