Video Spark Notes: A no-brainer

Spark Notes, the company famous for providing summaries of novels for students to use when they feel like blowing off required reading, has recently released Video Spark Notes, a Youtube channel that allows people to watch an eight-minute cartoon summarizing classic novels. So why not use Video Spark Notes? It isn't cheating. Arguably, you're only cheating yourself from the benefits of actually reading and understanding classic literature. But if you're about to take a test on a book you've never cracked open, using Video Spark Notes would really just be smart.

If Student A reads Hamlet and Student B watches a Video Spark Notes of Hamlet, and they both get the same grade on the test, isn't student B being more efficient and time conscious? And isn't that more valuable in today's working world than a fully fleshed knowledge of the capture of Moby Dick?

For all anyone knows, Student B could be developing a cure for cancer in the time he saved using Video Spark Notes. In all likelihood, he's doing something more akin to getting stoned and playing Halo, but still, he could be doing something useful. Plus, what about Student C, who used Video Spark Notes because she didn't have time to read while watching her kid? So there we are: Video Spark Notes is a useful tool. They may mark the end of intellectualism as we know it, but they're useful nonetheless.

I mean, what's wrong with a tool that's going to boost a student's GPA? Surviving in the "real" world without a bachelors degree nowadays is tough business, and without a high school diploma or GED, forget it, give up your aspirations of becoming an actor and apply at McDonalds, because that's about as far as you'll get.

So in a world where GPA scores have become as competitive as the Super Bowl, what is one to do? Study. Use your brain the way students have been expected to since the dawn of education. Video Spark Notes are nothing more than a mark of things gone wrong, a symbol of idiocy in a country who's become the best at not giving a damn.

According to the California State University's page on television and health, Americans watch 250 billion hours of television each year. That's 250 billion hours that were spent partaking in an activity that has literally no positive benefit in one's life whatsoever. It can't help you find work, or a healthy relationship, and it doesn't make you smarter. In fact, it might make you more stupid. A study from entitled "Media and Attention, Cognition, and School Achievement," found that television viewing was negatively linked with achievement. It also found that people with a lower IQ tended to watch more television.

But then again, Video Spark Notes isn't television; it's a source for "educational videos" on the internet. The computer is the greatest tool of our generation, and there has to be some positive benefit to its use.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in their 2010 American Time Use Survey that individuals aged 15-19 spent five minutes daily reading compared to, on average, an hour using a computer for leisure. That's a ratio of 1:15, which means high school and college kids spend 15 times more time on the computer than they do reading. Which makes sense, when considering what reading is competing with.

What brave soul would dare to venture into the heady and complicated works of authors such as James Joyce and David Foster Wallace when a new Call of Duty map pack is released? Reading takes time and patience, it requires one to sit still and remain silent for extended periods of time. And classic novels are no coffee table books either. Many of the lengthy passages require deciphering, which easily triples or doubles the reading time the first time around.

So why would anyone raised to change the channel during a five minute commercial break waste their time reading a book? That time could be spent yelling racial slurs into x-box live headgear, or posting sexy-angle-pics on Facebook; valuable, worthwhile activities which enrich our lives in oh so many ways. I'm just having some trouble thinking of them at the moment.