Nelson George is a novelist, cultural critic, and filmmaker. After receiving his degree from St. John's University in 1982, George first worked for New York's Amsterdam News, later becoming an editor at Billboard and a columnist for the Village Voice. Many of his books -- both fiction and non-fiction -- have focused on black popular culture. George is the author of Hip Hop America and The Death of Rhythm and Blues, both studies of black urban music, as well as the novels Night Work and Urban Romance. George co-wrote the films Strictly Business (1991) and CB4 (1993); he also directed To Be a Black Man, a short based on a piece he wrote for the Voice that starred Samuel L. Jackson.
Question: What should we be asking ourselves?
Nelson George: How do we teach kids . . . How do we make it easy for kids . . . help kids learn how to read? Because despite this technology and bells and whistles, if you can’t read you can’t do a damn thing with the Internet. You can’t. So we need to do a better job . . . It’s still about the fundamentals. We don’t teach kids how to read in this country anymore. We don’t teach them how to go “A-B-C-D-E-F-G”. We don’t teach them Dick and Jane. They’re not . . . Kids don’t know how to read. And no matter when people say reading . . . Everyone says, “No one reads anymore.” People read all the time. Everything they look at is reading. You can’t design . . . You can’t design Web programs if you can’t read, so how . . . Without the fundamentals of what the building block of civilization is, you know we’re in chaos. You go to a place like London, everyone reads. They read well, and that’s a reason, I think, their culture is still pretty vibrant and ours is kind of dumb. When you don’t have people who read or have mastered reading, and can inform themselves through reading, then you have a very passive bunch of sheep who are very vulnerable to leaders.