Throwing cold water on the ice bucket challenge

3 minute read
The president (right) and athletic director (left) of the University of Central Arkansas take part in the ALS ice bucket challenge. (Photo via Creative Commons/Flickr)
The president (right) and athletic director (left) of the University of Central Arkansas take part in the ALS ice bucket challenge. (Photo via Creative Commons/Flickr)

Don’t nominate me. I won’t do it. It’s the silliest thing I’ve seen in years. It is, however, typically American that it’s gone viral.

The ALS Challenge invites people to have a bucket of ice cold water poured over them to raise awareness, and more importantly funds, to fight the disease colloquially named for baseball legend Lou Gehrig. I’m all for awareness and raising funds for good causes, but I wonder why the challenge organizers chose this particular stunt. Apparently, they understood something like this would go viral. I also wonder then: Why do things like this always seem to spread across the country like the common cold? And my fear, now — what ridiculous stunt will other charities think up to try to garner attention to their causes?

Hey, America! How about we just care about causes and disease research, prevention, and support because they affect humans, you know, like you, and it could be you that needs help one day? No ice bucket needed.

For me, I would be happy if illiteracy prevention and reduction went viral. Why hasn’t it yet in America? Because pouring stacks of books over your head would hurt. But also because reading isn’t cool to many people (for reasons I simply don’t understand). And reading apparently isn’t as fun as dumping cold water on your head (as the kids say, I’m SMH [shaking my head]).

In my view, illiteracy is a disease. If someone can’t read, the effects of that can be felt by everyone who comes in contact with that person. It can affect that person’s quality of life, his or her ability to get a good job, the way he or she communicates in an increasingly technological world.

There’s a reason why Reading Is Fundamental named their organization that — because it is.

In a Book Challenge, I would read a book, then nominate you to read a book, and then you nominate someone else, and so on. It’s not cold or wet and can provide hours of enjoyment whilst sharpening writing and reading skills at the same time. Participants could make a donation to a community library or a literacy group that teaches people to read.

I believe words are powerful. Also, communication affects almost every aspect of our lives and, in my humble opinion, Americans are not as adept as they should be. My evidence: Ask people to donate to the ALS cause via letters and other wordy things? So-so results. Ask them to pour water on their heads? Donations. In. Droves.

Americans have proven they are adept at pouring buckets of water on their heads (albeit for a good cause) and other fratlike pranks. They’re also adept at sharing such things on social media and getting said pranks to spread across the nation. This is the first time that I know of that such silliness is attached to fundraising for a cause. I hope it’s the last.

My other wish would be to find and encourage many more like me who want literacy and communication improvement to go viral as well. If that ever happens, it’ll be like a splash of cold water across my face.

For a response by Susan Beth Lehman, click here.

What, When, Where

The ice bucket challenge has raised $62.5 million for the ALS society as of August 23, 2014.

Sign up for our newsletter

All of the week's new articles, all in one place. Sign up for the free weekly BSR newsletters, and don't miss a conversation.

Join the Conversation