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Worried about boys

Among many other things, librarians are worrying these days about boys not reading.

John Keilman, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, wrote a piece for today that's been picked up and tweeted around about the trouble with boys and why they won't or don't read.

He talked to Peg Tyre, author of "The Trouble With Boys," and she told him that boys don't read because they think it's a girlie thing, first of all. And because most teachers and librarians are women, these folks aren't pushing boys to read. Nor are parents reading as much to little boys as they do to little girls.

The result is that boys fall behind in school, Keilman writes.

Not sure about all that.

I don't remember doing much reading until I got into junior high, although maybe I did and those memories have left the building like so many others.

We could get our son to read only graphic novels when he was a kid. I was happy he would do that. I don't think he's ever read a regular book through to the end. He's turned out great despite that.

I brought my grandsons to the library last summer, and they chose to take home the kinds of books I would have predicted: nonfiction, such as the book of weird stuff around Texas and the book of world records. I was proud they decided to take anything at all.

It just takes one?

If just one parent can get a book banned, there won't be many books on the shelves at the Alamagordo High School library.

Just one parent did manage to get "Neverwhere" by Neil Gaiman removed from the library because she thought it was inappropriate material for her child to be reading.

Gaiman told NPR that he was surprised and baffled by the school superintendent's decision because the book has been taught for years and never met objections before. In fact, he said the book has been praised because of its stress on social responsibility.

It's not baffling to me that a parent -- just one -- could get a book removed. School officials, including teachers, are so worried about causing a fracas that they avoid teaching evolution in, for example, some Texas districts.

Well, duh!

In another forehead-slapping stunner of a study, researchers have found that American adults are just as dumb as their kids.

"In math, reading and problem-solving using technology -- all skills considered critical for global competitiveness and economic strength -- American adults scored below the international average on a global test ...," the American-Statesman reported. The story came from the AP.

So ... for years and years, tests have shown American students are not up to par when compared to students in other nations.

Were they going to magically improve in all those areas just after turning 21?

Students and e-mail

A revelation from Library Journal this week:

Steve Bell writes that a poll on a college campus showed students don't like to use e-mail and some won't use it. Too last century. Too low-tech. Too not texty.

Given the convenience of text-messaging, I'm not surprised.

I'm just perplexed that people, students included, can't be ambidextrous, tech-wise, so to speak.

Bell looks at this as some kind of indication that students also won't take the time and trouble to do in-depth research on projects.

Not sure that's a valid leap to make.

His underlying message, though, seems spot on: communicating at every level requires very simple systems.

A sting worth copying

The journal Science has pulled off a major sting operation, thanks to writer John Bohannon.

Bohannon put together a blatantly false scientific paper replete with errors and ethical lapses and sent it to 304 open-access "scientific journals" to see if the paper would be reviewed by peers and, if so, whether they would find the mistakes. Of course, he also wanted to see who would publish without so much as a read-through.

See, the business of publishing papers is just that, a very lucrative business. Scientists have to pay to have their papers published, and they do so because they have to publish or they perish.

More than 150 journals accepted the paper for publication. Only 36 noted the flaws in the submission.

One journal accepted the paper and asked for $3,100 to publish it.

What Bohannon found constitutes a stunning indictment of the scientific open-access journal business.

But ...

But, what about all those journals in political science, sociology, English, history, medicine, physics, etc., that also make researchers pay to publish?

How many of them are suspect?

Every field needs a John Bohannon.

Unfortunately it's just true that if you give people an opportunity to act badly, they will do so.