TL;DR

In Education Politics and Polemics by Alex Quigley0 Comments

New words are coined each year. In our age of the Internet, new words pour into the English language at a prolific rate. Many, tagged to technology, are shortcut abbreviations and initialisms reflecting our centuries old tradition of quick and easy communication. One such abbreviation is TL;DR – a handy short for ‘Too Long; Don’t Read‘ or ‘Too Long; Didn’t Read‘.

Back in 2013 this abbreviation entered the Oxford University dictionary, but it may just as well capture our age and 2016 in particular. If you want an article read on the web, shorten it, make it easy to read and make it funny. The Oxford Dictionary word of the year 2016: post-truth.

Post-truth, do read

As a teacher in a school, you can feel pretty powerless in the face of global politics and thousands of television channels and millions of web pages. And yet, I think there are few roles in society that have as much influence, but it is often subtle beyond our sight.

I can think of no better time in my life-time to be a History teacher. If you want to have our next generation to fend off post-truth messages then there is no better time to teach how every source is partial, or that some voices and facts or included and others not, and how history is not simply an unexamined chronology of events, but a nuanced, multi-faceted collection of voices, truths and non-truths.

Our students of history need to be able to ignore the message of TL;DR and read long and read difficult texts. And yes – read whole books, not just the colourful infographic or listen to the condensed, slick Ted Talk. They need the academic vocabulary and expert knowledge of a great History teacher to do this.

If we want our students caring for the environment and seeing the post-truthiness of climate change denials then we need to help them read and think like great geographers. If we want them seeking out the logic in an argument and applying facts to the world, then teaching our students the scientific method is the best place to start. English Literature: I give you human nature and human understanding.

The list goes on and on. What unifies our curriculum is our pursuit of knowledge and what serves our students’ pursuit of knowledge is their capacity to read. For this reason, to be able and motivated to read long and to read difficult is the best gift we can students. It may just change the world.

I am reminded of a brief tweet that I read just after Donald Trump was elected back in 2016, from Doug Lemov. Regardless of your political leanings, it struck me as important:

screen-shot-2017-01-03-at-4-18-31-pm

For me, 2017 is a year for reading long and reading difficult. A recasting of the abbreviation would suit my resolution and provide a classroom call:

TL;DR Too right it is Long; Do Read.

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