The Norman Transcript

Features

April 11, 2014

How About News Cliff Notes?

NORMAN — Long before the ubiquitous “For Dummies” books arrived on the scene, there were those handy dandy Cliff Notes. They were study guides written by teachers on everything from literature to math to those critical alphabet tests like SAT, ACT, GRE, GMAT, etc.

Ideally, Cliff Notes were to be used as compact refreshers for the students prior to exams. However, in the real world, Cliff Notes became the lazy student’s method of learning, sort of. Along the same genie-ass line of thinking, perhaps you recall those high school classmates who read Classic Comics instead of the assigned novels? Then they wrote their assigned book reports.

Those clever students found that Classic Comics were good to a point, at least in writing a simple book report. But when it came to detailed questions about the book in question, their bumbling answers were classics of another kind.

Of course, there were some students who actually wanted to learn and bypassed both Cliff Notes and Classic Comics, choosing the recommended route by reading the assigned novels. Will wonders never cease? Even today, there actually are a few real students stumbling around in this world of instant gratification and those “For Dummies” tomes of knowledge.

Now that we are all grown up and wander the world as the adults we yearned to become in our overeager and misguided youth, a new wrinkle has been added to the dumbing down of a nation, and perhaps the world — sound bites.

According to Wikipedia, “A sound bite is a short clip of speech. . . . In the context of journalism, a sound bite is characterized by a short phrase or sentence that captures the essence of what the speaker was trying to say, and is used to summarize information and entice the reader or viewer. The term was coined by the U.S. media in the 1970s. Since then, politicians have increasingly employed sound bites to summarize their positions.

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