My last three posts: I Cannot Live Without Books, Does Our Nation Still Have An Appetite For Great Books, And Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Western Culture’s Go To Go are less about my own reading addiction and more about preparing the next generation of informed citizens. Whether all of us are fit to govern, all of us must be prepared to be making informed judgments about whom “we the people” delegate the daily business of governing.
The next generation of informed citizen might consider accepting one of two challenges. First, we can take a cue from Charles Eliot’s “five feet” of books. That is set aside sixty inches of shelves to build a list that would be limited to about sixty books. It would be fun to learn from readers as to what books they would choose to be on their personal shelves.
Second readers might consider accepting the “Century… Continue reading
National leaders other than Charles Eliot have attempted to revive a set of great books that Americans share in common. Most notably, Robert Maynard Hutchins, president of the University of Chicago from 1929 to 1945, and Mortimer Adler, philosopher and popular author, worried that business people were becoming to specialized in their crafts and that they were decreasingly well educated.
So they set out to develop a set of evening classes for adults with the aim of helping thoughtful Americans who wished to fill the gaps in their education with critical reading of important books.
One of their students was an executive at Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. who recognized a business opportunity. He commissioned Hutchins and Adler to identify the most important writings of Western Civilization. The project took eight years and cost Encyclopedia Britannica $2 million, culminating in 1952 with A Syntopicon, a two-volume index of thirty-page articles on… Continue reading
During his days as Harvard’s influential president, Charles W. Eliot made a frequent assertion: If you were to spend just 15 minutes a day reading the right books, a quantity that could fit on a five foot shelf, you could give yourself a proper liberal education.
As Charles W, Eliot approached retirement as President of Harvard, he argued for “great books” as a democratic means of social mobility. Not everyone could go to Harvard, he told a group of working class men, but everyone could read like “ a Harvard man.”
Editors at Collier, one of the largest publishing houses of the day, were moved by Eliot’s crusading. They made this pitch to Eliot: Assemble you have been referencing and we’ll market it.
The result was the Harvard Classics, a fifty-one-volume anthology of works first published in in 1909 that aspired to offer “the progress of man…… Continue reading
My next several posts are largely influenced by reading Ben Sasse’s, The Vanishing American Adult, Our Coming of Age Crisis and How to Rebuild A Culture of Self-Reliance. In my opinion, the most worthwhile chapter is, Build A Bookshelf.
I agree with Senator Sasse that becoming literate is an essential step in rebuilding our culture. Reading requires a degree of attention, engagement and active questioning of which most of our students today have a deficit.
Having recently retired to Keswick less than three miles from Shadwell, Virginia, (where Thomas Jefferson was born) it is fitting I begin with the Sage of Monticello, the author of the Declaration of Independence, the father of the University of Virginia and among the most educated of the Founding Fathers.
Thomas Jefferson began his education with French, Latin and Greek when he was 9 and entered William & Mary when he was 16.… Continue reading
I’ve been enjoying Michael Kerrigan’s book. After years of service in the US capital, Michael makes the restoration of civic virtue central to his life mission.
He has unlocked the challenge that all nations aspire to unlock, or claim to aspire thus. This is an inspiring book of examples for teachers of all nations; because it is the loss of civic virtue of each nation that ultimately damages our ability to have dialogue and conversation within each nation and its factions, and across each nation and alliance.
Dialogue moves us forward, and respect for each other – more than respect for rules – is key. What would Michael Kerrigan have us do? He asks us to ask How can civic virtue help us find our way back?
Do we have this… Continue reading