In some cases, the effects of reading can be directly compared with the effects of television. For example, when asked a simple yet significant general knowledge question - "are there more Jews or Moslems in the world" - 70% of US college students got the answer wrong.
"Cunningham found that the more TV participants watched, the more likely they were to get that question wrong. But the more they read, the more likely they were to get the answers right. General intellectual ability didn't matter here--the amount of reading vs. television consumption did."What does this tell us about the social purpose of television?
In a post on Common Knowledge, Scott Adams asks another simple yet significant question - "how many people died in the second world war" - and receives some staggeringly incorrect answers.
Scott suggests a general knowledge test before allowing people to vote. Presumably it would be those who know too much (because they read too much) who should be disqualified.
[Update] In a lecture at the LSE in June 2003, American economist of education Alan Krueger describes the gulf between (middle-class) readers and (lower-class) TV viewers as the 'Harry Potter divide'. [Source: Guardian, July 2003]. Middle-class children spend the summer reading J.K Rowling, while their parents covet her success and try to write something magical themselves [Guardian May 2006].
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