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Books That Make You Dumb

Facebook detective Virgil Griffith has cooked up a clever graph plotting students' favorite books against their institutions' average SAT scores. The result is a cheeky (non-causal) cultural portrait of American college students. Books at the top of the SAT food chain include Lolita, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Crime and Punishment, and Freakonomics. Books hugging the bottom include the The Color Purple, Flyy Girl, Fahrenheit 451, and books by Zane. Here's what I want to know - will Lolita get an Amazon bump from crazed parent collegeseuirs?

Interesting graph. What strikes me is that the most pushed and publicized books seem to be the ones that are of no cognitive consequence. As many high schools struggle to find high priced answers and outside solutions to the falling SAT scores, maybe they should asses exactly what the quality of the "literature" is that they are demanding be consumed in the curriculum.

I teach kids from other countries who've never read books in English before. Many of my colleagues teach native-born kids who've reached high school never having read books in English before.

I adored Lolita and 100 Years of Solitude, but the act of making kids want to read is one of seduction, and it's simply not viable to use such books as a starting point. Still, kids who can appreciate such novels are likely independent readers, and as such in good shape for not only the SAT, but college and life in general.

And independent readers are what we need to create. If the only books kids read are those their teachers suggest, we haven't really done our jobs.

Hi everyone,

Just to be clear, I'm not signing on to Griffith's tongue-in-cheek (and I believe joking) assertion that certain books make you dumb. It's not surprising that kids attending institutions with high average SAT scores favor relatively complex and culturally high-status books. This graph should be read as a cultural description a la "Bobos in Paradise" rather than a scientific insight into the effects of certain books on students' learning.

Comments are now closed for this post.


Recent Comments

  • eduwonkette: Hi everyone, Just to be clear, I'm not signing on read more
  • NYC Educator: I teach kids from other countries who've never read books read more
  • Mike Parent: Interesting graph. What strikes me is that the most pushed read more




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