Earpiece menace and reading: Any composite?

(By Akodu Peter Kehinde)

The ability to read well is absolutely critical to success in life. Reading is the foundation of much enjoyment in life and is pivotal for vocational efficiency. Scholars believe students and employees must read to keep abreast of happenings in their fields. Reading is about the only form of relaxation, self-improvement and entertainment that is also an essential life skill. It must therefore be nurtured from a child’s earliest years. No matter the sophistication level as children, they will always need support in order to attain full potential as readers.

THE just concluded economic summit in Nigeria dealt with the fallen standard of education. Speaker after speaker woke the country to the reality and magnitude of the rot, and propositions for a lasting solution came in torrent. They fingered the tardiness of teaching and learning as contributive factors. Of course how learning takes place involves nature of reading culture, a function of the changes in societal sophistication in technology. This article looks at students’ obsession with listening to music while reading through the use of earpiece, a phone accessory.

   I frequent libraries these days. I see mostly students and young adults use earpiece by hanging it down through both ears and connecting it to the phone placed somewhere on the reading table. On a particular visit to the University of Lagos (UNILAG) library, students hung out in clusters, just outside the library building drunk in language (English) spawned fast rhythm of it (sometimes the colloquial way) to whoever was part of the cacophony without any perceived order. I rolled into the library looking for a reading table to possess a section; I panicked for a moment and thought, “These students who nod as if responding to a stimulus, which stimulus are they responding to: The subject being read or the subject of the music?” The intrusion was so strong any careful and present-minded observer would feel it in both conscience and consciousness.

   The earpiece has an in-built speaker. The plastic casing, its outer covering, is designed to conserve the sound waves and conduct them efficiently into the ear canal, to the eardrum. The air path in the earpiece is generally a horn shape with a narrowing column of air, which increases the air displacement at the eardrum, increasing the loudness confined to the eardrum of the user, the outside environment thereby shut out. Whatever level of loudness, surely, will constrain and distress the human brain designed to select one activity at a time. If the reader, therefore, confronts the brain with two or more activities at a time the brain will ask the question: “Which of these activities do I select? How do I process and store them?”

  The human brain is not designed for multi-tasking. It can select and beneficially process one, only one activity at a time. To read and listen to music at the same time becomes a composite for listening to music while lecture goes on. The human brain is not designed to juggle itself or switch forth from one activity and then back to the other ad infinitum. The resultant prolonged selection because of multi-tasking stalls beneficial reading. Neurobiologists insist that the human brain being the smallest –the size of a cauliflower- and the most complex human organ controls our daily functions including motor control, visual processing, auditory processing, sensation, learning, memory and emotions. Not just hearing and reading! The human brain gives us the power to speak, imagine and solve problems. It is an amazing organ.

  Reading, however, one important human activity is found to be associated with either fall or rise of education standard in Nigeria and other countries of the world. Poor reading culture especially among children and young people has resulted into poor education standard in Nigeria. Listening to music while reading, therefore, remains an onslaught technology brought upon beneficial reading and high standard of education. Scholars have argued we are in an age that no more considers reading as a relevant leisure activity – compared with interactive activity on the Internet, television, film and music. Consideration of music as relevant leisure activity over and above reading surely tips concentration during reading in favour of music. What this means is students who listen to music while reading are likely to give their concentration to music than to reading. Children of our time have relegated reading to the background.

  Scholars corroborate this fact. They believe decline in reading among children and young people occurs because reading is considered a solitary pursuit as it no more forms part of children’s social interaction. Children now prefer to spend more time with their friends than to remain at home reading. Added to music, adults and children enjoy television and films as a way of enjoying their leisure instead of reading. It is plausible then to argue that students congregate in the libraries not really to read, but to identify with friends who also enjoy their unsolicited music in the library. Fruitful childhood and student-hood are over for children and young people who do not read – they will not claim fruitful and responsible adulthood either. No one can attain any meaningful existence without reading.

   The ability to read well is absolutely critical to success in life. Reading is the foundation of much enjoyment in life and is pivotal for vocational efficiency. Scholars believe students and employees must read to keep abreast of happenings in their fields. Reading is about the only form of relaxation, self-improvement and entertainment that is also an essential life skill. It must therefore be nurtured from a child’s earliest years. No matter the sophistication level as children, they will always need support in order to attain full potential as readers.

   It is unfortunate that some teachers who should be guiding light to the students, gaffe when faced with reading challenges. Governor Adams Oshiomole gave an indication of this in his intervention in one of the National Economic Summit Group (NESG) sessions. He told the gathering of a teacher in Edo State who couldn’t read a sworn affidavit she presented as one of her credentials. The Chairman of the State Chapter of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Comrade Patrick Ikosimi, called the show of shame an embarrassment. In the same state was another teacher who couldn’t successfully name two local government areas. As British colony, literacy culture in Nigeria ought to be as standardised as that of Britain. Findings show that about 99 per cent of British citizens can read and write.

   Cuba, a country adjacent to America, has the highest rate of literacy in the world. Cuba has a vibrant economy despite decades of diplomatic conflicts with America. In essence, the percentage of a country’s citizens who are literate determines the way of life of the nation. Literacy makes the nation. Thank God the economic summit is over. The Vice President has promised to table the outcome before the President. He also promised the resolutions of the summit will not go the way resolutions before it went: being cast into the dustbin of history. There is need to declare a state of emergency in the education sector because of the crisis of literacy, a menace ravaging our children and young people right now. The National Policy on Education places inculcation of permanent literacy and numeracy, and ability to communicate effectively as one of the objectives of school education. The library must provide resources to complement education. The most urgent resource needed now is abiding discipline. Discipline must be fully in charge of affairs of reading in our libraries.

• Kehinde, media scholar and social commentator, wrote from Lagos.

“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”

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