Recently I went to my beauty salon to get my hair cut. They were running a special – “Hair Cuts for $7.00 after 7:00 pm on Tuesday evenings.” There were more people than usual in the waiting area because of the special as many of us are looking for ways to save money. Most of us who were waiting were visually occupying ourselves while we waited. There were five to six people using hand-held electronic devices – phones, iPads etc. Two people were reading magazines and two of us were reading books. I do not know specifically what the owners of the electronic devices were doing – there are many ways to use these devices including talking, texting, listening to music, playing games, surfing the web and reading. It appeared that most of the users were visually occupied.
Since we see such great technological advancement in our day, we may think that we have increased in our intelligence. Sadly, our education system seems to be floundering. Some would have us think that our forefathers were widely illiterate. To discover the literacy of our forefathers we could calculate the “readability” of their documents. Educators determine the readability or grade level of a text by using a graph counting the number of sentences and syllables in a 100-word passage. Our forefathers used long words and long sentences placing the readability far above the majority of students and adults today. For example, I looked up The Federalist Papers online and chose a 100-word passage from each of the three authors (Alexander Hamilton # 1, James Madison #38 and John Jay #64). Each were at least college level using Fry’s Readability Graph. Keep in mind that these papers were intended to be read and understood by everyone throughout the Colonies, not just intellectuals.
Due to the relative lack of close visual stimuli, these individuals allowed their eyes to develop normally. They were outside much of the time, allowing their visual system to mature. Also, they had well-developed auditory systems. This can also be understood by reading the documents. Listening to each other speak in this way helped as well.
Our lives are so much different now. However, we do not have to return to an agrarian society to restore much of what has been lost. Here are some tips for the user of modern technology:
1. Take breaks often – at least looking up and outside.
2. When possible take longer breaks, taking walks outside.
3. Get sunshine and breathe deeply.
4. Use appropriate sized reading material for young eyes.
5. Limit screen time (TV, Computer, and hand-held electronic devices) for young children whose auditory and visual systems are still maturing.
6. Use meal times to discuss current events or other issues as a family.
7. Read together as a family.
8. Encourage and model reading for your children.