Thoughts on reading and education

A superb rant from Susan Hill about a survey claiming to show that when women have babies they stop reading sensible books like War and Peace and turn to chick lit and material such as Colleen McCloughlin's autobiography. Each to her own: I used my own brief periods of maternity leave to catch up on Middlemarch and re-read some weighty Dickens novels, as although one could not read for too long at a time, one had plenty of short timeframes at many intervals during the day and night during this strange phase of life.
Susan goes on to fulminate against the Daily Mail who recruited "some jobsworth to talk to us about the survey, explain it to us, and make us feel OK about it or .. or otherwise justify her pay packet.  This woman is called Director of the 2008 Year of Reading.l I bet her pay packet is pretty thick. Anyway, she says, ( or rather, let`s get this straight, she is QUOTED by the Daily Mail as saying, ) ' It`s really important to read what you love and what fits in with your lifestyle.' Excuse me ? Who the bloody hell IS this woman and how dare she patronise me in this way, tell me what it is good to read, talk to me about my 'lifestyle' ??" And so on.
Susan also has a go at an article in the Wall St Journal in 2000 by one Harold Bloom, "a man, as you may well never have heard of him and I wish I had not, who claims to know what the Best Books, or the Literary Canon, are, and why and to tell us how Important they are. I want to tie him up and force feed him with John Carey`s little masterpiece, 'What Use are the Arts?' until he says he is sorry. Of J.K.Rowling he said, after being extremely rude about the Harry Potter books, 'Is there any redeeming educational use to Rowling?' When said H Bloom has got as many people reading, longing to read, staying up until midnight to get their hands on a book and then sitting down on the pavement to start it, when he has done the zillionth fraction of what Jo Rowling has done for books and reading and so, indirectly, for education, then he has the right to pontificate."
Absolutely. As Miss Jean Brodie pointed out, 'education' comes from the Latin 'to lead out'. Stimulating the imagination, 'leading out',  is what education is all about: honours are due to J K Rowling in that regard. Education isn't about force-feeding people with what some establishment politburo (or Mr Harold Bloom) thinks they should know. With her extensive Latin knowledge, Miss Brodie pointed out, again correctly, that this is an 'intrusion', not an education.

3 thoughts on “Thoughts on reading and education

  1. Well,
    can’t say that Harry Potter is my kind of literature (anymore), but the books motivated my older son to become a reader. How many writers can claim that they achieved something like that ?

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