Commentary: Young High School Graduates Don't Know How to Read or Think

Sep 18, 2023 at 08:15 pm by WGNS News

A growing number of leaders around the country are suggesting that young high school and college graduates don't know how to properly read, communicate or even think. With a commentary on this serious problem, here is MTSU Professor of Journalism Larry Burriss... Scroll down to read the commentary you just heard or to hear past commentaries.


Commentary (Verbatim): "At a recent education conference I attended, several speakers lamented that what is killing America today is the fact that high school and college graduates today don't know how to read, compute, communicate or think.

What is particularly interesting is many of these comments were made, not by teachers, but by employers, who said they were finding it more and more difficult to find new workers who had these skills.

Well, at the risk of sounding old-fashioned or corny, I would like to propose we use the media to provide a remedy for all of these deficiencies.

Now I know what some of you are thinking: we've tried that, and it hasn't worked. And indeed it didn't. Many of us grew up with education via television: a talking head telling us all about math or science or literature. And I remember in the mid - 60's, the media were going to bring education to all nations of the third world, and increase literacy world-wide.

Well, the reason all those good things didn't happen was we were relying on the technology itself to solve our problems, rather than relying on the content.

But actually the content is already here. We don't so much need educational media as we need media used in education.

Look at something as simple and old-fashioned as the newspaper. There are reading lessons, there are math lessons, there are computational lessons, there are critical thinking lessons, and probably all on just the front page.

Or look at something as unorthodox as the box your cell phone comes in.  Whether some teachers want to admit it or not, there are valuable lessons to be learned from something as simple as reading a label.

Or if you're concerned about teaching reasoning and critical thinking, how about looking at a few ads. Or perhaps even better, look at political comments being made by the candidates.

Math is there too. News stories about the city budget, cost accounting, death tolls and population increases all lend themselves to some pretty sophisticated mathematics.

The sciences are also there. Look at any of the popular news magazines, and they contain a wealth of current, up-to-date scientific information. At a time when school science texts are out of date almost as soon as they hit the classroom, the modern media provide a way to instantly update discussions of all of the sciences.

We hear a lot about how the media are leading to the downfall of morals, the work ethic and education itself. Well then, let's turn all that content around and start using it for something constructive. The material is right there, like ripe fruit on a tree. And it's time someone picked it off and started using it. - I'm Larry Burriss

About Dr. Burriss - Larry Burriss, professor of journalism, teaches introductory and media law courses. At the graduate level he teaches quantitative research methods and media law. He holds degrees from The Ohio State University (B.A. in broadcast journalism, M.A. in journalism), the University of Oklahoma (M.A. in human relations), Ohio University (Ph.D. in journalism) and Concord Law School (J.D.). He has worked in print and broadcast news and public relations, and has published extensively in both academic and popular publications. He has won first place in the Tennessee Associated Press Radio Contest nine times. Dr. Burriss' publications and presentations include studies of presidential press conferences, NASA photography, radio news, legal issues related to adolescent use of social networking sites, legal research, and Middle Earth.

Dr. Burriss has served as director of the School of Journalism, dean of the College of Mass Communication and president of the MTSU Faculty Senate. He was appointed by Gov. Phil Bredesen to serve on the Tennessee Board of Regents. He was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force and served on active duty in Mali, Somalia, Bosnia, Central America, Europe and the Pentagon.


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