Reading and The Reduction of Critical Thinking in the Modern Age

Readers are people who seek information and understanding of the world through written words, as did all learned people in ancient age. Of course, not everything can be obtained by reading. In fact, before the age of modern technology, some information and understanding of the world was obtained through conversation (oral tradition) and observation. But for smart and wise people, that method is never enough. They know that they need to read, and they read.

Now, many people assume that reading is no longer as important as it once was. Television, radio and the internet have taken over many functions that were once carried out by print media, like digital photography took over the functions that were used by other paintings and graphic arts.

We have to admit, modern communication and information media such as television, internet, and smartphone run some of these functions very well. Visualization of news coverage of various events, for example, is very creative and impressive. Television is able to convey information, while we do other things, like eating, amazing and efficient. But, it must be seriously questioned whether the presence of modern information and communication media has increased our understanding of the world where we live?

Our knowledge of the world may have increased, and insofar as knowledge is a requirement for understanding, then improvement is certainly good. But knowledge is not balanced with understanding. We don't need to know everything about something to understand it. Too many facts, like too few facts, often hinder understanding. In particular meaning, we are, these modern people, have been flooded with facts that actually inhibit understanding.

One of the causes of this situation is communication media which designed so that the business of thinking is seen
no longer needed (although this only seems like this).

A program package that presents opinions of the best thinkers of this era has become one of the most popular program. Complex elements, ranging from intelligent rhetoric to carefully selected statistical data, are presented creatively in the form of animations and infographics for television viewers, radio listeners, internet users, or magazine readers.

This makes it easy for them to "determine attitudes" with a level of difficulty and minimal effort to think. But the program is often packaged so effectively that the audience, listeners, or readers are no longer at all make their own judgment. They recorded that opinion in mind like putting up a cassette.

They can replay that opinion whenever and wherever it is needed, and that opinion performs well without them having to think at all. From this we can judge that there has been a reduction in critical thinking. As if, or maybe actually, people have lost their subjectivity and existence as critically thinking creatures.

Reference: Mortimer J. Adler & Charles van Doren, How to read a book: The Classical Guide to Intelligent Reading, 1972.
Illustration: Anifa Hambali, author of "Santri Nikah Jomblo Punah".

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