As I teach new writers I continue to struggle with the culture and expectations of the institution contrasted against the energies and interests of my students. And it doesn’t help that the editorial board of AWP Chronicle keeps booking passage on the literacy-Titanic. Setting aside the science of the NEA report sophomorically entitled “To Read or Not to Read,”—I’m serious, that’s the title—this conclusion, by AWP Chronicle writer Matt Burriesci, is what’s really telling: “[T]he report strongly suggests that new media are displacing the intellectual engagement of reading with mere entertainment.”
That’s right, he called us trifling.
Luckily, this youth hating discourse occurs in places where it will never matter. But still it hurts, because in the so called culture wars I like to think of myself as a boots-on-the-ground gal, helping new writers test themselves. The tacky residue of fetishizing print media—and don’t let anyone tell you this isn’t about a diseased ink and paper industry—is confusing to new writers, even discouraging. Their sense of story is very much inspired by input from every possible narrative stimulation, as it should be. The NEA does a disservice to curious minds by defining “reading” so narrowly.