As has become a valued TCNJ tradition, prior to winter break each year, in consultation with the Teaching & Learning Council (TLC), the Center for Excellence in Teaching & Learning (CETL) identifies, purchases and distributes a Good Reads Book to all interested faculty and staff. The Good Reads Initiative is designed to stimulate healthy campus dialogue on issues of relevance to TCNJ.
The book selected for the 2022 Good Reads Initiative is, Distracted: Why Students Can’t Focus and What You Can Do About It (2020) by James M. Lang.
We exist in an era of often-forced remote connectivity. All of us (not just students) are constantly being challenged to be engaged simultaneously in physical and virtual spaces. We frequently hear complaints about what seems to be our increasing inability to be totally present; complaints that have been heard long before COVID-19 altered our realities. In Distracted, James Lang dives deeply into the evolutionary, historical, & psychological origins of the tendency of the human brain to be non-singularly focused. As the title indicates, Lang’s book specifically highlights the issue of distraction as it is relative to students. However, this book provides knowledge, insights, and practical applications that TLC & CETL believe will not only generate productive dialogues on campus, but that will also stimulate additional discussions in familial and social settings.
Book Overview and TCNJ Relevance
James Lang incorporates science, history, philosophy and literature to help the reader better understand attention and the human brain. He challenges the reader to shift away from the focus on “distraction” as a flawed mental state. Instead, Lang urges us to re-frame “distraction” as the brain’s ability to be curious and its need to multi-focus. The book builds a case for us to move away from the goal of preventing distraction while moving toward a goal of cultivating attention. Additionally, Lang provides concrete strategies and examples for ways we can all better cultivate and achieve the much needed, but often elusive goal of attention.
The members of TLC believe that the decision to facilitate a community read and discussion of Lang’s book to be particularly valuable for enhancing TCNJ’s vision to create and sustain an environment that is characterized by high quality, intellectually engaging academic experiences.