Friday, April 17, 2015

Internet Has Changed How We Read

Internet has effected a change in the way we read and all to our benefit.

The old way was passively to absorb what was presented to us. The new way is to be proactive about it.

They old way was for the media to become the master of what we think. The new way is to look at the media and treat it as something to use as we see fit.

We become the master of the learning process. We become the jury examining evidence.

In that way the internet empowers us in a new way. It just takes awhile to learn to use the new tool.

A little example from the non internet world will illustrate my point.

The story is about Germany and the rise of Hitler. A defeated people was ready to believe in anything without questioning. After the Second World War they learned their lesson.

They had been gullible, but gullibility is part of the old way of taking in information.

I learned that, ironically, from a German professor of philosophy in Germany who had assigned me volumes of German philosophy to read over a weekend. I complained.  It was bad enough to plow through volumes of philosophy and even worse in another language.

Surprisingly, the professor asked me how I approached reading. I explained that I started at the beginning of a book. I got no further when he interrupted.

That's wrong, he said.

Your objective is to learn and any means at your disposal is OK. The objective is to find out what the writer was thinking, whatever that takes. We do not need to be led through the writers work the way he planned it. We treat his writings as evidence of what he was thinking.

Start in the middle if the book. Randomly browse through it. Try another book. Talk about it to other students. Read about the book from other sources. Think. We do not need to be led through the philosophers writing the way he wanted in order to to understand them. We draw our own conclusions.

There is no ethics in learning. We use whatever tool we choose.

In other words, be proactive. There is no one way to learn, no plodding pedantic approach to learning. We use whatever it takes to get the knowledge we need.

In my final exam, the good professor told me he had only one question: Herr Klaver, take Schopenhauer's basic premise and develop his philosophy. Oral or written.

There was the silence. I was stunned. I had never thought how to do that. But suddenly it came to me.

You may do that in English if you wish, he said.

Having done all my research in German I suddenly realized that I could do it and suddenly it flowed out easily.

He had showed me how to master the subject myself. We both laughed when I had finished. He had done the job and I had too. He had taught me how to think, just as the German people had learned how to do so after Hitler.

Internet now gives us the resources for all to do the same, to get all the facts and form our own conclusions and put an end to gullibiliy which still infects too much of what we do

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