Speed reading is a waste

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October 9, 2007

12:44 AM

As a freshman, I have had to accustom myself to many new aspects of life at the College: food at the Caf, a roommate and a significant lack of time. In high school, 24 hours was enough time to shower, do homework and watch reruns of “The Hills.” Here I find myself wishing we could change the cycles of the universe and create a 30-hour day. Endless reading assignments, research papers and attending inconveniently scheduled classes leaves little time for much else. I know I’m not alone.

p. Luckily, the College offers a class for those who feel they are being slighted. Those of us who know we could be accomplishing twice as much in a day if only we knew how. It is called speed reading.

p. Students who feel they do not have time for traditional reading meet each Sunday with Daniel Byler ’09, who instructs them in the art of reading and comprehending faster. Students are assigned exercises to do on their own time and pay a fee if they do not attend class. The class is becoming popular among students at the College who are pressed for time; there is already a waiting list for the spring and a demand that the class becomes a part of the core curriculum. Benefits of the class have included finishing “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” in two hours along with the “strange but good feeling” Byler tells his students to expect.

p. While the purpose of the class is honorable, speed reading worries me. It is bad enough that our lives move at the speed of our internet access — now we are being taught how to get the bare minimum experience out of our education. Speed readers are described as looking at a page the same way one might look at a picture. A lot can be missed by just glancing at a picture, as sometimes the smallest details reveal the most about the scene. The same is true in textbooks and novels.

p. If speed reading is used to approach all types of reading, students end up getting the shorter end of the academic stick. Speed reading is a useful concept for higher level, often dense, collegiate material. The skills learned in Byler’s class may be useful for increasing standardized test scores, but they decrease the value of reading. J.K. Rowling wouldn’t have written a 759-page novel if she found only a couple pages of information pertinent. Part of the purpose of reading is to spark thought on the topic, so one can formulate one’s own opinions. Speed reading leaves little time for this.

p.Although students who practice speed reading may have more time for essentials like sleeping and eating, they are short changed in the long run. Some say reading this entire column is a waste of your precious time, but what makes spending your Sunday learning how to cheat yourself intellectually any different? (Not to mention, a waste of money.)

p. I must confess, I am guilty of speed reading, too. It is called Sparknotes and it’s free.

p. __Joanna Sandager is a freshman at the College.__

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