Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Can Youth, Can Lit. DEGT.

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When I’m not busy slagging the whole notion of Can Lit, and Bruno Mars’ music (but really, who is buying his CDs?), I spend some of my free time mentoring youth. I help them dissect and better understand things, like how does Douglas Coupland get all of these gigs handed to him? I generally hate to be the bearer of bad news (especially for my readers born before 1980) but when you hang around as many youth as I do, across cultures, you will begin to see that reading hard copy books is sooo '80s. It will become a thing of the past. Much like eight-track players, cassette tapes and Toronto Maple Leaf Stanley Cup ambitions.

It’s all about OMG, BBM (which still means Bureau of Broadcast Measurement to some) and ROFL now. I was in denial. But then my slow descent into the world of OMG and LMAO began when I signed up for one of Wind Mobile’s awesome “unlimited talk, text and data” plans. Unlimited data now means unlimited OMGs in my world. I text and BBM a lot more now, and good Lord, all I’m getting is Textese. AFAIK (As Far As I Know) this all sounds and reads like Valley Girl talk, but for Millennials. If you were born before 1985, I implore you to rent the movie Clueless to get the gist of this, like, bizarre new(er) omnipresent communication style.

There are reports out there telling you what I already know and witness daily, that youth aren’t interested in reading Shakespeare like they once did, but boy do they spend time doing another kind of reading: Twitter, texts, email and Facebook. I’m sure some of you (the ones born after 1990) are probably saying (or BBMing rather), meh. Whatevs. But given that my POV is very much hip hop, it means I am super well versed on when using too much slanguage goes wrong. Swag. If what I’m suggesting sounds totally rad, please Zoomer don’t think this has anything to do with me wanting to fix your radiator in Thornhill. Oh no, this is about something other than that.

Newsflash! Not only are the web and social media cultivating a nation of illiterate, er, “less literate” youth, but Millennials are all now apparently raging alkies (alcoholics) too! When I read that the fine folk at The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse reported that “time spent social networking increases the risk of teens smoking, drinking and using drugs,” I almost fell off of my high horse (I like texting and OMG’ing up there, on the backs of horses riding down Yonge Street). In the 12–17 age bracket in the United States, social-network-savvy teens are five times more likely to use tobacco, three times more likely to use alcohol and twice as likely to use marijuana than teens who do not spend any of their day on social networking sites. This data comes from American research, and like, how can anything coming from a country where Tea Party candidates have become a part of the national debate be taken seriously? I’m not sure if any comparable studies exist here linking illiteracy to Mark Elliott Zuckerberg, but what I do know is that reading copious amounts of Can Lit might drive you to the bottle much faster than any FB excursion. I’ve been there. The Rivoli bar staff on Queen Street in downtown Toronto made a lot of tip money that year. But to assert that this Generation are mostly comprised of an ignorant semi-illiterate bulk of humanity who are more apt to smoke doobies all day is just plain wrong. My youth mentee’s smoke and pop pills on the regular, but it’s not because of any overexposure to social media. It’s mostly because they are tired of reading (on their Blackberrys) about the death of literacy, about why reading Dickens is good, about how this will be the Leafs' year and that if they don’t read (insert name of dead white male author here) they are basically effed for life and will become drug addicts with no potential for a retirement plan or 401k to boot. 401k, 401smay. We don't need your education. We don't need Conrad Black’s thought control. Hey! Zoomers! Leave them kids alone. All in all it’s just another brick in the wall....

Dalton Higgins is a music programmer, pop culture critic, author, broadcaster and national magazine award-winning journalist. He is Canada’s foremost expert on hip hop culture. In addition to writing numerous articles for Canadian and US print and on-line magazines, he is the author of Hip Hop World (Groundwood Books/House of Anansi) and co-author of Hip Hop (Thomson Nelson) and Much Master T: A VJ’s Journey (ECW Press). As a broadcaster, Dalton has hosted his own TV show and has appeared as a pundit on every major Canadian network. You can visit Dalton at his blog. His most recent book is Fatherhood 4.0: iDad Applications Across Cultures (Insomniac Press).

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