If that acronym is familiar to you, you can probably relate to a cultural norm that affects all of us. TL;DR – stands for “Too Long; Didn’t Read”. On one hand, it seems that admitting TL;DR would be an honest way to give yourself a pass on commenting or sharing your opinion about a particular subject or discussion. After all, we are not perfect, and we need to admit when we haven’t done our homework, whether it is for work or school. However, TL;DR doesn’t seem to stop some of us from jumping in and sharing our thoughts or even outlining an unsupported argument. This acronym is used often in social media comments and opinions posted about other articles, books, or criticisms of anything being discussed. A person admits she didn’t read something and yet still feels free to step into the fray.
“It’s never been so easy to pretend to know so much without actually knowing anything.” This quotation is from an article in the New York Times, called “Faking Cultural Literacy”. The article describes the fact that most people don’t have to actually read a book or watch a debate to feel they have the right to an opinion; they can simply scroll through the twitter feed and find out what they need to know to carry on a somewhat informed conversation at the water cooler. The author of the article, Karl Taro Greenfeld, goes on to say that, “Our cultural canon is becoming determined by whatever gets the most clicks.”
The author describes his first encounter with “faking it” when, back in the dark ages, a classmate offered him a substitute for slogging through his first Dickens novel. That substitute was yellow with black stripes and was called “Cliff Notes”. Since that time, all of us have become accustomed to a daily barrage of everyone else’s opinion wrapped in a condensed version of everything: the last news cycle, the World Cup, or a new best-seller. For high school students, there is always a plethora of information on-line about any topic or essay question a teacher could ask. Other students’ papers from across the country are posted constantly, only to be seen and read by the next group of students. If you don’t want to read those because they are too long, you can watch a YouTube video offering advice on deciphering the meaning of a Jane Austin novel or Keats’ poetry. It becomes more and more difficult for a well-meaning student to form her own opinion before she has read another person’s point of view in order to assure herself she is on track.
We must remember our students have more than one teacher in any given class or subject. They always have the Internet as their second, third or fourth teacher of any topic at any time. If they want to read more about a particular subject, whether it is a region of France or a second opinion of Prufrock, it is at their fingertips. I am glad our teachers still ask our girls to form their own opinions after reading the original text, however. It is essential that in this sea of expert opinion, we can carve out a place for what we think as individuals. We probably can’t use the TL;DR excuse in these situations. We have to read the whole thing, start to finish. Furthermore, we have to form our own thoughts with our own minds and have the courage to express them on paper or maybe even out loud in class.