“Skim Reading is the New Normal”

According to an article in The Guardian, skim reading has become the new normal. Instead of reading closely and carefully, students first impulse has become to scan the text to try to extract the basic meaning without worrying about the details. Unfortunately, this means that students are not developing some of the cognitive skills needed to do a close reading when needed, such as “inference, critical analysis and empathy.” Furthermore, most students are not good at determining when to read closely and when to just skim. And for a growing number of students, it may no longer be a matter of choosing whether or not they want to skim: it has become their only option because it’s the only type of reading they know how to do well.

The article points out that “many college students actively avoid…classic literature…because they no longer have the patience to read longer, denser, more difficult texts.” But it goes on to argue that, “We should be less concerned with students’ ‘cognitive impatience,’ however, than by what may underlie it: the potential inability of large numbers of students to read with a level of critical analysis sufficient to comprehend the complexity of thought and argument found in more demanding texts, whether in literature and science in college, or in wills, contracts and the deliberately confusing public referendum questions citizens encounter in the voting booth.”

Read the full article here.