October 17 2015

PBK Interview

Here is a recent interview with me in Phi Beta Kappa's Key Reporter.  Thanks to Theodore Nollert for the good questions.  An excerpt:

The Deepest Human Life is written in a more popular style than a scholarly monograph. Do you think that the American academy can do more to develop students who are lifelong learners and readers of less accessible texts?

I’ve always liked that aphorism of Lichtenberg’s, “It requires no especially great talent to write in such a way that another will be hard put to understand what you have written.” I hope that my book encourages people to read what you’re calling “less accessible texts.” But I don’t think of books primarily in terms of accessibility. I want people to read really good books, some of which stretch our reading abilities but some of which happen to be pretty accessible. For instance, I’ve found that many of Plato’s dialogues are more accessible to my students than most New Yorker articles.

I’m very concerned about the fate of reading. From kindergarten on, students are given the impression that reading is primarily about the extraction of information, which is only one very small part of the imaginative, critical, challenging, enjoyable engagement that is reading.

My advice, for what it’s worth, is that teachers should assign fewer textbooks, which are generally boring and give a bad impression of what reading is all about, and more really good books, especially classics. Then we should teach those books in ways that shows why we love them so much.

New comment

comments powered by Disqus