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"We Can't Teach Students to Love Reading"

(Original article by Alan Jacobs at The Chronicle Review...)

"While virtually anyone who wants to do so can train his or her brain to the habits of long-form reading, in any given culture, few people will want to. And that's to be expected. Serious "deep attention" reading has always been and will always be a minority pursuit, a fact that has been obscured in the past half-century, especially in the United States, by the dramatic increase in the percentage of the population attending college, and by the idea (only about 150 years old) that modern literature in vernacular languages should be taught at the university level.

At the beginning of the 20th century, perhaps 2 percent of Americans attended a university; now the number is closer to 70 percent (though only about 30 percent get bachelor's degrees). A particularly sharp acceleration occurred in the years after 1945, when the GI Bill enabled soldiers returning from World War II to attend college for free, thus leading universities across the country to throw up quonset huts for classrooms, and English professors to figure out how to teach 40 students at a time, rather than 11, how to read sonnets. (And those GI's wanted their children to have the same educational opportunities they had, or better ones.) These changes have had enormous social consequences, but for our purposes here, the one that matters is this: From 1945 to 2000, or thereabouts, far more people than ever before in human history were expected to read, understand, appreciate, and even enjoy books..."


Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
triphicus
Aug. 8th, 2011 05:53 pm (UTC)
This was a great article--thanks for the reference :)
ccord
Aug. 10th, 2011 03:35 pm (UTC)
Always happy to be of service!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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